By Griffin Guinta
Milwaukee-based rockers Vinyl Theatre are kicking off their “Ones to Watch Tour” alongside fellow indie outfit Finish Ticket in St. Petersburg this upcoming Wednesday, Feb. 17 at 6:00 p.m. With upbeat hits like “Gold,” “Breaking Up My Bones,” and “Shine On,” Vinyl Theatre brings an eclectic synth-rock sound that bears likeness to that of twenty one pilots, Young the Giant, and Two Door Cinema Club; a style very much on the rise.
Before any of the tours, concerts or appearances on video game soundtracks, the now-trio (Bassist Josh Pothier recently parted ways with the band for personal reasons) was conceived at a high school cross-country meet in Wisconsin. It started when lead singer Keegan Calmes struck up a conversation with Chris Senner, now the primary keyboardist, and began casually discussing music. However, the interaction wasn’t exactly pleasant.
“It was kind of random. He was a really strange kid and we met at a cross-country meet. I didn’t really want to jam with the guy at first or play any music with him since I was all weirded out. But now we’re best friends,” Calmes laughed. “Took a few years.”
Nick Cesarz and Josh Pothier, two friends of Senner, joined after, and together the four-piece began writing and producing music at a torrid pace. In the past two years, the band published their debut album, Electrogram, signed with major indie-label Fueled by Ramen, and launched a headline tour in 2015. A defining moment in the direction of the band, according to Calmes, was the New York City stop of their 2014 tour with twenty one pilots and MisterWives.
“Our label was there, so we were really nervous. It was our first time playing a big show in front of them. There was so much energy in the crowd–we had the whole four levels of the crowd shaking. We were like ‘woah, we’re just the opener.’ It was just great to be so well received,” he said.
Still, the whole journey has been surreal for Calmes & Co.
“I didn’t even have my heart set on music for the four years I was in college,” he said. “We were just doing it as a hopeful secondary thing. I moved back to Wisconsin for school then dropped out a year after and said, I just need to pursue music.”
That pursuit entailed several odd jobs and, like most bands, a seemingly endless amount of waiting. Moreover, the band remained based out of Milwaukee– not exactly a hotbed for music production. Though that may have been what shaped their distinctiveness. As Calmes puts it, a lot of the major cities are “oversaturated with the same sound.”
These days, the band is energizing local venues nationwide and will do the same they arrive at the Local 662 in St. Petersburg on Wednesday. Audiences can expect an engaging, high-energy performance that includes plenty of jumping, guitar soloing, and, of course, skinny jeans. Though not a household name just yet, expect Vinyl Theatre to be one soon. Tickets start at $15 on Ticketmaster.
Griffin Guinta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.