Vinyl’s Divine

Jun 26 • ARTSY SMARTSY, MusicNo Comments

Vinyl Revitalization Party
Fri.-Sat., 6/29-30
The Calico Room
107 S. Front St.
$5-20 • (910) 762-2091

ARTFUL ENDEAVOR: The center cover art for the double-vinyl release from The Devil’s Dove was handmade by artist Zachariah Weaver. It is entitled ‘Wild Oats.’ Courtesy photo

Tripp Murphy grew up listening to vinyl records. When he was a kid, there wasn’t YouTube for viewing music videos. There wasn’t iTunes for instantly downloading tracks onto a teensy handheld device. For Murphy, vinyl is enthralling because of the satisfaction that comes from unleashing the record from its sleeve, placing the disc upon its platter, and lowering the needle. He used to stare at his records, enveloping himself in the pleasure of holding something in his hands he could feel, understanding that the artist exerted real effort—not taking their creative process and diligence for granted.

The aesthetic qualities are emotionally gripping; vinyl truly does allow for a more fufilling listening experience. “MP3s are compressed, and they literally take tiny fragments of data out of it to make it smaller,” Matt Keen, owner of Gravity Records, explains. “They take bits and pieces here and there out in these algorithms to where they hope that your ear won’t hear it. The more compressed it is, the lower bit rate it is, the more you can hear it. Vinyl is all analog. It’s full wave—there are no pieces missing. It has the full spectrum of sound.”

For some, vinyl is about the memories. For the young ones, it’s about engaging oneself in an entirely different—and more realistic—listening experience. Both will revel in vinyl bliss this weekend, as The Calico Room (owned by Murphy) unleashes the Vinyl Revitalization Party. The event will coincide with the release of three brand-new records: “Calling All Midnight Thieves and Lovers,” from Murphy’s project, The Devil’s Dove, and “Symposium” from Great Zeus’ Beard (GZB). As well, Sean Thomas Gerard of Onward, Soldiers will release a 7” album. All three acts will perform from 10:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Fri., June 29th and Sat., June 30th. Woven koozie wares from Freaker USA will be available for sale both nights, too, and tables will be set up to barter records.

The weekend kicks off with a pre-party on Friday night from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the penthouse above the venue, open only to the first 50 folks who purchase advanced tickets (available from The Calico Room and Gravity Records). The pre-party will feature an open bar and light snacks. That night also marks the opening of new artwork in The Calico Room, showcasing artists Bobby Reville, Patricia Stanley and Zachariah Weaver.

On Saturday the bands will offer an in-store performance at Gravity Records from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., which is free. During the late concert, Gabriel Lehman will do a live painting for raffle, which will be drawn at 1:30 a.m. The winner must be present for the drawing.

Tickets for either night are $5. For $15, folks gain entry for both nights, receive their choice of one of the vinyls, and five raffle tickets for Lehman’s latest piece. For both nights, both vinyls and 10 raffle tickets, the price is $20.

Though the weekend will no doubt feature camaraderie, gamboling and imbibery, more importantly it celebrates albums which are genuine extensions of the artists themselves. In Murphy’s case, “Calling All Midnight Thieves and Lovers” is nearly his lifeblood. It features songs he penned as far back as 1988, as well as lyrics from just this year. “It was definitely a legacy project,” he shares.

Many of Murphy’s favorite albums were recorded in homes rather than studios. “Exile on Main St.” by the Rolling Stones was done in a mansion on the French Riviera, and “Led Zeppelin III” was in an 18th-century cottage in Wales. Rather than traveling to studios in New York, L.A. or Atlanta, as he had for other records, Murphy found an engineer who would come to his home.

“I live out in the country on this peninsula,” he explains. “It’s very bucolic—chickens and goats running around. It was great because we did things I always read about: hanging mics from stairwells and putting the drums at the base of them, just experimenting. More importantly, because the project spanned [over two decades], guys I played with like 20 years ago flew in to play on it.”

The result is two albums, eight songs per album, four on each side. Immediately, elements of folk rock emerge. Murphy’s vocals give off an epic and omnipotent vibe, yet remain unassuming, breathy and gentle in tone. Such qualities are perhaps essential to a record with a storytelling approach.

“Basically I just wanted to tell this great story about a couple,” he says, “and I certainly have a vision for it to have a screenplay. Each side corresponds with the seasons of the year. The winter side of the album is just falling madly in love and all this passion. They get really entwined, and then, of course, there’s infidelity, jealousy, and all the things that happen in a relationship. It comes full circle.”

Though Murphy wanted to generalize most of the lyrics so listeners may impose their own emotions, he admits there are some lines with intentional specificity. “There’s one about absinthe—I was making homemade absinthe at the time. People may think, What is he talking about? It’s June, 4 a.m., and the fireflies are telling green fairy tales? How does that tie into the lovers? That’s really where the guy is falling apart because he’s lost his true love, and he’s diving into reckless abandon.”

The album insert is almost like a newspaper, Murphy says, so folks can read the lyrics and follow along. Some of the artwork was done by Murphy himself, but the woodsy folk art from the album center was created by Zachariah Weaver. Likewise, Gabriel Lehman, recognized for his whimsical yet boding pieces, designed the entire sleeve for GZB’s new record.

“I am so thrilled that I can release my album on the same day as John and Steve Mousseau, because they played in about half of my songs,” Murphy says. The brothers, who play drums and bass/keys/vocals, respectively, are part of GZB. The group is rounded out by guitarist Zack Williams.

Their sophomore effort, “Symposium,” is experimental. Psychedelic chords juxtapose Steve’s throaty, gutsy vocals (he sounds a lot like Eddie Vedder—not surprisingly as he also fronts the ‘90s cover band, Flannel Rebellion). The dark and mellow vibe of GZB is amplified by the instrumental angst and the clear, solid, powerhouse voice of Mousseau. Their lyrics wail of deep heartache, laced with imagery that can still be adopted by anyone plagued with such plight.

Sean Thomas Gerard’s 7” will feature “Monsters” and “Telling Nobody,” songs off of his band’s latest release. “These are mixes we worked on the month before we finished the record that are arranged differently,” Gerard details. “It will be a very different listening experience to people who are familiar with our record versions. It’s also a one-time-only press, and they are all screen printed by hand—definitely a collectors’ item.”

The Vinyl Revitalization Party will not only commemorate all records with vintage allure and deft craftsmanship, but it will also glorify something so dear to Wilmington’s arts scene: a sense of community. The focus is not only on the musicians but the artists, too, and, ultimately, the gratification anyone can feel while appreciating creativity.

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