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The Conquerors tap into the psych-pop, rock sounds of another era

The Conquerors are Rory Cameron (front) and, in back, from left, Adam Wagner, Jim Button, Vince Lawhon, Jake Cardwell and Quentin Schmidt.
The Conquerors are Rory Cameron (front) and, in back, from left, Adam Wagner, Jim Button, Vince Lawhon, Jake Cardwell and Quentin Schmidt.

When he started the Conquerors in 2010, Rory Cameron had a loose idea of what he wanted the band to be.

“It started out kind of garage-pop, and all the songs would segue into one another with kind of psyched-out noise stuff,” Cameron told The Star recently. “That evolved into just being a whole-blown psych band. Every song was like five to six minutes long, which is fun and all, but I realized, after seeing other bands that did something similar, how boring it is to see live.

“I've been into brevity ever since. We've sort of come full circle back to the kind of music we made when started.”

That kind of music is pop with a garage-rock edge and occasional soul accents. This weekend, the Conquerors are celebrating the release of “Wyld Time,” their inaugural full-length on High Dive Records. They have a record-release show Saturday night at the Blind Tiger, 3945 Main St., plus two shows next weekend: Sept. 2 at Mills Record Company in Westport, and Sept. 3 at Love Garden Sounds in Lawrence.

Earlier this month, the band released the album’s first single, “Yes I Know,” a jaunty, guitar-centric psychedelic pop anthem that evokes the sounds of the 1960s while also bearing a keen Strokes vibe. The song comes and goes in 2 minutes and 30 seconds, long enough to get its point across, musically and lyrically, but brief enough to leave the listener wanting more.

Jeff McCoy, owner of High Dive Records, said he was a fan of the band during its “psych-freak-out” days, but was even more attracted to their refined, more-crafted songs.

“When they transitioned to writing more accessible retro-infused 3-minute garage pop songs, I knew that I had to work with them,” he said. “These guys have really fine-tuned their sound by playing countless shows, and that hard work and the quality of their songs made signing them a no-brainer for High Dive.”

Cameron, the band’s lead vocalist, has been writing songs since high school. Back then, he was tapping into a different vein.

“I sang in a sort of old-school punk band back then,” he said. “I bought an old Teisco Del Rey from an antique store and started writing songs for my band and teaching myself how to play guitar. I was really into the Sex Pistols and Bowie and the Stooges and stuff.”

The new, refined sound of the Conquerors is heavily influenced by another era of rock.

“The Beatles, Stones, Kinks, the Who, the Byrds,” Cameron said. “I've always been interested in that period. I think of it like the rock and roll cell split at the time when white British musicians sold black American music to white Americans.”

That period has also influenced the band’s on-stage image, evident in the video to “You Must Be Dreaming.” “I saw ‘Quadrophenia’ when I was 16,” Cameron said, “and was obsessed with the Mod thing.”

On its Facebook page the band cites other favorite touchstones and influences, most of which are evident in the Conquerors’ music: the Hollies, 13th Floor Elevators, Jefferson Airplane, Harry Nilsson.

The Conquerors have withstood several personnel changes. In the current lineup, Cameron is backed by five band mates with roots in the Kansas City music scene: Vince Lawhon, guitars, formerly of the Bleach Bloodz; Jim Button, drums, of Continents; Jake Cardwell, percussion, formerly of the Caves; and Adam Wagner, keyboards, and Quentin Schmidt, bass, both formerly of the Good Foot.

In February, they opened for Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats at the Midland theater. The sold-out crowd got a good taste of the Conquerors’ swinging live show.

“We always try and keep the energy up,” Cameron said. “Our set changes constantly, always adding new songs or doing a cover here and there. We usually try and keep our live show pretty uptempo. Most of the slower songs we write will get phased out of our live show to keep the booties shaking.”

The pairing with Rateliff was appropriate: He and his band also evoke the sounds of a different era. Cameron, however, said his band’s intentions aren’t necessarily to be revivalists

“I would like to be able to just call it rock ‘n’ roll, but that's pretty vague,” he said. “I usually tell people it sounds like ‘60's pop or something. I don't particularly care for the ‘throwback’ label even though I understand it. I feel like with the Internet and streaming music, everything is relevant as an influence these days.”

Timothy Finn: 816-234-4781, @phinnagain


The Conquerors will celebrate the release of “Wyld Time” Saturday night at the Blind Tiger, 3945 Main St. Shy Boys and Fullbloods are also on the bill. Admission is $5.