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Wampums Go Chasing Rainbows

Twin brothers Greg and Chris Mitchell get lost in a psychedelic daydream.

by Stephan Boissonneault 

Listening to Rainbow Beam, the newest EP from Tkaronto’s Wampums kind of feels like discovering a hidden gem while flipping through the bins at your local record store. Its mysterious, laid-back, and lo-fi psychedelic tendencies will instantly put the listener in a calming state.

“We knew we wanted a dreamy sort of feel, something kind of catchy and positive like some of the trippy records from the 70s,” says drummer and vocalist, Greg Mitchell. “You know when you have a dream and you don’t remember all of the details, but mainly the feeling or essence of it?”

A two-piece project formed with his twin brother Chris, Wampums are a relatively new band but some might already know them from their clothing company, Born in the North. A design and lifestyle focused apparel brand, the Mitchell’s are putting a modern twist on traditional Indigenous design. “We’re both graphic designers and clothing designers so we take that same approach to the promotion of our music because we see it as another facet of our creativity.”

The band moniker is also a nod to their Indigenous heritage. “It’s a bead made out of quahog clam shells, traditionally found in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and in Ontario around the Great Lakes. (Wampums) would be used for storytelling and documenting historical events, like a treaty or something,” Mitchell says. “We wanted a nice word to allude to our Indigenous heritage, but not hit you over the head with it.”

That subtle approach follows the Wampums’ style of music; usually focusing on simple guitar parts paired with wavy, echo delayed vocals courtesy of both brothers. Rainbow Beam was also mastered on reel to reel tape, adding another layer to their dusty, vintage sound. And the beautifully painted album art was done by Tyler Armstrong who is known for his expressive and abstract portraits. “The issue we run into as designers is deciding on what album cover to use,” Mitchell tells RANGE. “We’re always making new designs, but having Tyler make something gave us room to focus on the music.”

While they are proudly Indigenous musicians, for Wampums, Mitchell says they’re not necessarily “seeking to position ourselves as activists,” but rather, aim to be more of a “catchy positive voice to be heard.”

“I wouldn’t consider ourselves to be a Native band anymore than I consider us to be a Christian band,” Mitchell says with a chuckle. 

Rainbow Beam is out now on all streaming platforms