Listen Up: Wampa


Photo by Michael Donahue // Buy this photo


No matter what’s going on, the members of Wampa meet every Wednesday.

“Ryan writes the song,” said Ari Morris, 22, co-lead guitar player referring to Ryan Proctor, 31, guitarist/songwriter. “(He) comes to us with the lyrics and chords for the most part. It’s kind of our job to un-Wilco the tune at that point. It’s gonna sound very Ryan and very Jeff Tweedy.”

“I have my influences,” Proctor said.

And so do the other members, who come from different musical backgrounds, Morris said. “We kind of take this nice, pretty song that he came to us with and we bastardize it and rip it apart and change the rhythms and figure out melody lines and all that kind of stuff.”

And, he added, “Every song takes a month of working on it live to figure out how we want to end it and what works.”

Wampa, which also includes drummer Ashby Jackson, 32; bass player Andrew Geraci, 21; saxophone player Paul Biasca, 20; and percussionist Christopher Jones, 20, released its latest EP, Keedoozle!, this week. “There’s been odd recordings here and there that have been up on the Internet streaming on different Web sights,” Morris said. “But this is the first one that is a concentrated effort to make a release that doesn’t sound like a demo.”

Geraci took the EP name from the grocery store invented by the late Clarence Saunders. “I thought that was a cool Memphis thing,” he said.

Morris, who was the producer, and Proctor did the engineering and mixing at Young Avenue Sound.

Most of the band members met in the recording technology program at the University of Memphis. Proctor was asked to put a band together to play a show at the old Nocturnal three years ago. “I got together with Ari and Andrew and we just kind of threw a little stuff together, a singer-songwriter kind of thing,” he said.

They recruited Jackson, who was in another band at Nocturnal, to play drums with them that night. “I always wanted to play some free form music,” he said. “Everything was so structured in that other band.”

One of the songs they played was “Insomniac,” which Proctor wrote. “It’s just about being up late all the time and dreading to get up in the morning,” he said.

They clicked on stage. “It felt so good we had to keep doing it.”

They were asked to play another show at Nocturnal.

“We’re not a dark, brooding band in any way, shape or form,” Morris said, adding, “We view ourselves as music that’s meant to be heard at festivals and whatnot. It’s very improv heavy. It’s a lot of free form stuff. It’s very psychedelic at points. It’s very driving rock at points at the same time. It’s always just been music to have a good time with. It’s all (stuff) that makes you just smile. Happy pictures, bright colors, man.”

Biasca was the next member to join the band. “I’ve been a jazz player, a classical player all my life,” he said. “(I) never played with a rock band. It was just kind of a matter of finding out where I sat in the band.”

Jones, the newest member of the band, plays djimbe, congas, tambourine and other instruments. He grew up “playing highly-arranged music” in orchestras, so he really likes the “free form of everything on stage” in Wampa.

“Wampa” was the result of putting “nonsensical syllables” together, Proctor said.

And, Biasca added, “In ‘Empire Strikes Back’ there’s an abominable snowman creature thing. That’s a ‘Wampa.’”

Listen Up spotlights area performers. Michael Donahue can be reached at 529-2797.

“Mid-South Musicians for Le Bonheur Battle of the Bands”

Wampa is the headliner. 8 p.m. Saturday at the Hi-Tone Cafe, 1913 Poplar Ave. Tickets: $5 in advance and $7 at the door or online at

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