In an attempt to shine light on local music, The Lantern’s “Columbus’ Own” is a weekly series that will profile a new Columbus band each week.
Columbus band Playing to Vapors has no relation to ‘80s one-hit-wonder The Vapors, but its members don’t resent any accidental association with the band.
“Anytime you watch any video of ours on YouTube, it’s always ‘Turning Japanese’ in the sidebar, but it’s a great tune,” said bassist Zack Cramp.
In truth, the group’s name was inspired by guitarist Mike Stokes’ father, who is also a musician.
“Something that a lot of musicians can relate to is getting to a gig, especially out of town, and you don’t have much of an audience. Whenever he would play a crappy gig or nobody was there, he would say, ‘We were playing to vapors tonight,’” Stokes said.
Guitarist Daron DiSabato added that, “we all resonated with that because we were starting out in high school and you don’t have many fans, and the fans you have are your few high school friends who come out to see you play.”
Four of the five members have known one another since 2005, and Cramp and lead singer Luke Harris, both Ohio State graduates, met in fall 2009 through their involvement in student organizations Musician’s Collective and the Music & Entertainment Industry Student Association. The five of them have been together as Playing to Vapors for two years now. Since then, they have built a fan base, who call themselves “Vapors.”
“We didn’t tell them to do that or anything,” DiSabato added with a chuckle.
It could seem self-involved if they had, but the band is more concerned with what’s happening in music besides itself, including their recently-started “album club.”
“We listen to a new album every week, just like a book club. At the end of the week after we’ve all listened to it, we come back and have a discussion about what we liked and didn’t like,” DiSabato said.
“The whole purpose is to introduce each other to what we’re listening to now and to try to get in touch with each other’s influences so that we can be a more cohesive element and see where each other are coming from,” he added.
That influence sometimes comes from within the band, too.
“We all love the way each other plays our instruments. I don’t think we’d be in a band together if we didn’t really like what each other did. And we all have been influenced by these records over the years. It’s funny how a record can influence a member and how they, in turn, put it into our band,” Cramp said.
Albums previously chosen have been Andrew Bird’s “The Swimming Hour,” “Mine Is Yours” by the Cold War Kids, “You Can’t Take it With You” by As Tall as Lions, and a French pop album called “Dots and Loops” by Stereolab. Playing to Vapors is considering adding a tab to its website so fans can take part as well.
While the video for the group’s newest single, “Ghost Hunter,” takes a literal approach to the title, the song has little to do with ghosts and instead centers on a repeated line, “Everyone leads and no one believes.”
Harris was inspired by a human resources class he took at OSU for the lyric.
“The professor was talking about the importance of followers. Everyone talks about how important leaders are, but just as important as a leader is a person who recognizes when someone has a good idea and follows that person,” he said.
“It was just frustration at the time. I kind of felt like the Columbus, the music scene, was a bit of a shark tank at the time, which I don’t think it is anymore. I thought that it was everyone for themselves and nobody really helping each other out,” he added.
“The scene’s really grown since we started playing, and we’ve been in the scene for a long time … Now it seems like it’s come a really long way,” said Stokes, who knows many Columbus musicians through his job at instrument store Sam Ash.
“In general, there’s a really great community in Columbus music. You go to any gig and I feel like half the crowd might just be other musicians and I think that’s cool,” said Cramp, who works at a local recording studio.
DiSabato, who is currently a Ph.D. student in electrical engineering at OSU, produced the band’s first EP in August 2012 as his senior project for his degree in audio production at Ohio University. Playing to Vapors does all of its recording at a home studio in Harris’s house, and DiSabato continues to mix and master songs.
The band plans to release a new EP titled “A Glitch in a Void” in April.
The group hopes to stand out in the competitive music market — “There’s a ton of bands and it’s so easy for any band to get on Spotify or iTunes, and there’s just millions upon millions of songs and it’s just really easy to get lost and not know where to look for music,” Harris said.
“We’re hoping that we’re different enough that people take notice of the way that we try to blend styles as opposed to molding to any particular one,” Cramp added.
Playing to Vapors’ next Columbus show will take place Saturday at Spacebar with The Wet Darlings and Pluto Revolts. The show is 18 and up and cover is $5 for 21 and up and $7 for under 21.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Daron DiSabato is a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering. In fact, his major is electrical engineering.