about the band
The ’90s band Morphine pioneered a new type of music — “Low Rock” — featuring the unusual yet seductive lineup of baritone sax, 2-string slide bass and drums. Morphine burned bright and fast but was snuffed out before it’s time when leader Mark Sandman passed away in 1999. From its ashes have risen Vapors of Morphine.
Vapors of Morphine honors the progressive legacy of it’s predecessor. Original Morphine members Dana Colley (baritone sax) and Jerome Deupree (drums) are joined by transplanted New Orleans’ slide guitarist Jeremy Lyons. They create dreamy soundscapes, applying inventive arrangement to the unique instrumentation of electric baritone saxophone (evocative of Jimi Hendrix’ guitar), the Sandman-style 2string slide bass (sometimes electric bouzouki or guitar) and mad, jazz-rock drums. Morphine songs are complimented by psychedelic renditions of West African tunes, originals and obscure covers by the likes of Brian Eno, Dock Boggs, and Latin Playboys, all of which and more are featured on their latest release entitled “A New Low.” Vapors of Morphine leave audiences from Boston to Brazil, New Orleans to the Netherlands wanting more.
The band was officially formed in 2009 to perform a tribute to Mark Sandman in Palestrina, Italy, where Morphine’s singer, composer and 2string bassist died of a heart attack on the very same stage, ten years earlier. Since then the group has released two CDs: one under their original name “The Ever Expanding Elastic Waste Band,” and now the definitive “A New Low,” which is being enthusiastically discovered by fans worldwide. VoM plays selective shows at home and abroad, including recent bookings in Kansas City, Chicago, New Orleans and Lafayette, LA; Houston and Austin, TX; San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco, CA; Portland, OR, Portland, ME, New York City, Brooklyn, NY; Boston and Cambridge, MA. Festivals have included Utopia Fest (Utopia, TX, 2016), Mês Da Cultura Independente (São Paulo, Brazil, 2014), The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (USA, 2012); Virada Cultural Festival in Sao Paulo, Brazil (2012), New Orleans’ Voodoo Experience (USA, 2011); and Maquinaria Festival in Santiago, Chile (2011). VoM have appeared at Film Festivals across the US and Europe, all in tandem with screenings of two documentary films, Cure for Pain: the Mark Sandman Story and the more recent Morphine “Journey of Dreams.” (VoM contributed original music to the latter film).
All three surviving members of Morphine — Dana, Jerome and succeeding drummer Billy Conway — met blues guitarist Jeremy Lyons in September 2005 after he was washed up on Massachusetts’ shore from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. A personal and musical friendship began. (Besides offering equipment and studio time, Dana got Jeremy a house-painting job.) After informal collaborations prompted Dana to invite Lyons to the gig in Italy, the guitarist had a 2-string slide bass like Sandman’s built and began learning much of the Morphine cannon. Meanwhile they continued to develop a trance-blues style and a knack for reinterpreting a disparate variety of artists’ songs, sometimes with the baritone sax taking the role of the bass, and Jeremy on either guitar or electric bouzouki. Jerome Deupree is the band’s primary drummer, though Billy Conway has joined the group for some big shows and – along with Boston drummer Jeff Allison – filled in sometime for Deupree during an 18 month health-related absence. (Now he is back!)
Morphine’s Film Noire-tinged sound was inspired by the Beats, by dime store crime novels, and by the Blues. Jeremy’s background help anchor the new band in the bedrock of the old. The bandmates’ interest in experimental and exotic musics (of West Africa and beyond) reflect a restlessness that insures that this group will always be more than a simple tribute band. Their tendency to segue between songs with dreamy, ethereal improvisations is a sonic tribute to the mythology of Morphine, which was not in fact named for the narcotic, but rather for Morpheus, a winged Greek God of Dreams (tapping into the Sandman mystique of European folklore, much like Sandman’s previous group with Dana and others “Hypnosonics,” named for Morpheus’ relative Hypnos, the personification of sleep).
VoM has had some hiccups along the way; they were unable to agree on a band name early on, beginning by alternating between “Members of Morphine & Jeremy Lyons” and the “Elastic Waste [sic] Band,” which morphed into “The Ever Expanding Elastic Waste Band”… until early in 2014 when someone asked Jeremy if he didn’t “play with the… um… the ‘vapors’ of Morphine?” And there was the name.
Another hiccup came in 2012: Jerome had been suffering from tendenitis for some time. and ended up taking off more than a year for rest and therapy. Billy Conway filled in on a couple shows in New Orleans, but Billy lives in Montana now, so drum duties for local gigs were taken on by their friend Jeff Allison, who continues to play gigs with the band, even now that Jerome has come back off the bench and onto the stool again.
Vapors of Morphine is currently writing and recording new music and accepting bookings across the world.