Formed in San Francisco in 1996 as a three- and then four-piece by Roger Anderson (guitar, vocals) and Mark Dansby (bass), Vaportrail plays a brand of music influenced by both the wall of sound of shoegazer bands such as Swervedriver, My Bloody Valentine, and Ride (from which the band takes their name); and the more reflective side of Spiritualized and Red House Painters. The band played locally and had songs included on both the Cool Beans! and Cultivation #4 compilations. Vaportrail made plans to record several other songs in 1997, but their drummer and second guitarist quit just prior to the recording session. Their friend, Red House Painter Anthony Koutsos, filled in on drums for the recording of what turned into the band's debut EP, a self-financed and produced effort released in 1997 on their own 2012 Music. Following the EP, Shane Kraus (drums) moved from Chicago to join the group, bringing along with him friend Chris Ruffolo (guitar). In 1998, Vaportrail recorded a cover of a song by the Church, another of the band's influences, to be included on a Church tribute CD in 1999.
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