By Dana Getz
A live-wired soul band straight from the heart of L.A., Vintage Trouble knows how to get down and dirty with rock ‘n’ roll. The funky four-piece has been gaining major attention for their raw, retro-inspired sound and electric live shows, landing them opening slots for high profile acts like Lenny Kravitz, Bon Jovi, The Who and The Rolling Stones.
Frontman Ty Taylor founded Vintage Trouble alongside Swedish guitarist Nalle Colt in 2010, quickly teaming up with bassist Rick Barrio Dill and drummer Richard Danielson. The quartet recorded their debut album during a three-day session in L.A.’s Bomb Shelter Studio, emerging with a 14-track record that effortlessly channels mid-century soul music. Taylor sounds smooth and sultry against his bandmates’ groove-heavy style, combining twangy blues with a pop of R&B sex appeal. Now in the midst of their summer tour, Vintage Trouble will play tonight at Park West in Chicago. We chatted with Taylor a few days before the show, discussing the joys of imperfection, his favorite rock concert, and the band’s experience opening for The Rolling Stones and other rock legends.
First off, what brought you guys together and how did Vintage Trouble form?
Well, I knew all the other players, and we’ve been around the music scene for years and years. Even in a big city like L.A. there are acts that play the same clubs and tend to come together every week, but we wanted to do something different. So we started at this one place called Harvelle’s, this blues club in Santa Monica, and then before long we were playing full residencies all over L.A. So even as a band that had only been together for about two months, we were playing at some of the best clubs in L.A. From that point on we had in our minds that we wanted to go to England like a lot of the sax artists did in 1957, and we did that, it kind of worked out in our favor. We got a great TV show, the Jools Holland show, and that led to us being on the road with Brian May from Queen, and then Bon Jovi, and then we went on our own for 100 days playing shows in Europe. We went from playing little clubs to thousand-capacity venues. But we came together out of a mission really to kind of allow ourselves to release all of our preconceived notions about what a band could be like, and just set our own precedence. We were all into musicians from totally different styles, but collectively right in the middle of it was that 1950-1960 period where rhythm and blues and rock ‘n’ roll were fully married for the first time.
You’ve all played in bands prior to forming Vintage Trouble. Were you playing a similar style of music before?
No. I think for me as the singer, I’ve done all different kinds of styles with all different kinds of bands. We all come from different styles, so we had this pool of influences that we had to fine tune into what we wanted to have be our own sound.
What about this sound and this group of people do you think really clicked?
I think that because the world right now happens to be so media-based and cultural-based and computer-based and very technologically advanced, that there was something about the idea that music was devolving through technology. We just wanted to play music and record it in full takes without any over-dub, and I think in our live show we clearly do have a set that we can kind of go with the audience and how that feels. I think people really connect with something that’s wild and abandoned and free.
What does it mean to be a vintage troublemaker?
First of all, it’s a great community. When I was growing up and listening to music, I always loved the idea that there were things like the Grateful Dead and Fish—these bands that had a culture happen around them. We didn’t try to have that happen, but just all of these people started coming to our shows and gave themselves the name The Troublemakers, and they just started a beautiful, beautiful circular community of artists and doctors and lawyers and teenagers and grandparents. These people are definitely people that don’t deal with a lot of bullshit, and they’re people that want to stand for something, and they’re people that understand the importance of music and they understand that it’s just as important to have your body move your head as it is for your head to move your body. There are troublemakers that have actually married from meeting each other at shows, there are troublemakers who have played songs as their first dance at their wedding, there are troublemakers who have paid for people’s tickets to fly to where there’s going to be a concert. It’s a really inspiring and encouraging family.
How did you come up with the name Vintage Trouble?
I was in an airport one day with my friend Cindy Holiday, and she was asking about my dad, and I was saying he got into trouble—vintage trouble. And at the time I was writing lyrics to a song, “Blues Hand Me Down,” so the song came first and after that we took on the name.
You recorded your debut album, The Bomb Shelter Sessions in only three days. Did you sleep in the studio? What was that process like?
Well, when you record a song all the way through and just use the best take, it takes a lot of time to record. So we just played each song about four or five times and chose the best take…but played together, three days actually seemed like a long time at the time.
It was originally intended to be a demo. Did it feel like an album while you were recording?
When we were recording it the songs were coming out a lot better than we thought, and then once we were hearing them we were like, ‘this actually does sound like a record.’ So we just ran with it. There wasn’t a lot of thought, there wasn’t a lot of planning, we didn’t pace back and forth about a lot of things—we just let it come through.
You’ve opened for some incredible rock legends, including Lenny Kravitz, Bon Jovi, The Who and The Rolling Stones. What were those experiences like?
They were so different. Bon Jovi was like being in the middle of a rock ‘n’ roll dream, kind of like those movies you see with Mark Wahlberg. It was very much a rockstar kind of concert. It was a big, huge stadium and it was the wildest thing ever, the sounds coming back at you were just so huge. The wall of sound coming from your band, going through the first sound check and hearing all that echo coming back at you two hours later at a 60,000 person venue is incredible. Lenny Kravitz was a whole different thing, it was like a rock ‘n’ roll bohemia. Everything was so love-based—you feel like you’re part of a revolutionary rock ‘n’ roll period with everyone just so open and loving and caring. And then The Who was just so significant in terms of pop culture—it was an unbelievable rock ‘n’ roll presentation. Then there’s the Rolling Stones, where all you wanna do is feel like a bar band amplified. For us, being a band that combines blues and rock ‘n’ roll and the Stones being one of the best examples of that of all time, they really exemplify what we want to do with our careers and our lives. So it was overly humbling and overly empowering as well.
I feel like it’s so rare to hear retro, soul-inspired music being produced in a new format. What most inspires you about that sound?
That it’s imperfect. I think when things are too correct—which happens for a lot of musicians today—you leave restriction inside of the music. When you strive for perfect, your body can be unfulfilled. It’s kind of hard to understand how to package yourself when you have something that’s not aligning with what the studio hears and your body. It’s like people wiping their brows all the time on television. People used to watch artists on television because it showed that they were sweating and the musicians were working, as opposed to having someone pat you down with a sponge every five minutes so you look clean and perfect to the world. There was less inhibition then, and I think artists were doing more authentic collaborations with each other—more than just what record companies put together.
What was the greatest rock concert you ever went to?
The greatest rock concert I’ve ever been to was the Tina Turner Wildest Dreams Tour. At that point she was over 50-years-old, and to see someone give that much fire and to hear her project herself across the stage like a lion was just amazing.
Of the shows you’ve played together, which city had the wildest crowd?
I think the greatest response for us was in Nashville, because we were opening for The Who. It was the first time we got a standing ovation on the tour, so that was exciting. But out of our own shows, the wildest crowd is in L.A. That’s where we come from. I’ve literally had to pull my earpiece out of my ears because the audience was so loud.
I know you guys have been crazy busy with touring, but are you working on anything new right now?
Yeah, we’re recording our next record, and we have a documentary that’s out now called “80 Shows in 100 Days,” which follows us along our first big tour. We also have a live CD that we’re putting out at the end of the year, and the new record we’ll be putting out in February.
What can viewers expect from the documentary?
The documentary ended up being a music Cinderella story. I think quite often people are told that only one in a million people can make it, but no one ever tells anyone that they can be that one in a million person. So because of the fact that we went to England for only three weeks and ended up touring across Europe for 100 days shows that it does happen for some people. It’s inspiring people to be musicians, and for me if nothing else happens beyond what that documentary will show, at least we as a band were able to prove to ourselves that music can be a reached dream, not only for musicians but for the people around it. So the documentary holds more weight than I could have even imagined.
Is there anything else you’d like to say to your fans?
You gotta come to a live show. It shows what real artists are about. It’s really about being there. I have to say that there’s nothing like a Vintage Trouble Show, because for me, I’ve never experienced anything like it. What I see going on while we’re on stage, and what I see going on with all those people, it’s something that if I were a person that could choose that experience, I would choose it. So I would just encourage people to come to our live shows to not only see what our band is about, but to see what our community is about.
VINTAGE TROUBLE WILL PERFORM AUGUST 23 AT PARK WEST IN CHICAGO. FOR REMAINING TOUR DATES, VISIT THEIR WEBSITE.