“Horror Movies. Maybe Rush or Joy Division.” These are just a few of the actual collective influences of the rock-duo Vulgarrity, a band riding just under the radar since its formation in Providence, R.I. in 2008.
“People try to label us when they first see us, maybe even before we play one song. They automatically think our influence is The White Stripes,” says Shawn Garrity, one half of Vulgarrity.
While the comparison may be off musically, it isn’t difficult to see where viewers get the idea. Vulgarrity is Shawn and Tracy Garrity, a brother and sister raised on the East Coast with a wide range of musical influences.
Before one note is played, either Shawn or Tracy will start at the drums, the other holding bass or guitar.
“Hey you know who they remind me of?”
Nope. Forget it, because half-way through that song, Shawn might loop the guitar, play the bass over to the drums, hand it off to his sister and sit down for his turn to smash the hell out of the kit, arms flailing and hair flying.
And so it can go, back and forth for the length of a set, always to applause and admiration from a crowd wishing they took the time to learn just one instrument as well as the Garrity’s play them all.
Vulgarrity has nailed down a distinct sound. It’s catchy, loud, short and anything but sweet. A popular song “Boogeyman” starts with a guitar riff. Shawn loops it, then starts singing and playing the drums. Tracy starts the bass line. By the time one realizes the verse is really catchy, it’s the chorus, and all melody gets thrown out the window.
“Here he comes again/ Goddamned Boogeyman” Then it’s back to the verse and the listeners feel justly prepared to sing along. Too late. It’s back to the chaos of the chorus. It goes like this for two and a half minutes and then it’s done.
In fact, most of the songs sit around the three-minute mark, which feels the perfect length for the fast paced punk-rock show.
Live, the songs call for bass, guitar, drums and vocals, and Shawn and Tracy play each as if it were their primary instrument. “We’ve actually added keys to the new record,” Shawn says. Of course they did. “On stage whoever plays bass plays keys too.”
Both members picked up their chops in other bands before starting Vulgarrity, but for one reason, it never worked out. Tracy and Shawn are both, by their description, control freaks.
“We’d fight with other members. With four or five people trying to lead creative direction, it just gets messy,” says Shawn. “Now it’s a two-piece. It’s easier, but we still fight all the time.”
One thing the squabbling siblings seem to agree on is writing serious rock songs, while not taking themselves too seriously. Many of the songs have references to the horror movies and scary stories they love. “Boogeyman” starts with “Evil eyes are glowing red/Noises underneath your bed”. There is also a song called “Zombie Town,” and the ridiculous “Gone Streaking,” in which Shawn and Tracy harmonize the chorus of “Gone streaking, now I’m in jail/Bad luck never fails/ Got the cops on my tail/ Won’t you please post my bail.”
There is balance though. The song “Idiots in Photos” talks about losing friends to time and realizing it too late. “Night to Remember” and “Sunday Afternoon Stroll” are more personal reflections, with lyrics any bruised heart can relate to. “Tracy will write a lot of the personal and emotion filled songs, where as I’m just a heartless bastard,” Shawn jokes. “Our lyrics come from the music. We’ll each take the track and write lyrics and melodies … we go with what’s best for the song.”
Whatever the chemistry of Vulgarrity, it’s working for them. In 2008, they released the band’s first full-length album, If You Sing It, They Will Hum, 15 tracks of heavy garage rock riffs with loud, haunting hooks. On the album, the control-freak siblings did all of the art-direction, recording and production.
Three of the songs (“No Coin,” “Plane in the Water” and the fan-favorite “Boogeyman”) have received significant local airplay. “When we wrote the record, we thought for sure ‘Plane in the Water’ was going to be the one people liked most, but it’s ‘Boogeyman.’ That’s the one we get requests for every time,” Shawn says.
Song quality and extensive touring have gotten Vulgarrity noticed nationally as well. Myspace Records took an interest in Vulgarrity during the Sibling Rivalry tour in late 2009. The Artist Development department began promoting the songs off of If You Sing It, They Will Hum and promoted the band’s newest album Dance to the Grave, as well as the national coast-to-coast tour supporting the album
“In Dance to the Grave,” Shawn says, “the meat and potatoes are still the same. We’ve got our sound and song writing down, but it’s a little heavier, a little darker than the first. We watch a lot of horror movies.”