Vintage Trouble: Preserving Rhythm and Blues Is "a Mission We'll Gladly Wear"
The soul-rock-blues quartet Vintage Trouble see themselves as not just practitioners of what they call "live-wired, straight-shootin', dirty-mouthed, pelvis-pushing juke music," but protectors of a long and fruitful legacy.
The band of veteran musicians -- Ty Taylor on vocals, Nalle Colt on guitar, Rick Barrio Dill on bass, and Richard Danielson on drums -- that formed three years ago in Los Angeles didn't set out to play a specific throwback style, saying instead that the sound found them.
"More than a particular sound, we were going for a particular feel. We live in LA and we've all grown up around music and we've done so many things. When we got together, we wanted to find the most open and sincere and honest form of music," Taylor says. "What rang loud and clear to us was a style and a time in music that combined abandonment with a skill set and we just leaned into that. We just told ourselves to stay out of the way."
Vintage Trouble started gigging at a series of weekly residencies around LA, cut what they intended to be a set of demos in three days of studio time for less than $1,000, then headed out to test their fortunes in the UK. After an April 2011 performance on the influential Later . . . with Jools Holland show, the band hit it big.
Since then, the band has opened a July 13 show in London's Hyde Park for the Rolling Stones and played on for The Who, in both the UK and U.S., and Brian May and Bon Jovi in the UK.
"The cool part of the '50s and '60s is everyone [saying] 'Let's put it all together.' You had soul and rhythm and blues, which were combining with this wilder format that rock 'n' roll brought," Taylor says.
In the midst of the band's UK barnstorming, BBC Radio 6 DJ Eddie Piller dubbed the Vintage Trouble "the heirs of rhythm and blues."
"What's so cool about that is he's saying it's not about creating a style, it's about carrying on that style. If we don't take it on to be heirs of that particular kind of music, it will become obsolete and people will forget that it even happened," Taylor says. "It's a mission we gladly wear."
Making a run at the UK before touring more extensively stateside was part of a strategy laid out by manager Doc McGhee (KISS, Bon Jovi and Mötley Crüe.)
"There was a time all the Stax artists went overseas and the reaction was incredible," says Danielson. "We understood and found out that our music can be universal and it will go further than our own backyard. They're very smart listeners in Europe and they have such a rich understanding. It was a nice marriage."
At an early show in York, the band felt the buzz growing and the gamble paying off.
"People didn't understand what we were doing, but there was something about the music they felt in their bodies, and they knew they wanted more. It was surprising to us, to a certain degree," Danielson says. "The fact was people were seeing something that hadn't happened in a while and that's maybe why they received us so well. It gave us so much swagger early on because we were getting such great acknowledgement right away."
The band sees itself -- and peers like Gary Clark Jr., Alabama Shakes, and Imelda May -- returning to audiences something they've missed but didn't know it, a sound that's honest, grounded, and bristling with excitement.
"Maybe there's just a little bit of a changing of the guard out there. Maybe there's a shift in the whole musical landscape that people are starting to gravitate to these types of bands at little more. People are hungering for live rock 'n' roll and rhythm and blues," Danielson says.
Barrio Dill says one of the benefits of playing on tour with The Who was seeing a lot of parents bringing their kids, creating a sort of a generational hand-off for the music.
"There's something instinctive when you listen to those old records, there are some of the imperfections left in the music and there's this great spirit because they didn't lament about that. There's no computer screen involved in the recording and they were bands that played together a lot," Barrio Dill says. "Our job as a band is to be present and real for the audience and recreate every night and have a rebirth every night. Chasing after that every night -- in Stockholm or Bozeman, Montana -- that's the drug."
That early stretch of Vintage Trouble's ascendancy, starting with the Jools Holland performance, included 80 shows in 100 days in front of an estimated 400,000 fans in the UK and Germany. The band filmed the explosive run for a just-released double-DVD, 80 shows in 100 days, which features a tour documentary and a full concert performance from a Glasgow show near the end of the tour.
"A fifth element of this band is the audience," Danielson says. "The joy of what a lot of musicians are doing and seeking is about putting out and affecting people, turning rooms into sweaty parties and everyone's in a frenzy and that's a real moment. You can't find that so you create it."
Vintage Trouble is scheduled to perform Tuesday, August 13, at Crescent Ballroom.
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