Sit Down Series: VulGarrity

VulGarrity is a highly skilled and cool rock band consisting of siblings Shawn and Tracy. The two put on an incredible set before Electric Six went on stage in Providence last week. After their inspiring performance, I had the chance to interview the superstar siblings to not only get to know more about their band, but I learned about a very special story regarding Queens of the Stone Age, their influences, and more.

Alex Obert: How did VulGarrity begin?

Shawn: We’re brother and sister, we’ve been playing music together since we were kids. We’re in a bunch of different bands together. We got sick of going through other bandmates, having people in our band that weren’t as committed as we were to playing music. So we just came up with a way to play music without having to rely on any other musicians by using loop pedals and stuff like that. That way, you can pretty much get away with making a full band sound with just two people. That’s how we came up with the idea for VulGarrity. And we’ve been going at it ever since.

Alex Obert: When did it all start?

Shawn: We put this particular band together in 2008.

Alex Obert: And what was that first gig like?

Shawn: It was at New Wave in New Bedford. It was difficult and really exciting at the same time because it was something we had never done before. And it was really challenging because we were used to playing one instrument in our bands. In this band, we play multiple instruments and we sing at the same time. We were both very nervous.

Tracy: Timing is huge for us, the way we do it, our timing has to be absolutely impeccable. That first tour, even up until halfway through the tour, we were kind of like, “Oh, boy!”

Shawn: Unlike other bands we use loops and stuff, we don’t record anything. We do everything live on stage and move it, so it’s challenging. If we’re kinda off, you can kind of tell sometimes. So sometimes we have to start it over. It just takes a lot of practice.

Alex Obert: What were your earliest memories of listening to music?

Tracy: Probably Michael Jackson.

Shawn: Yeah, we grew up pretty much with MTV on all the time. And I just remember dancing in front of the TV to Michael Jackson and whatever else was on TV.

Tracy: Peter Gabriel. Any of the first artists to ever be on MTV, we knew about and loved them.

Shawn: Our parents used always play Thriller and Purple Rain all the time. Those were our jams growing up.

Alex Obert: And I understand your music was featured on MTV.

Shawn: Yeah, some of our songs were used in MTV shows. Made, Teen Cribs, My Life as Liz. That was a pretty cool experience.

Tracy: People would call and tell us, “I just heard your band!” And this was our old band, Rebecca Nurse. They told us what song it was, but a lot of it, we didn’t get to hear. Some of it we did.

Alex Obert: Which bands shaped VulGarrity?

Shawn: There’s so many different genres and influences in regards to what we do. Some of it comes from her background, dance and techno. She took dance lessons for a long time. In the same time, I was really into metal and new wave and alternative, a lot of different stuff. So those two things kind of came together. As far as particular bands that influenced us a lot, I would say Faith No More, Metallica, Megadeth, Queens of the Stone Age, Death From Above 1979. We got to meet Queens of the Stone Age recently.

Tracy: We didn’t even know Death From Above 1979 influenced us until someone told us we sound just like them. It we listened to them and we were like, “Oh my God!” And we love them.

Alex Obert: You mentioned meeting Queens of the Stone Age, how did that come about?

Shawn: I set up a meet and greet with my students at the School of Rock. It kind of works out well because we got to meet the band as well. But basically, they were the coolest band we ever met. I just emailed their management back and forth and they were really cool, they were like, “We wish we could come to your school before the gig, but we just don’t have time. Bring your students there.” They took us into the building when no one else was there except for the the band and their crew. They let us watch their whole soundcheck and brought out waters and apple juice for all the kids. They had us all go up on stage and check out all their equipment and explained it all to us.

Tracy: But they told us to please shut our phones and cameras off. They didn’t want anyone knowing what they play. But holy god, what they had for equipment blew us away! They took the time to explain to the kids how they make good sound, the pedals, the amps, how many mics, and the sound guy.

Shawn: They even let the kids play with the drumset. It was amazing.

Tracy: Josh has kids, I don’t know about the other band members, but naturally, they understood kids.

Alex Obert: What is your favorite quality of Josh Homme?

Tracy: His voice. And his ability to write a song. You think of the grunge era and everyone’s just dressed down. It’s not about dressing up and being crazy. That’s what I like about them. He sounds like an angel singing, he really does. I say that all the time.

Shawn: But on a personal level, he was just totally cool and down to earth. And while his wife, Brody, was doing her soundcheck, he was playing with his two kids in the aisles of PPAC. They were just writing tricycles around and stuff, it was funny to watch. You see him rock out on stage and then hang out with his kids and be goofy and stuff. It was really cool.

Alex Obert: What did you take out of tonight’s show? Providence. Fete. Electric Six.

Tracy: Electric Six is awesome. To be asked to open for them is great because they’re such an awesome band. I thought we were playing the bigger room. To be honest, if I was to choose a room, I like the smaller room better. It’s just better for Shawn and I, we can hear everything. It’s more intimate of a setting and I like that, so I was actually really happy to learn that we were playing in the smaller room. And Electric Six is humorous and they’re great, it just ties into us. So the fact that they chose us to open for them, hells yeah, that makes total sense. Same thing with them, their songwriting and sense of humor is right there with us. They’re very funny and very silly.

Shawn: It doesn’t always come across in her music, but we have a very immature sense of humor. Were pretty much like two ten year old boys.

Tracy: And it’s never changed. In years of growing up, we don’t grow up. Our humor is still at a ten year old level.

Alex Obert: Which song on your set list tonight is the most satisfying to play?

Shawn: I like playing the newer stuff the best because we haven’t played as much, so it’s still kind of new to us. And I think our newer stuff is my favorite songwriting wise.

Tracy: He gets bored quickly and wants to do new things like instantly.

Shawn: Middle Finger Machinegun is my favorite of what we played tonight.

Alex Obert: What do you consider to be your signature venue?

Shawn: Dusk in Providence, it’s a bar on Harris Ave. We play there pretty regularly. It’s a small place, but it’s really cool and very gothic with how its decorated on the inside. There’s a lot of dark, maroon curtains.

Tracy: But I would say here just as much as Dusk. We play here just as much as we do Dusk. We’re at a weird kind of place right now where we’ll take certain gigs if they pay us well. If they’re gonna pay us to play all night and we’ll throw in covers and everything else, we’ll do that just so we can make money. It’s a problem, it’s problematic for original bands. We can play tonight and it’s a great experience and everything, but we don’t go home with a lot of money. We have to make money and Shawn and I know we can do that, so we will book places that give us at least a guarantee of five hundred dollars or more. We’ll play for three or four hours and we’ll make money. So right now we’re doing two things, play those kind of shows or play these kinds shows where we’re opening for somebody. When opening for somebody, we have thirty minutes, but it’s a good experience all around.

Alex Obert: Where have you toured outside of Providence?

Shawn: We’ve toured the country four times. All the way down the east coast and out to San Diego and LA and up to Portland and Seattle all the way back around, so we’ve played quite a bit over the years.

Alex Obert: What do you two have planned ahead?

Shawn: We are working on new album right now which will probably be released at some point next year. But we just wanna keep doing what we do because we love it. We have three albums out right now, we just want to keep continuing to make music that makes us happy and other people too.

Tracy: The minute people stop coming up to us after shows and saying the things that they say is probably the time that we’re like, “Alright, let’s think about something else.” But what they say keeps us going, they say they’ve never seen anything like that. They’ve never seen two people do what we do and sound like a full band. They’ve never seen a brother and sister switch instruments. It’s the same commentary we’ve gotten through and through since 2008. And we’ve added instruments since 2008, we’ve made it more complicated for ourselves, but we’re still getting those comments, so that’s an indicator to us that we’ve gotta keep doing it. We’ve just gotta keep finding opportunities and keep plugging away.

Alex Obert: What would you say is your all-time favorite VulGarrity gig?

Shawn: I’d say Foo Fest last year. We played Foo Fest at AS220, they blocked off the street and put this huge stage up. There was maybe six, seven hundred people just chillin’ and watching our set. It was just awesome. The amount of energy and the fact that it was outdoors at night, it was just really an amazing experience.

Alex Obert: In closing, what are your websites at the moment?

Shawn: We’re on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, all that stuff too.

Alex Obert: Very nice. Well I’d love to thank you two so much for your time.

Shawn: Thank you man!

Tracy: Thank you so much for interviewing us! We appreciate it!

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