Just The Two Of Us

“Thanks a lot, White Stripes,” is what Shawn Garrity often thinks when audiences mistake he and his sister, Tracy, for another married-couple rock duo.

VulGarrity has more in common with the Whites than they might admit. Both have a good fashion sense and prefer a gritty sound, though the Stripes go the garage route while VulGarrity cite The Cure as an influence but, since they aren’t going for a retro sound, come closer to The Faint sans electronica.

The Providence duo make the sound of a full band come from just two musicians. They do this with a series of looping pedals, accessories that fascinate Shawn. He will play a guitar line, loop it through a pedal, play another riff, loop that through, and then overdub it before sitting down at the drums — at which point he and Tracy, on bass, come in playing as one. Both are multi-instrumentalists and sometimes switch positions mid-song. Their sweet, harmonizing vocals sometimes clash with their hard rock lines to create a pleasantly mashed-up effect. To make a song’s chorus pop, Shawn will often turn off the loop during verses, leaving only the thump of drums and bass, and allowing the guitar loop in for the chorus to blast the audience with a full-band sound, before killing it again when the song returns to the next verse.

Lyrically, they take inspiration from horror movies, a shared passion since childhood, one that counterbalanced their Catholic school educations.

The Garrities admit it’s not always easy to work with a sibling. “[T]he comfort level can be the hardest and easiest thing about it,” says Shawn. Though they bicker honestly and intensely about their music, they became competent at conflict resolution during their teenage years, when they began playing music together.

The two played in cover bands in high school and, many original-band lineups since, decided to ditch the other musicians and become a duo in 2008. It was difficult to find other musicians willing to spend most of the year on the road.

What they’re doing seems to be working. VulGarrity had a prestigious headlining slot at last year’s South by Southwest Festival and received rave reviews from crowds at this past summer’s Safe to Swim 2 in Danbury.

There is less of an art than the audience might think as to who plays which instrument on which song. “We’ll just play until one person gets sick of one instrument and then switch,” says Shawn.

Laurel Tuohy