In the annals of Boston-based bands, there was a trio that enjoyed a loyal worldwide following, not to mention critical acclaim. The group was known as Morphine and was made up of frontman Mark Sandman on lead vocals and two-string slide bass, drummer Jerome Deupree (who was replaced in later years by Billy Conway) and baritone saxophonist Dana Colley. On July 3, 1999, at a three-day music festival just outside of Rome in Palestrina, Italy, the 46-year-old Sandman had a massive heart attack and died on stage. Since then, the remaining two players, Colley and Deupree, kept the spirit of the alternative band alive by performing in Orchestra Morphine (“Live on Tour,” 2000) and then, in 2009, formed Vapors of Morphine that featured Jeremy Lyons on vocals and two-string slide bass (also guitars and obscure stringed instruments). On Jan. 11, Vapors of Morphine will be performing at Bayside Bowl in Portland. To that end, an interview was arranged with Dana Colley on Dec. 16 and a call was placed to his home in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Q: Hey, Dana. How are you doing?
Colley: I’m good, I’m good — thanks. Are things chilly up there in Kennebunkport?

Q: It’s cold. Actually, I’m up in Sweden.
Colley: Oh, you’re in Sweden — that’s right. My uncle used to live in Norway.

Q: Oh, really?! That’s right, I heard there was a Maine connection going on here.
Colley: Yup, I was born in Portland and my parents were, too. My mom went to Portland High and my dad went to Deering, my uncle — Allen — taught in Lewiston and Buckfield and lived in Norway with his family.

Q: So, you are a Mainer…
Colley: A Maine-iac! (laughter)

Q: Ayuh!
Colley: We used to have a camp on Little Sebago, I have many a fond memory of Little Sebago fishing with my cousins. … It was like Huckleberry Finn.


Q: That’s neat! Now Morphine was a Boston-based band, correct?
Colley: Yeah.

Q: And you’re the only one left of the original trio?
Colley: Well, I’m the only one who’s playing in Vapors now. Billy {Conway} is in Montana, and Jerome was playing with us until this last tour and he decided to step down — he still plays locally. But as far as moving forward, it’s just me, as far as the Morphine legacy goes.

Q: And, you have Jeremy Lyons on vocals and two-string slide bass, and I understand you have a new drummer taking over Jerome’s spot?
Colley: Yes, his name is Tom Arey and he’s a force of nature (chuckle) … he plays with Peter Wolf when he’s not playing with us.

Q: That’s not a bad gig to have, either, for that matter.
Colley: No, he’s much sought-after.

Q: How did Vapors end up scoring him?
Colley: He filled in one time when Jerome couldn’t make it. … He came in so prepared that it blew my mind. He had done his homework in such a way — he had written out charts and he really nailed it. I was just really impressed with his ability to come so prepared, but also his ability to expand on that, as well . … We’ve had the opportunity to work with him for almost a year now.

Q: To what do you attribute the mystique around Morphine?
Colley: Oh, jeesh, I don’t know. I think maybe Mark’s sultry baritone voice that resonates deeply into the consciousness of the listener — it kind of creates a mood, in a way?


Q: And the breakdown of the simple instrumentation?
Colley: It’s called “low rock” — not to be confused with “lo-fi.”

Q: Now, I’ve been delving into your latest CD, “A New Low” — speaking of “low” — from 2016, are you working on something new or have something new? What’s up?
Colley: Yeah, we have a new record and we just finished mixing this week, so we’re looking to master it. We’re talking to a booking agent in Belgium to put together a tour in April and we’re talking to a record company in London that might be interested in putting it out on vinyl.

Q: Any chance you might be self-releasing it here in the states?
Colley: Ah, that remains to be seen. We haven’t quite sealed any deals yet, so we’re still in conversations with that label in London … but independently it’ll be at our own shows most likely.

Q: Will the folks coming to your show in Portland get a chance to hear some of the new material?
Colley: They definitely will be hearing the material as we’re weaving it into the Morphine songs, as well. We have original Morphine songs that we’ve learned, and then we add the stuff from this new record, which doesn’t have any Morphine (covers) on it.

Q: What will it have on it?
Colley: There’ll be some originals, some North African cover songs, and some Mississippi blues influence, and a little bit of everything.

Q: Well, that’s what I like about “A New Low;” as you’re listening, you have no clue as to what will be coming next. That diversity and variety makes for a memorable and exciting experience.
Colley: Well, that’s kind of what makes it fun to record … we just make music to amuse ourselves and make us interested, and hopefully the audience will feel the same way.

Q: Is there anything, Dana, that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Colley: Umm, well, save me a sub, Amato’s, I’m coming up. I’ll soon be there — make an Italian sandwich super to-go, I’ll be there on the 11th (chuckle). You know, I’m just really thankful and grateful for the people who follow the band and listen to the band and are just coming to the music for the first time. To be able to have your music reach anyone has always been every musician’s dream — and I feel very grateful for having this conversation with you about it and that people will be interested in hearing what we’re doing. I don’t take that lightly and I’m grateful.

Lucky Clark has spent 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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