Gramps The Vamp
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Gramps The Vamp

Chicago, Illinois, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2011 | SELF

Chicago, Illinois, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2011
Band World Funk




"Gramps The Vamp's 2nd LP among "Best Chicago Albums of the 2010s""

The Reader polled dozens of critics to arrive at an absolutely indisputable ranked list of several hundred records that will definitely not start any arguments - Chicago Reader

"Because Orlock Can't Speak for Himself"

Chicago keyboardist and composer Maxx McGathey loves Halloween. The funk group he's led since 2011 is called Gramps the Vamp, a name that drummer Stevenson Valentor got from a database of Scooby-Doo villains—it comes from a 1977 episode where the gang investigates a vampire haunting a hotel on Skull Island. The band's instrumental music is moody, comically brooding, and slightly campy. They call it "doom funk."

In early 2016 Gramps the Vamp launched a Kickstarter to fund its second album, The Cave of 10,000 Eyes, which the band's page said "follows the plot of a faux b-horror movie from 1969, telling the story of an un-explainable incident in a cave many years ago." If you pledged $150 or more, you could pick a perk called Maxx's Monster Movie Marathon—that is, McGathey would set up a projector in the backyard of your choice for a private creature double feature. One person even took him up on it.

Gramps the Vamp always plays on Halloween, and for the past few years all seven members have worn group costumes that McGathey makes on the cheap. A recent favorite look, which McGathey calls "Evil Gramps the Vamp," is dark brown robes with green black-light makeup painted on their arms, hands, and faces to make them look like radioactive skeletons. He says the best costumes he's designed were retro "space suits" made from white coveralls, electrical cables, army surplus shoulder harnesses, and aluminum foil. If it were more socially acceptable, McGathey would probably celebrate Halloween year-round.

"He wants to build a career centered on this holiday," Valentor says. "I'd say he's doing damn well."

Toward that end, McGathey has begun writing music outside the band too. Over the past couple years he's developed a specialty: composing scores to be performed live during screenings of classic horror movies. He started in 2017, when the Chicago Park District commissioned him to write new music for the 1922 German expressionist film Nosferatu as part of its free Campfire Horrors film series at Northerly Island (the movie's vampire, Count Orlok, is probably the most famous Dracula rip-off). Gramps the Vamp performed McGathey's score for the last screening of the series's second season. Since then, McGathey and the band have returned to the Nosferatu score twice more: at Chicago Filmmakers in June 2018, then again at Campfire Horrors in October 2018. On Thursday, October 17, Gramps the Vamp will bring the Nosferatu show to Michigan, performing it at the Bay Theatre in downtown Suttons Bay.

Music Box of Horrors
Maxx McGathey and his ensemble accompany The Man Who Laughs at noon Saturday. Full schedule at Sat 10/19, noon, through Sun 10/20, noon, Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport, $25-$35, most films 17+

Gramps the Vamp, Nitehost, Ovef Ow (as the Bee-52s)
Thu 10/31, 9 PM, the Owl, 2521 N. Milwaukee, free, 21+

Two days later, McGathey will be back in Chicago with a different group of musicians for the Music Box of Horrors, the Music Box's annual 24-hour spooky movie marathon. The event begins at noon on Saturday, October 19, with a screening of the 1928 silent film The Man Who Laughs, the next-to-last feature directed by famed German expressionist Paul Leni. German actor Conrad Veidt (the sleepwalking killer in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) stars as a carnival freak-show attraction whose ghastly, disfigured grin would later inspire the appearance of Batman nemesis the Joker. This summer, Music Box general manager Ryan Oestreich tapped McGathey to write a new score for the movie.

This is McGathey's second year in a row presenting an original score at the Music Box of Horrors. Last year, McGathey pitched the Gramps the Vamp version of Nosferatu, but Oestreich turned him down. "I really liked it, but I was like, 'I really feel like Nosferatu's been done—a lot,'" he says. "'What I'd rather do is put you into something that we are already doing and maybe challenge you.'" Instead McGathey wrote new music to complement the 1927 Alfred Hitchcock murder mystery The Lodger.

The Music Box routinely screens silent movies with live accompaniment, but Oestreich says the performances are often one-offs—aside from house organist Dennis Scott, McGathey is the only musician he can recall playing twice. "We were just so excited to bring him back," Oestreich says. "We had wanted to do The Man Who Laughs for a very long time, and we were really blown away by his work on The Lodger. So we were like, 'You need to do this film for us—you need to do The Man Who Laughs.'"

Maxx McGathey
McGathey, 30, grew up in Chicago's suburbs, mostly the southwestern village of Plainfield. His parents shared their love of scary movies with him, and he ran with it. "Jaws is actually my mom's favorite movie," he says. As a teenager, he'd watch the likes of Psycho, Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, and Alien with his whole family.

He began playing piano at age five, and took classical lessons as a preteen. As a student at Benet Academy High School in Lisle in the mid-2000s, he played keys in the jazz band, where he met Valentor.

"I always looked up to him," Valentor says. "He was a shredding keyboardist way back in the day—and still is, absolutely. And just a fantastic improviser."

By the time McGathey graduated high school in 2008, he'd formed his first extracurricular band, which started out playing classic-rock covers. He also loved jazz and funk, though, and while at Loyola University he cofounded Gramps the Vamp. "I really wanted to form a band that would be fun for house parties," he says. "I just got the best musicians I could find, and we started playing covers of funk bands I was into at the time, like Lettuce and the Budos Band, or old stuff like Fela Kuti and James Brown."

McGathey assembled Gramps the Vamp in summer 2011. Its lineup has morphed over the years, topping out as a ten-piece. Several members were at Loyola with him, including Valentor, and he recruited bassist Kevin Holt through Craigslist. They made their live debut on Halloween, playing a party at the home of alto saxophonist Nick Bush. "That set it off for me—I was like, 'Well, I want to play funk, 'cause that's what I'm into, but I want to make it darker. I want to make it more like you could get into it for Halloween,'" McGathey says. "That started off the whole trajectory of eventually finding what we call 'doom funk.'"

Gramps the Vamp plays a Halloween show in 2014.
As a bandleader and songwriter, McGathey knew he needed to account for audiences accustomed to groups with singers out front. As Gramps the Vamp developed its instrumental material, he encouraged members to imagine scenes that would help give the music vivid moods and intense character. "I'd be like, 'This moment, you open a box and ghouls all spring out of the box, and they're swirling around in the air,'" McGathey says. "All of my bandmates are like, 'OK, let's play that a little crazier and a little more swirly.'" This approach inadvertently prepared him to work on film scores. "It was easy for me to think visually in terms of movies," he says. "That's what directly led me to be interested in film and music."

In August 2017, Andy Rosenstein of genre-blurring Chicago electro band Terrible Spaceship told McGathey that the Park District had put out an open call for local musicians interested in writing and performing a score for Nosferatu. McGathey submitted Gramps the Vamp's catalog as well as a short film called Demonoid 1971 that includes some of his organ pieces. More than a dozen artists applied, but before the end of the month McGathey learned he'd landed the gig.

Movies in the Park scheduled the Nosferatu screening for October 27. "I work as a teacher and do some other day jobs and stuff, so I was working around the clock to get this thing done," McGathey says. "I think working on something really intense like that gives you a lot of confidence in whatever you're doing—it's like, 'You have to finish this thing. You don't really have enough time, but you have to do a good job.' Or at least that's what I'm telling myself."

McGathey hadn't seen Nosferatu in its entirety before he got the job, and though he promptly addressed that oversight, his viewings of the movie during the project were mostly piecemeal and obsessive. With notebook in hand, he'd watch each scene at least 40 times and sketch out ideas. In total, he says this added up to maybe 100 viewings of Nosferatu. He looked into other modern live scores for old films and found a lot of atmospheric material that didn't jibe with his style. "I'm a melodic composer—I like themes, I like melodies," he says. "I went back to what I do with Gramps the Vamp. 'How would I approach this scene?' I really did treat it in a groove-based way."

Gramps the Vamp accompanies Nosferatu with McGathey's score.
He wrote for piano first, then worked in the other instruments Gramps the Vamp uses: guitar, bass, drums, glockenspiel, trumpet, and two saxophones. The deadline he'd given himself for arriving at a finished, notated score left the band a few weeks to rehearse, and they ran through it about ten times, with McGathey conducting and playing keys.

Because he wants to keep performing Nosferatu, McGathey has been tweaking the score over the past couple years, notably introducing a part for cello. "It's more work in a small amount of time than any other musical project I've ever done," he says. "But it's cool because at the end of the day, you have it, and you can go take it to different cities and repeat it."

Maxx McGathey performs with Gramps the Vamp at Sleeping Village in 2019. - TINA LOUISE MEAD
Maxx McGathey performs with Gramps the Vamp at Sleeping Village in 2019.
Oestreich has helped program the Music Box of Horrors since 2015, when he became the theater's general manager. He has a meticulous approach to booking the marathon: He takes care to include disparate subgenres (slashers, monster movies, trashy exploitation pictures) as well as films that aren't necessarily horror but share some of its traits (thrillers, murder mysteries), and he combines popular titles (or work by well-known directors) with obscurities that will entice superfans. There's also usually a silent movie.

Oestreich knows some attendees consider the traditional silent-movie slot an opportunity to take a nap or step out for a bite—but he's also determined to change their minds. In 2015, when he booked Paul Buscarello to perform an organ score for Tod Browning's The Unknown during a prime-time spot, he made at least a few converts. "Audiences came up to me and said, 'I did not believe you, I thought this was a waste of my time, but I tried it and holy shit, it was great,'" he says. He thinks McGathey's efforts will help build interest in keeping silent films part of the Music Box of Horrors.

For The Lodger, McGathey performed with Valentor and bassist Luc Parcell (of Chicago Afrobeat Project) under the name False Gods Trio. McGathey had built the score out of fragments of music they generated during improvisational sessions. "It wasn't so much about the specific notes; it was more about the feeling that we were portraying at that moment," he says. "That was a really liberating experience." The Lodger screened about six hours into last year's marathon, which all but guaranteed McGathey a committed audience who were already in it for the long haul; based on the reaction, Oestreich hopes that folks who were there will come back early this year to see what McGathey has cooked up for The Man Who Laughs.

Oestrich chose The Man Who Laughs in part because he knew that Todd Phillips's Joker would debut in theaters two weeks before the Music Box of Horrors. In June the film was reissued on Blu-ray in a 4K digital restoration, but the theater is using a 35-millimeter film print. "We don't do things only because they might be relevant at the time," he says. "But sometimes I find we add a little extra texture to the programming when we lean in and talk a little bit about the current culture."

A trailer for the recent 4K digital restoration of The Man Who Laughs
For his score to The Man Who Laughs, McGathey sought to split the difference between the melodic focus he applied to Nosferatu and his relatively mood-oriented approach to The Lodger. He deliberately avoided listening to any extant scores for the film, including the one on the new Blu-ray. "I was less reliant on melody this time around," he says. "But I think it makes it better, because it allows you to use melody to greater effect." Because the film focuses on a clown, McGathey made sure his music would remind people of old-world carnivals: he wrote for violin, cello, accordion, and piano. His ensemble on Saturday will consist of violinist Annarita Tanzi of the Fox Valley Orchestra, cellist Alex Ellsworth of performance collective Mocrep, and accordionist Hope Arthur of Mucca Pazza.

Because The Man Who Laughs kicks off the Music Box of Horrors, McGathey probably won't stick around for the whole thing. "I really have a lot of respect for the people who bring sleeping bags and stay all night," he says. "But I don't think I'll be staying." To be fair, he's already put in his hours, and then some. "Horror is one of those genres that you can go down a deep, deep rabbit hole," he says. "I don't feel every genre is like that." - Chicago Reader


Upon forming at a Halloween house party debut in 2011, the Chicago 7 (sometimes 8 or 9) piece Gramps The Vamp has been carving out its own niche of orchestrated funk workouts. In 2014, a year after being named Best New Band by Chicago Reader, Gramps The Vamp released its first official album produced by Sergio Rios of Orgone. The self titled album’s vintage-noir style, which the band half-jokingly calls “Doom Funk,” drew the interest of filmmaker Alaric Rocha, who used over half of the songs as the soundtrack for his 70s inspired horror film “Demonoid (1971)”. On October 18th,band will release its sophomore effort, The Cave of 10,000 Eyes, which brings together afrobeat, deep funk, soul, ethio-jazz, and exotica for a further exploration into the dark, wild, and strange side of the funk.

Glide Magazine is pumped to premiere The Cave of 10,000 Eyes (below) and give listeners a taste of funk that creates a surreal level of musical cinematography, keeping one’s ears tuned for the entire feature. Keyboardist/composer Maxx McGathey shared some inner secrets on what makes Gramps The Vamp and its “Doom Funk” so hittin’…

The Cave of 10,000 Eyes is quite a curious album title. Why did you chose that for a title and what does it signify?

The image of the cave arose organically during the writing process. “Caves” was at first just a goofy working title for a song, but when it came time to put the album into a cohesive story, the image seemed to make a lot of sense. A cave is dark, other-worldly, mysterious… you never know how far back it goes. It leaves a lot to the imagination rather than giving the boogieman away, which is what we like to do with the story elements in our music. The specific wording of the title is meant to be very old Hollywood, conjuring a time when titles were larger than life. We really wanted the title to grab ahold of you and get your imagination going.

The album sounds like a cohesive story, as if a soundtrack to a film. What was the creative process behind The Cave 10,000 Eyes ?

Ever since Gramps The Vamp first started playing together, our writing process has involved thinking of our songs as little mini-soundtracks to scenes. It’s helpful because sometimes there are dozens of possible choices of where to take an instrumental composition, but when you have a story in mind, the right choice always presents itself. We took this idea to the album level for The Cave of 10,000 Eyes. I wrote up a scratch screen play for a faux 1970s horror-adventure movie of the same name, and once that happened, the usual slow grind of composition became a waterfall of ideas. We were then able to ask “what does the story need?” which helped us write about half of the songs and re-arrange the other already written half to better match the story arc. This also allowed us to make each song more lush, adding in twists, turns and surprises whenever we would imagine action on screen.

If you could score a soundtrack in the next year or so – what director’s films would you most like to score and why?

If you combined the styles of Quentin Tarantino and Tim Burton you might have the perfect movie for a Gramps The Vamp score. But I have to give a shout out to Alaric S. Rocha. We did the music on his most recent film, Demonoid (1971), and then he directed our music video for “The Cave of 10,000 Eyes.” Much like Gramps The Vamp, his work is very inspired by 60s and 70s horror, so our collaborations have been excellent so far. We would love to do more with Alaric!

I must say “doom funk” is a refreshing description for Gramps The Vamp’s music. What does “doom funk” mean to you and how is it distinct from straight ol funk?

Doom funk is the dark, strange, wild, weird, heavy, mysterious side of the funk. When we started out in 2011, we called ourselves a funk band, but it soon became clear that what we do is far from what you expect when you hear the word “funk.” We discussed dropping the word altogether, but there’s an essence to our music (heavy grooves, danceable rhythms, pentatonic scales, syncopated blues elements) that still resembles funk. So instead we decided to put the most contradictory word possible in front of funk to capture how this is not your average funk band. “Doom” communicates the heaviness, darkness and urgency that we bring to the funk paradigm. It’s very hard to describe our music, but perhaps that means we’re on to something original!
Ideally how would you like to most expand upon your music on future albums – do you see vocals or different thematics added in the years ahead?

I definitely could see experimenting with more instruments, including the voice, but it would still be in an instrumental capacity. We’re not about to switch to writing pop songs! As for thematics, I believe they are now an inherent part of Gramps The Vamp. We haven’t decided on what the next album will be, but we’ve toyed with some new story ideas or settings that would inspires us to write more music. I believe there’s still a lot more doom funk to be explored!

Seems you guys do your own thing and refuse to take any cues from what’s going on in any scene and strive to be your own voice, 100%. How do you definite your originality and what does each band member bring in terms of musicianship and voice?

One of the biggest draws of making this kind music is that it’s uncharted territory. As opposed to working within a clearly defined genre, it’s so much more interesting to work with an original style where you can set your own rules, and be continually surprised by the results. Our originality comes from our commitment to explore this uncharted territory. Despite our various individual musical backgrounds, all eight of us are on board with doom funk. We’re never sure exactly where we’ll end up, but we know we’re all headed in the same direction.

If anything –you guys carry some of the Daptone records vibe as well – classy and retro-minded. Musically, what inspires you these days from the past, present or future?

Daptone’s overall production style is definitely a big influence; Budos Band is probably one of the closest bands to our style. Afrobeat inspires a lot of what we do, so we’ve learned a ton from Fela Kuti. Also, Ethiopian Jazz is a huge influence on us, so we’d have a totally different sound if not for Mulatu Astatke. Curtis Mayfield inspires our rhythm section a lot. The horn section really looks up to the tightness of Lettuce and the fatness of Antibalas. The exotica of Martin Denny and Les Baxter are not really our style, but we love the way they arrange and orchestrate their music’s weirder moments. Some other great current artists we love: Woima Collective, Shaolin Afronauts, The Cactus Channel, Hiatus Kaiyote, Ikebe Shakedown, Menahan Street Band.

You have a good looking album release show coming up on October 30th at Lincoln Hall – would you say this is one of your most prestigious billings to date? What can we expect costume and theme-wise?

Lincoln Hall is definitely one of the best venues we will have played. Not to mention the other bands on the bill, Terrible Spaceship and North By North, are PERFECT for a Halloween throw down. We’re stoked for it! You can expect our costumes to be spooky and related to The Cave of 10,000 Eyes album art. But that’s all I will say ;)

It appears Halloween is a big date on the calendar for the band since your first gig was on that date and now the record release show leads up to that. Would you say Halloween is a big deal in the Gramps the Vamp camp?

Halloween is huge for us. The band was just a basement funk cover band until a Halloween party lead us up from the depths. We had such a good time that we decided to keep doing Halloween shows every year, and now in its 6th year, the party has made its way to Lincoln Hall! But most importantly, that first experience of playing on Halloween, trying to play a spooky yet party-friendly set, planted the seeds in our minds that would eventually develop into our signature style.

Gramps the Vamp will be celebrating the release of their new album with a show at Lincoln Hall in Chicago on Sunday, Oct 30th. Check here her for tickets and further information…

Upcoming Shows…

10/18 – The Whiskey – Fort Collins, CO
10/20 – Smiley’s Saloon – Bolinas, CA
10/21 – Boom Boom Room – San Francisco, CA
10/22 – Mrs. Fish – Los Angeles, CA
10/23 – Bonus Round – Phoenix, AZ
10/24 – Cervantes Other Side (Monday Night Menagerie) – Denver, CO
10/28 – Stay Gold – Austin, TX
10/29 – Blank Space – St. Louis, MO
10/30 – Lincoln Hall – Chicago, IL (official record release show) - Glide Magazine

"Gramps the Vamp celebrate their spooky, funky new LP"

Speaking of Halloween, it's the best time of year for the bizarro "doom funk" of locals Gramps the Vamp. We're all in luck, 'cause they headline Lincoln Hall on Sunday, October 30—the eve of All Hallows' Eve, if you will—to celebrate their sophomore album, The Cave of 10,000 Eyes. In March 2016, Gossip Wolf mentioned the band's Kickstarter to fund this very album, and they delivered the LP last week. It's adventurous, spooky, and a little reminiscent of 70s blaxploitation soundtracks—perfect for DJing a Halloween party. Terrible Spaceship and North by North open the show, which starts at 8 PM. - Chicago Reader

"Gramps the Vamp is Not Afraid"

If you see Maxx McGathey, bandleader of Gramps the Vamp, walking around Chicago with headphones on, there’s a good chance he’s not listening to music. Or a podcast. Or whatever the kids are into these days. When the band was writing the songs that ultimately became their new self-titled album, McGathey roamed the streets, he says, “listening through hours and hours of old-time radio shows.”

No, he is not the “Gramps” for whom his band is named. He is just one man, out of eight (including bassist Kevin Holt, drummer Stevenson Valentor, guitarist Mike Novak, and Peter Gillette on trumpet, Nick Justin Howe on tenor sax, Nick Bush on alto sax, and Eli Wilson on bari sax), working hard to bring you a genre known as “doom-funk.”

Before embarking on this journey of horror and groove, Gramps the Vamp, who play Circle Bar tonight at 10 p.m., were an ordinary house party band. “The band started when I went to college, Loyola University of Chicago, and formed from mostly other students that were at the school with me,” says McGathey. “I got the band together just to play songs, covers.” But their first gig one Halloween night was such a good time that they started experimenting with a more ominous sound. Within a few years, the band’s focus shifted completely. This is where the radio shows come in.

“Once we decided Okay, we’re gonna tell these stories that are sort of like horror, and sci-fi, and darker things, with the music, it really took off running from there. And all these ideas started coming out.” They started thinking of each song as a soundtrack, with an intro, a buildup, and an at times grisly end. To make the music even more cinematic, the band added samples from mid-century radio serials and movies like Night of the Living Dead.

The album, however, rises above its potentially campy premise to deliver satisfying, tight-as-a-rope funk. "Doppelgänger" is slinky seduction with a side of lurking swamp monster toward the end, and "Talisman" could be a horn-powered backdrop to those meddling kids figuring out it was the mayor the whole time! It’s perfect party music, whether your house is haunted or not. And on their next album, coming out next year, the tension is only going to increase.

After contributing four songs to the short film Demonoid 1971, Gramps the Vamp decided to make their 2016 record a full-blown soundtrack. “We’re gonna get into the studio this winter and a lot of the songs we are writing are made as hypothetical soundtracks, and we’re trying to make it more of a cohesive story as if the entire album is a soundtrack to one film with certain themes that come back and repeat.” They’ve even been talking about hiring actors to voice recurring characters. “We’re writing more and more as if we’re writing for film now. So even if we don’t get asked to do [another soundtrack], it’s still a part of our creative process,” McGathey explains.

The band sees itself continuing to evolve in the future, and is happy to provide Chicago with some much needed doom funk. “We’ve been a little bit a part of the funk scene in Chicago, but the more and more we get a little bit over to the doom side of things instead of the funk side if you will, we tend to go more and more into our own direction. And there’s not so many bands that I can think of which I would say are part of our circuit or our scene. Honestly, that’s one of the really rewarding things about making this kind of music is that I don’t think anyone else is doing it. I want to hear this kind of music so, if no one else is doing it, I want to create it.”

But they are also eager to share their specialty genre outside of Chicago. “Hopefully this next record, we can get it out to a much bigger audience next year, and if it breaks us through a little farther than we are, then great. It’s all pretty much gravy as long as we can make it so it’s self-sustaining,” McGathey says. “As long as we can afford to keep doing it, I think we will.” - My Spilt Milk

"Best New Band 2013"

Best New Band

GRAMPS THE VAMP - Chicago Reader

"Gramps The Vamp (Interview)"

This links to an interview on long running podcast "Inside The Machine". - Inside The Machine

"Gramps The Vamp"

From playing house parties to headlining sold-out shows, Gramps the Vamp is on track to become one of the city’s finest funk collectives. The local nine-piece jazz/Afrobeat fusion group is stacked with a lineup of brass masters, a full horn section, and more than your recommended daily dose of saxophone. Sans a vocalist, this entirely instrumental group draws inspiration from artists such as Lettuce and Fela Kuti. Beyond their apparent penchant for Halloween and Scooby-Doo, they share the common interest of getting parties started with their signature “ghost funk” sound littered with heady improvised jams. - Chicago Innerview

"PREMIERE: Gramps The Vamp "BOOMZAP!" Video"

Let’s keep it all the way 100. Most of the time, people have NOTHING to say. Like, you can write a song all you want, but that doesn’t make the lyrics very good. Well, Chi-Town’s own Gramps The Vamp actually told a whole story without even saying a word. Not sure what a “BOOMZAP!” is, but hey, we fucks with it, and the video is an animated detailed journey into the warped minds of these house party come up kings. Dark vibes hug it out all over this track, with hints of afro-beats and some sci-fi. As they put it, “The result is DOOM FUNK: a cinematic stew that both makes you want to dance and raise an eyebrow.” Pop your brows and check out the video. If you’re into it, go visit them on their Halloween mini-tour.

October 23 – F.O.K.L. – Kansas City, KA
October 24 – Stay Gold – Austin, TX
October 26 – Circle Bar – New Orleans, LA
October 31 – Emporium (Wicker Park) – Chicago, IL - Mass Appeal

"'Doom funk' septet Gramps the Vamp hits vinyl"

In 2013, self-described "doom funk" septet Gramps the Vamp won the Reader's Best of Chicago audience poll for Best New Band, and it looks like y'all were on the right track. Gossip Wolf has somehow missed them completely—until now! Their self-­titled 2014 debut album is full of spooky, sample-­laden, Afrobeat-­inflected grooves with a dark, cinematic vibe—they'd make a fine soundtrack for a scary sci-fi film full of nattily dressed actors fleeing for their lives. Gramps the Vamp celebrates a vinyl release of the LP on Tue 2/3 at Schubas with the Velvet Jimis and What It Do. - Chicago Reader

"Ridiculously Enjoyable New Releases from Teletype and Gramps the Vamp"

Gramps the Vamp, the Chicago band whose retro-noir stylings they like to call “doom funk” (and who can blame them) have released their second album, “The Cave of 10,000 Eyes,” which I’m sorry to be telling you about now, because it would so entirely have made your Halloween. These guys are sort of like the bastard spawn of The Munsters and Tower of Power, and this new release is just a ridiculously giddy joy ride.

“BATS!”—all caps just like that, because—well, because BATS—kicks things off. It’s a very nimble and energetic piece of gold-plated goth, with a suspense-movie organ by Maxx McGathey and an absolutely killer horn section; I was particularly wowed by the undead-wailing sax solos of Nick Bush and Eli Wilson. Midway through, the tune comes to a dead (pardon the pun) halt, to allow Peter Gillette’s trumpet sputters in incoherent terror for a few minutes; I don’t know if there’s a video for this tune, but if so it’s a little redundant as the track pretty much creates one in your head.

McGathey’s über-spooky organ is back in “The Incident,” if only to usher in a more straight-ahead funk number. I’m not sure what the incident in question is, but given the way these horns throw down, I’m pretty sure it involved busting some seriously righteous moves. A danse macabre, maybe, with pimp-walking added in.

In “Krampusnacht,” Mike Bruno’s deceptively innocent vibraphone intro gets pretty quickly devoured by (again) McGathey’s organ and Kevin Holt’s merciless bass. Gillette’s trumpet is so crazy here, it almost sounds like it’s speaking in tongues (even more alarming, by the third or fourth listening you start to understand what it’s saying). Then everything goes all funereal, till Stevenson Valentor’s furious drumming stirs things up again.

The album’s title tune sneaks in a bit of Slavic-style orientalism; the horns are all over it, and at one point McGathey provides a theremin choral line that’s both delightfully on-point and slightly hair-raising. These guys are having so much indecent fun in their playground-slash-graveyard, it’s contagious. But it’s an infection I highly recommend. - New City


"Gramps The Vamp" (2014)
"The Cave of 10,000 Eyes" (2016)



Gramps The Vamp is a post apocalyptic dance party, a convergence of tight grooves and heavy thrashes, of heroic themes and villainous dirges, a bardo between the tried and tested styles of the past and the unknown frontier of the future. This adventurous Chicago based group has been exploring the dark and strange corners of groove based music since 2011, corralling its eclectic influences (soul, psych-rock, funk, afrobeat, balkan brass, metal, ethio-jazz, and the avant-garde) with a unifying retro horror film aesthetic. A stew is brewing… with fat horn lines, spooky keyboard melodies, surfy guitar riffs, tight bass grooves, wild drum beats and a grand cinematic scope. You won’t know whether to dance or let out a primal scream… why not both?

Band Members