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From the hypnotic ‘Blues Hand Me Down’ to the empowering ‘Nobody Told Me,’ the LA quartet Vintage Trouble manifests the stage with magnetism. Ty Taylor’s kamikaze vocal range and heartfelt physicality demand immediate attention. Drummer Richard Danielson, bassist Rick Barrio Dill and Swedish-born, Hendrix-influenced guitarist, Nalle Colt, help make the band’s originals sound both new and wonderfully retro.
If you hear strains of Sam Cooke or Otis Redding or envision a high school dance, where teens dress to the nines and believe that romance lives around the corner, this is the band to take seriously.
In only two short years, Vintage Trouble have toured internationally, supported the Who on their North American tour and released, ‘The Bomb Shelter Sessions’ their debut.
Rick Barrio Dill and Ty Taylor discussed the band’s recording experiences, repertoire and unarguably bright future.
PB: Vintage Trouble came into the Bomb Shelter Studios to produce demos and ended up releasing those demos as an album. Did you have any regrets about that?
RBD: Not at all. We came out of those sessions with versions of songs that were “snapshots” from that point in time, and they were honest, strong and we loved the “nakedness” and real raw feel of it. We played those songs in full takes, all together in one room, looking at each other and it kind of kick started this whole thing, especially with respect to how we want to keep our recording philosophy and sort of band “mantra”.
Of course now, over two years later, we play them differently and even more so from night to night, but that's a great thing. The songs should grow and be organic to where the fans get different interpretations in whatever ways over time, but the essence of those two and a half days in the studio, when we were barely a band…that will always be there in this record. It was real and it means a lot to us that this was captured when it was, the way it was. We are just thankful the listeners and our TroubleMakers feel that too.
PB: You use “juke music” to refer to your style. What does that term mean?
RBD: It’s dirty and late night in its swagger. It’s from back when jukeboxes and juke joints were where the real parties were at. We try to take our heads and our spirits to that place when we play and, hopefully, it is just one of the core ingredients in the Vintage Trouble stew.
PB: Success came quickly to Vintage Trouble. Did that work out well or take you by surprise?
RBD: Success is something that is judged differently by different people. I think we were “successful” in our own eyes almost immediately when we were able to play music together and affect each other so strongly right off the bat.
From there, to go out and play our first gig three weeks later and affect a whole room full of people in the way everything immediately did that first night, in this “circular” type of energetic fashion, that is the true meaning of success for us. Everything else is fortunately just building off that and we have been blessed to be able to keep building it to this level.
PB: All of you came together after working in different bands. Did you initially agree on the Vintage Trouble musical style or did it take some time to figure out?
RBD: Again, it was immediate for us once “Vintage Trouble” was all in the same room. The idea from inception was to be the most vibrant, honest, stripped down versions of the type of musicians and artists we have always wanted to be individually and then put it together and it blossoms into Vintage Trouble.
I feel confident speaking for everyone in the band when I say we get to be who we have probably always wanted to be style wise. That's probably the secret. We weren’t chasing anything and we just let things come from inside, but to the highest levels we possibly could.
PB: Vintage Trouble certainly does have a retro feel, but it also has a retro look. I’ve rarely seen a band dress up the way you guys do. Where do you get your fashion ideas?
RBD: That's a great question and nice of you to say. We get inspired by lots of things. We love dressing up like we do as it starts out of respect to the type of music, the era, our heroes that have come before us, our families, friends and influencers as well as the fans and TroubleMakers that come share it all with us.
We get fashion inspiration from each other, different time periods, movies, art, music, books, magazines and just life. Then the attitude comes individually and we put it together with style that charges each of us. It’s also fun to keep pulling from different places and eras and putting it together in new ways. How could that get old, ha ha?
PB: I noticed when you appeared on a popular American TV show that you guys incorporated some cool dance moves. Whose idea was that?
RBD: That was no one’s idea, really. We have never talked about anything like that. Ty is a force like nothing else. He has footwork and moves that just come so natural, and he can dance in just about any kind of style. A lot of people don't even know he is like a state champion ballroom dancer, I think, too.
I’ve seen the guy do the tango in dark seedy after parties at five a.m. that would give anyone on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ a run for their money. True story. Then Richard is actually a drummer who dances while playing in all these amazing ways, which is just truly something to just watch, which is insanely amazing.
Nalle has this swagger that is just natural for him and, as far as myself, I just channel my inner seven-year-old kid self, jumping on the bed with a broom in my arms pretending to be Prince on the guitar. Ha ha. I have neither rhyme nor reason other than having a good time and feeling it in my body however it comes out. It’s just in the moment.
PB: You attended the Sundance Festival and were greatly received. Do you see yourselves getting more involved in the film community?
RBD: I hope so. We love the medium, of course. We are film junkies and get lots of inspiration from it. Hopefully we can keep growing our connections with the already insanely talented group of filmmakers, directors, producers, dancers, photographers and visual artists that we have gotten the chance to work with. So much of the reason we are where we are is because of our incredible group of talented artists that we all feed off of and get to work with. Film, video and visual are a huge part of this.
PB: What was it like attending Freddie Mercury’s birthday party?
RBD: You would have to ask Ty. I couldn't sleep when I heard the news I was so excited for him and couldn't be more proud as a brother and band mate, but I’m sure he could tell you best. I just know we all love bragging that our boy got to stand in for Freddie in London at what would’ve been his 60th birthday party, I believe. I’m just beyond proud and ecstatic for him.
TT: When Brian May asked me to sing with Queen for Freddie’s birthday, I thought he was joking, but then a plane ticket arrived at my door and I knew it was for real. When I walked into the rehearsal room in London, the room was a who’s who of rock and roll history.
Jeff Beck shook my hand and jammed with me on some Hendrix tunes while we waited. I was asked to sing ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love.’ I was so excited about the song choice because, to me, it felt the closest to Vintage Trouble’s style.
Once we got into playing the tune and Brian was strumming in my face and Roger Taylor was meeting the skins behind me, I could barely stay inside my skin. It was definitely an out of body experience for the first half, and then I remember telling myself to come down to the ground in order to fully enjoy the reality of the moment, and that’s when I felt the true power of Queen.
The night of the show we just went wild and threw ourselves into it like we had been playing together for years. There was royalty in the audience along with many of the biggest celebs in the United Kingdom. The best part of it was everyone knew they were there to honour Freddie and to donate to and celebrate Queen’s Aids Awareness charity, so there was no pretension in the room. I will never forget the day I had the honour of putting my toe in the very big shoes of Freddie Mercury.
PB: Who is the main songwriter or do you work collectively? Do you ever modify a song after playing it live and testing out the reaction?
RBD: We love working on material together as much as possible, and Ty, pretty much, is a master lyricist so the words are something he comes up with and channels in this great way that probably is also key for why he can deliver them the way he does.
Nalle kicks out ideas constantly or riffs may get thrown around for rhythms or bass lines, and we generally try and catch anything in the air whenever ideas strike. Then we push it from there or throw them around as much as we can, individually, or together or at sound check…whenever, until they are standing on their own feet.
The formula is that there is no formula…, which is great for us. The songs aren’t done until we have each put our true passion into it and hopefully that's why people relate and feel it back. It’s coming from all of us at the deepest level we can put ourselves into things.
For the longest time, we totally used our live gigs to keep feeling out material and working things out on stage, and it's a huge reason we have such a big unreleased catalogue of songs already. But then it hit a point where everyone was filming all of our shows with their cell phones and putting them online (which, by the way, is amazing), but we hit a point where maybe playing songs live that we weren’t happy with or really not done with internally got questionable, so we do less and less of that nowadays, and work things out and get happy with them within the four of us first.
In a romantic sense though, even the songs we have released really are never done though, right? We don't play to click tracks or any backing tracks and we really don't use set lists live, and so the benefit of this then too is that the songs take on a unique meaning and vibe depending on the night, the set order, adrenaline, the sound, the crowd, the room, ourselves and what we are going through as a group that day. It’s why I think we like to just think of the songs as children that we have groomed into proper TroubleMakers.
PB: Sam Cooke, James Brown or Etta James have been listed as Vintage Trouble influences. Which of their songs really inspired you to perform live or help you keep your spirits up when life on the road gets tiring?
RBD: It’s all in there. Music really does express that which words are insufficient for in so many cases, and we all pull from everything we can but mostly old school rhythm and blues, early rock and roll, old soul, gospel and really anything honest and moving. We love uncovering influences and diving deep into these treasure chests. It really can feed you in immense ways.
PB: Within a relatively short period of time, Vintage Trouble has worked with Lenny Kravitz, Joss Stone, Bon Jovi, and Kiss and supported the Who on their recent ‘Quadrophenia’ tour. What are your best memories of these concerts?
RBD: There are so many. We truly are just so fortunate to have toured and worked with so many legendary artists. I personally keep a journal and have for most of my life, and truthfully I wind up having to write so much just to keep track of all the amazing stories that we have; things move so fast.
Most of the real stories you are probably looking for, we can’t really say to protect the innocent (or guilty), so I’ll just say that we have been treated with such respect and love and we have learned so much being around these icons that it has been priceless inspiration and guidance for us - a “roadmap,” so to speak, that sets the bar very, very high. We have our work cut out for us.
PB: What do you think these bands look for in a support act?
RBD: I would like to think they look for the ability to connect with a crowd largely sight unseen - meaning, most of the crowds in these scenarios do not know who we are, and so the ability to grab them quickly and affect them to the point of getting the blood flowing in their bodies, getting up and singing and dancing with us almost immediately, and then leaving a little winded after our set…that’s the goal. When we do that, I think we have done our job. Properly warmed.
PB: Your fans are referred to as the TroubleMakers, but what are they really like?
RBD: The term TroubleMaker came from a friend of ours when we were talking one night, and it was slanted towards anyone that was in on the Vintage Trouble ideal and wanted to help build it with us together. It has since grown to be something completely unique to itself and subsequently way, way larger than our music or us.
The TroubleMaker group now has grown at a massive pace, and there are sub groups in different languages all over the world. They take care of each other in a way I have never seen anywhere else. They communicate within the group independently, they build their own relationships, art, music, problem solve and share this all with a love of life together that really is just humbling to watch and be a part of.
A TroubleMaker can be someone who speaks up for the things they believe in whether it is against the grain or not. They can shake up the system when it needs it, and they can enjoy a beautiful day silent in the park when it is available. They can organize the army and call on their fellow TroubleMakers to back them when needed by sending up a flare. They make noise, they strive for change, positivity, happiness and they don't take any shit. They redefine what the word “beauty” can actually mean. It truly is something to just be a part of, contribute to and be inspired by.
PB: One of the songs you perform, ‘Gracefully,’ has some heartfelt lyrics: “I was shattered into pieces/Torn to the bone/And nothing mattered/No reason to come from under my stone” In the chorus, the problem gets resolved: “Do you see what you’ve done to me?/Gone and washed away my misery with your touch/You love me gracefully.” This structure sounds so much like something Otis Redding or James Brown would have sung. Was the song inspired by a singer from that era or by a personal relationship?
RBD: Again, the words to this come from Ty and I’m sure he could eloquently explain the impetus from his vantage. The beautiful part about my lane is that I do deeply dive inside these words when we play it, and it so often touches that universal place in me where I feel closer to our creator than anywhere else in life’s journey. From here, I truly feel something where I want to believe a higher level of communication with our intentions as humans might be speaking. Love really being an answer, ‘Gracefully’ feels like it is a road map for something to strive for or cherish when and if you get it right. Another example of divine purpose explained through song.
TT: When writing ‘Gracefully,’ I wanted to strip my head of all smartness and lean into the beautiful simplicity of love ideas. I asked my heart what to say. Once I started, it flowed quickly out of me. The words are deeply personal. I had just gotten out of an eleven-year-old relationship whose end drained me of my light and colour and energy and hope and desire and strength and push and pull.
Then one day out of nowhere an angel walked up to me and into my arms. From deep within my arms, I literally felt my load lifting and my light igniting. The change happened swiftly and so I wanted the song to come out swiftly without over thinking or trying to be clever, and I wanted to make sure that the angel had a song that was timeless. The writing of ‘Gracefully’ set me on a path of wanting all of our music to feel as though it could always be around.
I am thrilled that you asked that question because it is one of my favourite songs. We love that so many of our fans that get married use it as their first dance song.
PB: Is ‘Not Alright By Me’ a song that references politics or social awareness?
RBD: I’m sure it’s both to different degrees and the song truly chokes me up almost every time we play it. Many nights it’s personally one of the most moving songs in our lot for me. This is all Ty’s poetic prowess again, but for me, from my vantage, I love the conversation it feels like it inspires within me from a more divine sense.
“Where the roads cross, and time stands still/ I’m frozen in my tracks against my will/ The street light is dimming and it won’t shine again until/ I say it’s not alright by me.” I love the “call to action” it inspires and triggers in me.
I think we all know what it feels like to feel paralyzed by things that bother us and we feel we cannot change, but ultimately, if we take a stand within ourselves, even the smallest ideas or acts can affect larger change and completely change the score. If we do nothing, well then, yes, nothing will happen. But if we say “enough is enough” and do whatever we can, big or small, to get out of the rut or fix the problem or inspire others or make a difference in any way possible, things can change and we can move to a better place. Inaction is easier and comforting many times, and so we listen to the voices that say it’s useless to try. Often, we just have to decide to do something about our problems, and then follow through.
TT: The song is not about awareness, for me, at all. The song is a beckoning to speak out about anything at all that festers inside of you. Speak out your complaints Scream out your hurt. Don’t allow folks to say, ‘It’s not polite to yell,’ and then that causes you to go inside a shell with your words. I wrote the words as a way of empowering the silent ones. Sometimes all you need is an invitation to come to the party. Life is a party. No one should be a wallflower in it.
PB: Vintage Trouble is often described as a “soul” band. What does “soul” mean to you?
RBD: To me, soul comes from within. It’s so much. It can be truth freebased to its basic component inside each of us: Love, light, positivity, inspiration, consciousness, purpose and more. At the end of the day, I think we are all soul full people that have our own unique direct path to ourselves that it is our jobs to get in tune with.
Life has a way of clouding this up or also showing us signs to help clear the way…it’s what we then do with these life lessons and experiences that determine where we are on the journey towards that most soulful path. The more we are in tune with it, the more, I think, we are more naturally who we are meant to be and the more soul that naturally comes out of us in truthful and unique ways. So musically, soul music just seems to exemplify this in a way that is the purest art form of this, to me. So I say, the more soul in the world, the better.
TT: I define soul as wordless emotion. Soul is deeper than the heart and the mind and the body. When we die, it is the only element of us that keeps living. Soul is essence over existence. It is the core of who we are and what we can be….and even possibly what we have been in past times…but that's a whole another conversation.
PB: What is Vintage Trouble looking forward to in the coming year?
RBD: Well, Vintage Trouble is looking forward to getting back around our TroubleMakers all over the world as much as possible, and building on this amazing community and movement that we have been so fortunate to create together.
It looks like more music will be coming out of Troubleland, of course, as well as several documentaries we have filmed, new music videos, live concert footage and audio and goodies all over the place. So basically, continuing to be four of the luckiest and blessed guys in the world.
PB: Thank you.
The photographs that accompany this article were taken by Philamonjaro.
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Lisa Torem speaks to bassist Rick Barrio Dill and vocalist Ty Taylor from retro-influenced band Vintage Trouble about their debut album, ‘The Bomb Shelter Sessions’, and recent tour in support of the Who
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