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Every band is a strange little family that functions in a unique way. Since each group consists of an experimental creative partnership, complex personal relationships, and a risky business venture, no two could ever operate alike. Unavoidably, a fundamental question arises: what happens when there’s disagreement? Does a single auteur have final say? Does each member have autonomy over their own parts? Or can a majority of the members agree and move on?
In 2021, after the release of their acclaimed debut EP Sixteenth Sapphire, Winnipeg’s Virgo Rising made a new rule; ff the band was truly going to be a reflection of its members, and was going to give themselves fully to the pursuit of creating great work, each bandmate had to have veto power on every aspect of their sophomore effort. No one was to hesitate in saying, “I don’t like the way this turned out”, whether about a rhythm, a lyric, a sound, a song as a whole. Everyone’s part was everyone’s domain.
It was, as one could imagine, a difficult process.
That their sophomore EP, Vampyre Year, arrives October 13 on House of Wonders Records is both a testament to their bond and the capstone of a daring period in the young band’s life. Amidst a swirling cloud of emotion, Emily Sinclair (Vocals, Guitar), Lauren Wittmann (Bass, Keyboards), Jenna Wittmann (Guitar, Violin), and Isaac Tate (Drums, Percussion) emerged with a bold and worthy followup that may well outshine their celebrated indie rock debut.
The band arrived at House of Wonders in January 2022 with a new set of songs and a new ethos. Spirits were high and the material was strong. However, building agreement at a granular level proved to be difficult. The band became worn out, and progress slowed. Ultimately two weeks of recording produced only the single Nail Biter, alongside a number of other fragments.
Virgo Rising wouldn’t pick up the threads for another six months, and wouldn’t step back into the studio for a full year.
“After the first recording session, we were discouraged,” says Jenna Wittman. “But once we took some space from the project, it became clear that we were very close to something we could all be proud of.”
Agreeing that Nail Biter was the north star of their next era, they discarded the rest of the material, and began to rework the EP from the ground up, by reorchestrating, cutting, and adding songs.
They returned to the studio in January 2023, and while sitting around a cassette recorder, improvised Vampyre Year alongside producer Adam Fuhr. The exercise led to a breakthrough: if they would lean more heavily on each other’s instincts, they could give themselves less opportunity to dwell on details before the picture of a whole emerged, even while maintaining their individual vetoes. Finally, it felt like a weight had been lifted. With this new mindset, an updated palette and a year’s worth of tweaking, the rest of the EP poured out of them in just a few days.
“They pushed themselves hard in the pursuit of making something that stands up,” says Fuhr, the EP’s producer and head of House of Wonders Records. “I am so proud of what they accomplished, and I think it’s evident that the process led to something beautiful.”
The EP was produced, engineered, and mixed by Adam Fuhr (Yes We Mystic, Amos the Kid, JayWood) at House of Wonders, with additional engineering on “Charon” by the band’s own Isaac Tate. The EP was mastered by Donavan Ostapowich (Tinge, Tired Cossack, Good Bandits), also at House of Wonders. Lead single Nail Biter features Liam Duncan (Boy Golden) on the banjo. Vampyre Year arrives on streaming services and cassette tape October 13 on House of Wonders Records.
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