Artist Spotlight: Vinyl Theatre

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By Isabella Dionne

On February 15, Milwaukee-based indie rock band Vinyl Theatre embarked on their latest tour—Live Nation’s Ones to Watch—coheadlining with alternative rock band Finish Ticket.

The indietronica group began as a four-piece in Wisconsin when lead vocalist and guitarist Keegan Calmes met keyboardist Chris Senner at a high school cross-country meet. Their meeting sparked a friendship based on their musical interests, and after adding two of Senner’s friends—drummer Nick Cesarz and bassist Josh Pothier—they began to write music under the name Alchemy, which soon changed to Vinyl Theatre. “When you buy a record on vinyl, it’s often for a band you’re truly dedicated to,” said Portier in an interview with Direct Lyrics. The “theatre” part of the name came from the dramatics and excitement of their music. After quickly gaining popularity with their 2014 SoundCloud release of “Breaking Up My Bones,” Vinyl Theatre signed with popular indie/alternative label Fueled By Ramen.

Calmes cited The Killers as the band’s leading influence in a November interview with Five Cent Sound, crediting Senner with introducing him to Hot Fuss when the two first met in high school. Musically, the influence is obvious—the vibrant indie electropop feel of “Breaking Up My Bones” and “Gold” is not unlike the upbeat and cheery tones found in The Killers’ Day & Age, and the cascading keyboards in “Shaking in the Dead of Night” are easily reminiscent of those in Hot Fuss and Sam’s Town. But the band’s lyrical and artistic themes, often woven with colorful visual concepts, bring a certain cohesiveness to their image and music. All members cited “Gold” as a favorite song to play live, and with good reason—the track appeared on their 2013 EP of the same name as well as their debut album, Electrogram, and features a lively drum solo to segue into the song when performed.

While Vinyl Theatre has yet to announce a sophomore album, the band has been writing music while touring. Their second LP, the band told Five Cent Sound, will feature darker tones and deeper lyrical perspectives. Calmes cited travel and touring to give the band a broader influence for both music and lyrics—EPs Gold and Chromatic (released in 2013 and 2014, respectively) and debut album Electrogram (2014) had been written almost exclusively in Cesarz’s basement, but newfound fame and cross-continental tours with labelmates Twenty One Pilots and later Magic Man have offered the band a lot of potential material for new songs. On February 6, the band tweeted a possible setlist image that included unreleased titles “My Fault” and “Friends Have Changed.”

Just before kicking off the Ones to Watch tour, Vinyl Theatre announced that due to personal and medical reasons, founding bassist Josh Pothier would be departing from the band. Calmes, Senner, and Cesarz will continue as a three-piece and have promised fans they’ve planned around Pothier’s departure for the upcoming tour and the future. Down a member but anticipating a new release, Vinyl Theatre certainly is one to watch.

Vinyl Theatre will return to Brighton Music Hall on February 27—just three months after visiting the Allston venue on Against the Current’s Gravity World Tour.

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