“If you get up and dance, that’s a plus. But I don’t expect that,” he says, grinning in his NoPo basement studio (which doubles as the home of his label, My Daddy’s Records). “I don’t care about what people think—I just need to be a better translator,” he adds.
And translate he does: Hampton, who transplanted from Baltimore a decade ago, has molded his eclectic love of music—the guy claims everything from Parliament and Sly Stone to the Clash and Tom Waits as influences—into the five-piece Triple Grip. His silky-smooth vocals, paired with the virtuoso bass grooves of “Skip” Elliott Bowman and the hip-hop stomp of Adrian Mashe’s drums, immediately evoke classic soul. But Hampton—calling to mind another idol, Prince—also laces his songs with decidedly Brit-rock guitar riffs and a dose of funk, creating a tight, bounding mutation.
The Triple Grip’s current compositions are part of what Hampton considers a new musical persona: “I’m re-creating myself for myself,” he explains. It’s a reinvention that came after a decade of jumping around between different pockets of Portland’s music scene, playing with such acts as soul/R&B groups the Black Notes and Black Angel, as well as experimental noise-makers Jackie-O Motherfucker. “When I got here in ’97, I’d randomly show up at tribute nights, put a group together and freak out the rocker dudes,” he says. “Bum-rushing the stage is how I got into playing here.”
Now Hampton—a showman who works the room at gigs, mingling with audiences and displaying a confidence that could be mistaken for cockiness—has decided to do what he loves best, shelling out the Triple Grip’s “indie soul” on his own terms. “I decided I’m not gonna be in any band that’s not my group anymore. I’ve been making other people look really good for a really long time,” he says. “I’m giving myself that power after 20-plus years of being ‘that dude.’”
In doing so, Hampton and the Triple Grip are also giving the city something it sorely needs—an ambitious jolt of soul that just might get bodies moving.
SEE IT. Barry Hampton and the Triple Grip play Ohmega Watts’ CD-release party Wednesday, Oct. 10, at the Doug Fir. 9 pm. $10. 21+.