Vamps to the future
The Bylines bring their sound to the present
Marianna Thielen has come unstuck in time.
For years, the 30-year-old songstress and Portland native spent her days in a time warp, trapped in the world of 1960s pop music. This time capsule required her to don ultra-glamorous gowns and makeup as she fronted Marianna and the Baby Vamps, a seven-piece band that gained prominence throughout the region for its spot-on recreation of 1960s pop music, complete with a trio of singers, a full horn section and all the glitz and glam that one would associate with the soulful scene.
But now, Thielen and her group have traveled forward in time, ditching the name Marianna and the Baby Vamps, the glammed-up costumes and the array of 1960s pop favorites. In their place are original compositions by Thielen and pianist Reece Marshburn. The band's lineup remains, as does its mastery of multiple genres of influence, from big band-style jazz to pop and soul.
The Baby Vamps have grown up into The Bylines. And they're making their debut in the present this Friday at the Walters Cultural Arts Center.
'As (the Baby Vamps) went on, we started writing original music. Then we realized the name and the '60s thing was kind of holding us back,' says Thielen. 'We've been going in this direction for a long time and focusing on our own material, so the name just reflects that. It's more based around the songwriting than an image or a genre.'
The Bylines' music draws heavily from the backgrounds of co-writers Thielen and Marshburn, who have studied theater and jazz, respectively.
'Before, our show was more a show, an act, so we wanted to have a niche, with the '60s thing and the makeup and the hair. It just kind of felt like it wasn't as genuine,' says Thielen. 'Now I feel like we write the kind of music we want to write, and we still use the same band. It's really more of the kind of thing that we want to do.'
With the option to express such diverse influences without limitation, the group has explored a wide array of styles, which come together on its recently recorded album, due out early next year.
'We incorporate our own influences as opposed to feeling like we have to fit into something that's going to work for our show,' says Thielen. 'It's a very gradual transition, and our fans have gone along with it and encouraged it. In fact, they prefer our original pieces to the covers.
'We just gravitated toward what we want to write.'
The musical expansion has helped the group hone a sound all its own - one that, while still somewhat rooted in the soul of the '60s (thanks in large part to Thielen's impressive vocal prowess), darts off in other directions at a moment's notice, seamlessly transitioning between rock, blues, jazz, pop, classical and everything in between.
Thielen says the freedom that came from shedding the image has really helped the group develop musically.
'When we sit down to write a song, we're not thinking about how we have to fit it into anything. We have some songs that are like power ballads, and others that sound like they could be in a musical,' she says. 'There are some that do follow the lines of a '60s pop tune. Our producer says some of our stuff sounds like Brit pop. It's been really freeing and fun to explore all these different styles and do what we want.'
Thielen says fans of the original Baby Vamps sound will certainly not be disappointed, likening the group's slow transformation to the way people in the modern age are simply exposed to more and more musical styles, thus developing a more diverse musical palate.
In the end, whether Thielen and company are the Baby Vamps or The Bylines, their goal remains to offer the most robust entertainment experience possible.
'It's fun for people, and I feel like in this age people are exposed to so much music and so many genres, it's almost like it's more expected now to have your album span the '60s to today,' says Thielen. 'Everyone is influenced by a much broader view of music.'
Hear them play
What: Bylines perform with Heather Keizur
When: Saturday, Nov. 18 at 7:30 pm
Where: Walters Cultural Arts Center, 527 E. Main St. in Hillsboro.
Info: Call 615-3485 or visit ci.hillsboro.or.us/arts/wcac.