The second time may be the charm for Vamp Star, a “grindhouse rock” group fed a steady diet of B-movie camp

By Michael Aushenker

Jade Starr works the beats during a Vamp Star performance last year at Good Hurt

Jade Starr works the beats during a Vamp Star performance last year at Good Hurt

When they take the stage Friday in Mar Vista, call it Vamp Star version 2.0.
Front man Rob S. Gray originally formed the band back in 2002 in his native Columbus, Georgia, but less than three years later Vamp Star decided moving to L.A. was the way to make it big. As is so often the case for musicians, things did not go as planned.
“I’m the only one to make it out here,” Gray said. “[The other musicians] actually did come out, lasted for a weekend, and took off. Couldn’t take it, for some reason.”
All, that is, except Jade Starr — a go-go dancer turned erotic film performer who originated as an integral part of Vamp Star’s stage act and, in recent years, has also taken to playing programmed beats during live performances.
After the Vamp Star’s initial breakup, Gray tried his hand at an electronic-based metal band, but “my heart was terribly not in it,” he said.
During a 2007 trip to Comic-Con International in San Diego, Gray had an epiphany that he missed the over-the-top pop culture landscape that had fueled Vamp Star. A year later, he and Starr reassembled the band with along with guitarist Ali D. and bassist Noe.
Gray calls the new Vamp Star’s template of “grindhouse rock” quirky and experimental but not derivative.
B-movies and ‘70s exploitation films are “my favorite and biggest influences all around,” Gray said. Late ‘80s/early ‘90s B-movies such as “Bikini Drive-In” and “Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers” and their soundtracks also figure into the mix of musical and lyrical influences, he said.
While Gray is also a huge fan of Faith No More and The Sparks and movies such as the “Black Emmanuelle” series and 1960s biker films such as “Bernie and Angel,” “Hell’s Angels on Wheels” and “Werewolf on Wheels,” Ali D. draws from a diverse array of acts ranging from rockers Guns ‘N’ Roses to pre-fab English pop phenoms the Spice Girls.
Since regrouping, Vamp Star has spent most of its time recording. Friday’s gig will mark their first live show at Good Hurt in a year.
The band’s set will draw from several of its albums — that is, excluding its fourth one, “Fascination,” a Bee-Gees-inspired, disco-flavored conceptual album that dropped just last week.
Among the songs: “Pussy Cat Purr” and “Making Love in Outer Space” from their first album, “Kitty Girl’s Gone Wild”; “Vampire Lesbos” off of “Wicked City Radio” (with references to everything from “Star Wars” to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles); and “Going All Alpha Nerd” from  “The Only Game in Town.”
All of the sex and supernatural flourishes are meant to be taken tongue in cheek.
“It’s just good, sleazy fun!” Gray said.
Vamp Star plays at 8 p.m. Friday at The Good Hurt, 12249 Venice Blvd., Mar Vista. Also on the bill: Rebel Rebel, Apocalipstick and SouLandscape. Free with RSVP to ultrafleshmusic@gmail.com. For information, call (310) 390-1076 or visit goodhurt.com.
michael(at)argonautnews.com

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