The life of a gigging band is pretty rough: Tempe-based alt-rockers Vinyl Station play eight gigs a week to make ends meet, populating Valley bars like the Rogue, Rosie McCaffery's, and Kazimierz Wine Bar with their original tunes and alternative covers.
On Sunday, March 25 the band is scheduled to play a low-key show with one of the highest profile names in Phoenix rock: Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World will join Vinyl Station and songstress Michelle Blades for a night of acoustic music at Crescent Ballroom.
Vinyl Station frontman Matt Thornton talks to us about turning pro, some of his other favorite venues to play and how he hooked up with former Gin Blossoms drummer Scott Kusmirek to form the band.
Up on the Sun: You only started playing music full-time in 2008. What was the driving motivation behind taking the music more seriously?
Matthew Thornton: I just kind of felt like it was the only thing I was really ever good at. I had done other jobs and had a lot of fun doing pretty much anything. I did real estate for a while and just like everybody I waited tables. Just all kinds of stuff. It was always fun but it didn't have meaning behind it like music did. I figured it was time to see if it could work; to see if I could do it for a living.
So when I quit my job I had one gig a week paying $100. Which is not a lot of money to live off of but the more I did it, the more I played. Now we're doing eight shows a week, so it's gone pretty well.
Now that we're doing it for a living, we want to try to get to the next level of doing these cooler shows and being a part of the downtown scene.
You sure do make the rounds playing that many times a week. On that note, what is your favorite venue you like to play at here in the valley and why?
It's hard to say. We really like Rogue and McCaffrey's, where we play every other Thursday. We've played the Crescent a few times now; that's probably our favorite because the people there are there to listen. Any time we can play downtown is fun. Kazimierz Wine bar in Old Town Scottsdale is another favorite. It's sort of a speak-easy type place; it doesn't have a sign or anything. It's really dark in there, but they have music six nights a week where we play on Sunday's every once in a while. It's a really cool place but we've just been lucky because a lot of the places have been really supportive. We never have to play anything we don't like. We don't play any classic rock or anything and the places that we play at have been really good about that.
And what kind of songs might those be?
We've got a long list of covers. We do a lot of originals as well but from the covers we really like doing Mumford and Sons, David Gray, Ryan Adams; some Coldplay and U2 and a bunch of Beatles. But it's not always the most famous ones. We don't do a lot of sing-a-long songs; it's normally just what we like and stuff that we listen to.
How did you hook up with Scott Kooze to form Vinyl Station?
Well he's been, obviously in some more famous bands. He was in Gin Blossoms for like eight years. But he saw me playing solo at a wine bar up north and he just liked my sound and thought we could work well together so we started the band. For a while we kind of pieced it together based on what gigs we had but he and I stuck together until he moved to Michigan, then Brendon and I started playing as a duo.
We tried a few other drummers but no one could really rock it like Scott could. So we just do most shows as a duo. We've been recording some new stuff with Scott but it's hard to be in a band when you're in another state. For now it's just me and Brendon playing live.
What are some goals this year for the band?
We're working on getting our first full-length record done. Hopefully we're going to have that by the summer and then start doing some bigger shows. Also to either find some management or just continue building our fan base locally. Maybe some music placement or TV commercials; whatever we can do. We want to get out on Pandora and sort of be discovered by fans that like our music. How we discovered music that we like is usually through friends and we want other people to find us the same way.
It's not a very specific plan at this point to be honest.