Vintage Trouble: Trading Up To A Big-Time Label Without Sacrificing The DIY Work Ethic

In just four years, they’ve played Hyde Park and Wembley, toured with The Who, Kravitz and Bon Jovi, appeared on Leno, Letterman, and Jools, have been featured in commercials for Supercuts and Honda, just signed a record deal with Blue Note, and you’ve probably never heard of them. Well, that’s about to change.

This is Vintage Trouble.

It’s too easy to say they do soulful music, that’s part of it, but the idea here is bigger. There’s a visual style, a vibe, a lifestyle in sound. You can hear it all over the band’s first release, The Bomb Shelter Sessions; from the raucous “Hand Me Down Blues” to the pensive “Nobody Told Me,” all the way through the bonus track “Pelvis Pusher,” which I assure you, is aptly named. Three completely different songs, with a heartfelt style, that all tell the story of a band looking to make an authentic connection.

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While everyone in the music business is looking for some magic marketing key or new business model that will unlock mass stardom and success, Vintage Trouble is doing it the old-fashioned way: they’re earning it, night after night, one fan at a time, on any stage that will have them.

And so it was apropos that I would get to interview all four members, as a band, Nalle Colt (guitarist), Rick Barrio Dill (bass), Richard Danielson (drums), and Ty Taylor (vocals).

Congrats on the Blue Note deal! After being so successful as an independent, why sign a deal now?

Nalle: The world is changing very quickly around us. We had an opportunity to add to what we already do. We get to make the music we want, and we get the amazing creative people behind Blue Note to support it.

Ty: We hadn’t signed away any of our publishing; it allowed us to get a better deal. We came in with our business in order, and a lot of leverage.

Rick: Much like working with Doc McGhee (manager), we feel very comfortable with Don Was (head of Blue Note). He doesn’t want to change anything about the band, just support it. That kind of support is just relatively unheard of right now.

The band’s resume is unbelievable, but it feels like you’re still really grinding success out. Is it frustrating?

Nalle: We’re not frustrated at all. Sure, they’re could’ve been higher response, but all the feedback we’ve been getting is so positive. It’s an odd time right now with a new world order. Three years ago we played in local Los Angeles to 150 people, so we appreciate the ride.

Richard: The thing about it is we’re going grassroots. Our trajectory is coming from the bottom, and not from the top. It’s sweeter when we’re working really hard. There’s humility to everything we achieve. A band like this is exciting to be in.

Ty: It’s really more about feeling successful every day. So, for me, for us, it’s bigger than one hit. It’s like Arcade Fire; I love what they do. They just keep toiling away and building. We want [fans] for 20 years, not for two minutes.

Your music seems to defy genre; has it been hard to take hold in radio?

Ty: It’s always been our dream to re-establish a radio format than fit in to one. When you’re trying to do something special, you have to approach it in a different way. In the 1950s, a lot of stations played all kinds of music.

Richard: Actually, the plan was never to do radio, the plan was to do music we loved. Not the next trend or style. The Jools Holland show in the U.K. really broke us. There’s a lot of ways to reach people. You just have to play what you feel.

How did you go from doing a demo to being managed by the legendary Doc McGhee? 

Nalle: We had a very straight-ahead vision of what we want to do. We couldn’t afford to go anywhere, so we played in Los Angeles. We made The Bomb Shelter Sessions after only three months. We pressed it, sold merch, sold records. We all made it like a full-time job.

TY: We decided we were not going to just play once a month – like promoters said to. We decided to be cocky and to play as much as possible. So we set up four residencies: Downtown LA, Hollywood, Santa Monica, and Los Feliz. We played four nights a week. We didn’t seek it out, management found us. We made waves. Our fans, the ‘Troublemakers,’ were traveling all over to LA to every show. Doc saw what the crowd was doing, girls sweatin’, guys freaking out, people having a blast. He said, ‘I want to take you to England. Do the Stax thing.’

Richard: This is a huge testament to Doc. He sat us down, and said, ‘I don’t want to change a fucking thing. I just want to take it around the world.’

Rick: Right away we were doing two-hour shows, and we didn’t have the material. Our first gig after three weeks together was a three-hour show! Ty is great at directing. That became our secret weapon.  We’d do that four times a week, then we took it over to London, and it’s been growing ever since.

It seems you’ve been on tour endlessly; are you finding time to work on new material?

Nalle:  Yes, we’re in pre-production. We have songs that are two weeks old. We’re always demoing up on the road. We never know with us. We thought that The Bomb Shelter Sessions was going to be a demo. [editor’s note: The Swing House Acoustic Sessions, a new five song EP, has just been released on the band’s site]

I see you have an army of sorts online – who does your social media?

Entire band: Ahh, the Troublemakers!

Nalle: The Troublemakers. Those are our fans, and they’re a force of nature. They’re the new Deadheads of the world. Here, and in Europe, they are so amazing. We are actually looking into making a documentary about it.

TY: We do all of it [social media] in house. Everybody helps out, but Nalle does a lot of it. We have a killer audience on Facebook. We discuss shows, and respond to comments; we’ll answer every single person. It’s all us.

So, what sage advice do you have for a band or artist coming up?

Nalle: Have respect for yourself and for other people. Every show counts.

Richard: Bands should play more. My advice for bands is to practice, practice, and practice some more. Give a lot of different looks. We have an acoustic set, an electric one, a jam set. It builds your character.
Rick: Take time to figure out what you want to say, what kind of show you want to play. Then go play as much as you can and get better.

Ty: The most important thing for bands to learn is to really connect to the audience. It’s all about the connection. It’s not just the clothes and music; it’s the intention and the emotion. Make people want to feel empowered. That way, every hit you’ve done is going to matter today and tomorrow. You have to make them feel something they haven’t felt before.

Follow on Twitter @vintagetrouble

photos by Lee Cherry

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