For a band with such a wild and complicated musical history, playing music doesn’t even come close to being the most memorable part of the careers of the three musicians in Rooftop Vigilantes. After a series of record label mishaps and endless trouble-making tours for drummer Seth Wiese and guitarists Zach Campbell and Oscar Guinn, the trio discovered that the real thrill of being in a band was found in each other’s company. “Some of the most exciting times I’ve ever had in Rooftop were on tour,” says Campbell. “It had nothing to do with the actual shows.”
That doesn’t mean the band hasn’t left their fair share of memorable moments in Lawrence. Aside from countless rowdy shows in the basement of the Taproom and on the Replay stage, they were the only local band to be featured at 2010’s wildly successful and memorable Scion Garage Fest (which featured the likes of King Khan, Thee Oh Sees, and Best Coast at venues scattered across Lawrence one evening). But that’s all coming to an end, now that Wiese is moving to Long Beach, California. Guinn’s New York residence had already complicated the situation, and Wiese’s future relocation sealed the deal. “When you have someone living in New York, someone living in Long Beach, and Kansas, those are the three farthest places away from each other in the nation,” says Wiese. At this point, Guinn chimed in “We’re going to become a holiday band, we only play on holidays.” His joking demeanor was met with seriousness and stern promises from his bandmates. “If you get us all in the same town for more than one day, I assure you we’re going to play music,” Wiese insisted, proving that it will take more than a little geography to separate these close cohorts. “That says nothing about the band’s existence, but the chemistry between the members is awesome. The fact that we can’t all live in the same town is the only thing inhibiting this band.”
Inhibitions are expected to fly out the window this Thursday at the Replay, when Rooftop Vigilantes play their final Lawrence show. The band has spent the week nailing down new material at practice (scroll to the end of the article for some of that new music), as well as recounting war stories. In 2008, while most Lawrencians were celebrating the Kansas Jayhawks’ NCAA Championship, Wiese was recovering after an attack that happened during the downtown celebrations that left him severely injured. But the band kept their tough guy reputation when Wiese refused to let anyone take his place in the band at his own benefit show. Campbell noted that’s typical of Wies’es stubbornness, which has apparently been a common theme from the moment the band was founded. “We didn’t even invite Seth into the band, he was just like ‘I’m playing drums,'” says Campbell.
Don’t be fooled, though. Most of that stubbornness is just how the three rowdy rockers show their fondness for each other. “These are probably two of my closest friends, and the partial reason for the closeness is because of the music we play together,” says Wiese. “I would love to continue that. It’s important when I get out to Long Beach, because I am sure within six to eight months I will be playing music out there because I love playing music. It’s kind of what makes me tick… and I love doing it with friends. That’s why it works so well in this.”
Campbell’s feelings are nearly identical to Wiese’s, and he recounted the decades he’s spent obsessing over his musical career. “I can’t imagine myself at 30 or 90 not doing it,” he says. “There’s this perfect storm of what went on and you get that only so many times in your life. I’m lucky enough to know some great musicians every time I start a band. It feels natural and right. I love Oscar. I love Seth. Whenever we can do this again, I want to… I feel like everyone in this band is up for an adventure.”
Guinn pointed out that while the stage makes some feel self conscious, it feels only natural when he’s sharing it with Campbell and Wiese. “I feel no difference between hanging out with them at a bar or playing music with them,” says Guinn. “It feels real, it feels like we’re having fun and hanging out, and that’s where music should be coming from. More and more, that’s where you should have that source.” But before he could too seriously consider his statement, he smirked and added “I guess you don’t need a better reason than having fun.”
See the fun that Rooftop Vigilantes bring to the stage this Thursday at the Replay when they play with My Gold Mask and California Wives.
by Fally Afani
Editor’s note: Former member Hannah Hyde is unable to join the boys for this show, which has left them very sad. So here’s a couple of clips of the band all together at Scion Garage Fest: