“We call ourselves Vapors of Morphine because we’re not really here,” saxophonist Dana Colley announces to a buzzing room on a snowy Saturday night at Cambridge’s Atwood’s Tavern.
The name is a nod to Morphine, the band that Colley and drummer Jerome Deupree formed with vocalist, bassist and songwriter Mark Sandman here in Cambridge in 1989. The group disbanded 10 years later following Sandman’s untimely death at the age of 46, but the mysterious, mellow sound that the band pioneered lived on through the tributes and continued musical exploits of Sandman’s bandmates and friends.
Vapors of Morphine, a trio composed of Colley, Deupree and vocalist/guitarist/bassist Jeremy Lyons, is the current form of those efforts. The band performs a combination of songs from Morphine’s five-LP discography and original compositions that build on a their style, composed into a freewheeling two-sets-per-night residency at Atwood’s every Saturday. Longtime residents of Wednesday nights, the band made the switch to a permanent weekend gig this year with hopes of an expanded audience in mind. Vapors, maybe, but hardly absent; Colley, Deupree and Lyons pull off the rare feat of seamlessly honoring a legacy and exploring new territory within the same performance. We caught up with the band at last weekend’s gig, which saw a strong turnout of Bostonians braving the snow to experience a bit of living local lore.