For five years, Vintage Trouble has been blowing people away with a live show that demands audience participation. That makes people put their phones away. That gets people moving, dancing, laughing. That leaves crowds begging for more. The Los Angeles foursome—made up of Ty Taylor (vocals), Nalle Colt (guitar), Richard Danielson (drums), and Rick Barrio Dill (bass)—have played with iconic bands like The Rolling Stones, The Who, and most recently, AC/DC, and are currently touring the U.S. to promote their second album, 1 Hopeful Rd. I talked to the band about the new record, their remarkable fans—The Troublemakers—and the influences that spark their incendiary style. Don’t miss Vintage Trouble at Emo’s on Oct. 30.
You guys have been touring the U.S. promoting your new album, 1 Hopeful Rd. Tell me about the record and what it was like working with Don Was, president of Blue Note Records.
Nalle: This is our first album with Blue Note Records and it’s been such an experience. We never really worked with a producer before, we usually produced our own records.
Ty: Don Was produced so many albums that we loved, historic albums that changed pop music. He’s been celebrated so often in the Grammys, so there was a little bit of weight going into it. But as soon as you walk into a room he’s like Buddha. He’s very calming, and we’re four Type A personalities, so it takes a lot to wrangle us down. He made us feel heard, but still allowed us to feel comfortable enough to really listen to what he was saying. When you’re just dealing with how things sound in the inside, everyone has their own idea about how the music feels. That’s why it’s so important to have outside ears. He was so delicate about the way he’d give his notes that sometimes you wouldn’t even realize he was giving you a note until you went back and noticed his changes made things better.
Nalle: Don saw us play live, and that’s how we met. He told us that he wanted to capture on record what we did on stage, and I think he did a really good job.
How was working on this album different from Bomb Shelter Sessions?
Ty: It’s different because when we did Bomb Shelter Sessions, we’d only been together for a few months and we made the record in three days. This time, we had a chance to really know ourselves. We toured so much of the world and we got to be inspired by people like The Rolling Stones, The Who, Lenny Kravitz and Joss Stone. Their inspiration made us want to play differently and show the world a deeper version of who we are. We wanted it to represent all the countries and continents and cities that we’ve come across. There’s been a lot of emotional change, we’ve gone through a lot of relationships, and there have been a lot of political and monumental moments in the world since that last record was done. We wanted this to have a little more of the band’s outlook on the world.
Ty, you’ve talked about your parents and how they inspired some of VT’s songs, such as “Nancy Lee” and “Run Like the River”. How did your family inspire you in your career?
Ty: I mean, just by the idea that our families allowed us to do music. A lot of parents want to make a child feel as though it’s a hard industry, and it is a hard industry, but it’s no harder than any other industry. It’s just as hard to get a job as a doctor or a lawyer than it is to be a musician, so we were lucky because our parents sat and listened to us play. They didn’t complain when music was too loud in our bedroom. That’s the whole thing—the idea that you were supported is enough to make you want to be better. Our parents inspire us to remember where we came from and that’s hard to let go of. They each encourage us to not be like anyone else, to be ourselves and represent our families. I think that’s in our music, what our parents nurture us to be.
You guys have such a specific style, from the way you dress to the way you perform, that stems in large part from the past. What are current influences that keep your music innovative and fresh? What do you listen to?
Richard: I think we all listen to diverse music. I don’t necessarily listen to hip-hop, but I do pick up on their groove, the rhythm that will get you to a certain place, and use that modern edge on the construction of my grooves. But I’m still old school, I listen to a lot of classic rock and a lot of music from the ’50s and ’60s.
Nalle: We get to be part of a music scene now that is really cool, and there’s a lot of young artists that are out there doing what we’re doing, like Alabama Shakes and Gary Clark Jr. I listen to all that. I try to listen to what our friends are doing, to the people we meet in festivals. I love Texas music, of course, and Gary Clark Jr. is fantastic and what he brings to the scene is really cool.
Ty: I think the cool hipster culture is one that a lot of people frown upon, because it may seem like it’s a culture that wants to be something different just for the sake of being different. But what is cool about the music this scene has given us, is that it represents almost the hippies of the time, the revolutionaries of the time. They’re choosing to be heard by not giving in to commercial music. If you listen to NPR stations and the smallest stations, you get to hear a real kind of raw, post-modern oddness that people are falling into. These people, they’ve learned how to combine rock and roll with folk, the new with the old school. I think we can all learn from the new hipster movement. It’s a part of what music is.
A huge part of your show is audience participation. I love seeing you guys keep people on their feet, dancing from beginning to end, instead of looking at their phones. How did that start? Were there performers you grew up watching that you admired?
Ty: We’re kind of greedy and gluttonous for a good time. So we became demanding of our audiences, because we didn’t only want them to come to our shows, we wanted them to be a part of our shows. And it’s not because we saw a YouTube video from a show from the ’50s or ’60s. It has to do with a way of living. The more demanding you are of your surroundings, the faster you realize that life is short. The sooner you realize you have to get out of your head and start using your body. So we’re actually trying to use our passion to get people to enjoy life on a grander scale, to forget about work, to forget about the heaviness for a little bit. When we first got together, there was a guy who’d come to all of our shows and he got into an accident recently. He lost his mobility from the neck down for a while, but he sent me a text this morning that said he walked his first mile and a half on his own today, and he was listening to 1 Hopeful Rd. He texted me to thank us for the idea of our music being a physical inspiration.
Rick: I think it also came about organically, because our first gig was when we’d been a band for three weeks. The people are so close to you, you can literally reach out and touch them. And so we developed our sound and our style as a band in front of an audience playing it live. It’s not like we woodshedded it for a year and then brought out this big production. We just sort of woodshedded live in front of people and started including them, and that’s how it came about organically. Our audience is the fifth member of the band, so we tailor our music to the energy of the room.
Earlier this month, you taped your first Austin City Limits episode. What was that like for you?
Nalle: Personally, I grew up with that show. I learned to play guitar watching it and all the amazing musicians playing on that show. So for me it was monumental to be on it, a game changer in my life. I will always remember that day, it was a huge honor.
Ty: It’s also little things, like you’re in sound check and you turn around and see the pictures on the wall behind you. You’re like, really? My poster is going to be beside Aretha Franklin and Willie Nelson? Everybody, there’s everybody, it’s like a rock and roll hall of fame. It’s the little things, they’re so well tuned because they’ve been doing it for so long.
You have some pretty hardcore fans around the world. What is unique about the Troublemakers and the culture that is forming around your band?
Ty: The nature of the Troublemakers is that they’re a culture all on their own. They were being so inspiring to us, and it’s become such a beautiful community in the sense that they know each other, they support each other, they help pay for tickets when someone can’t afford tickets. If something goes wrong, they come together like an army. There are people that have come to hundreds of shows. When you’re at a show, they look at other fans and they’re like, “Awww it’s your first show?” like, “Aww I remember when that was me!” Or you go to the Troublemaker page and you see the old Troublemakers introduce the new ones.
Nalle: It also seems to be so organic. We do care about them a lot, we try to spend a lot of time with them before the show and after the show. They’re a big part of who we are, and their support to us is amazing. We care about them dearly and hope they continue to grow the beautiful community organically, without effort. It’s incredible, a beautiful thing.
Richard: The nature of the Troublemaker is it’s a person who has a lot of heart, people who take it out to the world and wear it on their sleeve. They want to feel, and they want others to feel. It’s beautiful to have all these people together in one room, having this moment based around the soundtrack of Vintage Trouble.
What are your plans for the future and how do you want to impact the world of music today?
Nalle: We’d like to continue touring and playing and creating music. For us, our music seems to be something timeless, something that you can hear 20 years from now and it doesn’t feel outdated. It’s like listening to an Otis Redding record now. We want to continue keeping the beautiful songwriting and bring inspiration from new music. We want to connect people all over the world, and we want to see the music grow.
Ty: We want to give people something that helps them deal with the times that we’re in. One of the coolest things about people like Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, and Otis Redding is that their music has become part of people’s lives for decades and decades and decades. They’re classic. All we can ask to do in the future is to remain classic so that our music ends up doing something, not just be something that people party to, but that people look back at 2015 and say, “Vintage Trouble made us laugh, it made us cry.” In 2020, they can say, “Vintage Trouble walked me down the aisle in my wedding.” We don’t want to recreate, we just want to make it feel more authentic, more real to who we are as people.
What do the people of Austin have to look forward to this Friday, Oct. 30 at Emo’s?
Ty: People can expect us to try to live up to being in Austin. It’s a big mission for us to leave Austin feeling good about what we did, so we’re going to be more demanding, we’re going to be more accepting, we’re going to be more raw than we usually are. So come expecting to be part of the show.