Things that bump in the night

Local band Vampire Hands brings a strange mix of music to the Twin Cities

by Emily Garber

Ask any group from the Twin Cities who their favorite current local bands are, and after they stumble and search for names because there is “just so much great stuff out there right now,” three names will undoubtedly come up: The STNNNG, Gay Beast and Vampire Hands.

Vampire Hands contributes in a major way to the local music scene by finding inspiration in unexpected places. They look to the European psychedelic scene of the 1960s and ’70s to construct a clever kind of punk that makes people want to dance.

Vampire Hands with Build Your Gallow High
WHEN: 9 p.m. tonight
WHERE: Turf Club, 1601 University Ave. W., St. Paul
TICKETS: $4, 21-plus, (651) 647-0486

Despite comparisons to everything from producer/rocker Brian Eno to Frank Zappa to the grooves of Can, Vampire Hands’ sound is hard to pin down. They somehow manage to blend contradictory elements, like maracas and choppy guitar riffs, with two vocalists and a steady bass guitar beat, forming a sound that’s just punk enough to satisfy.

Vampire Hands is a relatively young band, having only released one itty bitty EP called “At Wizard Island: Too Punk to Fuck.” It’s only four songs long, but it wholly and accurately showcases Vampire Hands’ abilities to be two bands in one.

The track “Queen Juno” from “Wizard Island” shows off Chris Bierden’s dreamy psychedelic vocals. It opens with a slow and steady bass beat, with the words “it’s all in your head” slowly and calmly weaving in between the noise. The R’s are softened and the vowels are stretched out, but the musical faux-pas of a British accent is somehow acceptable here. They aren’t doing it because it’s cool – it’s just what feels right.

“Greasy Hair” shows a completely different side of Vampire Hands, the side that’s all too easily compared to Fugazi. Colin Johnson plays the roles of vocalist and maraca player on this track, abandoning the heavenly falsettos for something faster and rougher. But, halfway in, a female vocalist joins and Johnson can’t resist getting groovy. Any live Vampire Hands set wouldn’t be complete without greasy-haired show-goers clapping and stomping to this appropriately-named song.

Despite the obscure inspirations and slight British accents, Vampire Hands has yet to learn how to take themselves seriously. Maybe that’s why their music is so great – it’s definitely not something you’d expect from a group of twenty-somethings with messy hair and ill-fitting jeans. But they pump out progressive songs that push limits like nobody’s business, and will continue to do so as long as there are hips to shake and boundaries to break.