Having just opened an arena tour for John Mayer, The Record Company have been playing to their biggest audiences EVER. Consisting of Chris Vos (guitar, lead vocals), Alex Stiff (bass, backing vocals), and Mark Cazorla (drums, backing vocals), the trio is electrifying in every means possible as the three musicians harken the power trio of yesterday while maintaining a modern sense of lure and spontaneity. For a band that just a few years ago was playing at house parties, local record shops and intimate clubs, the turn of events is quite inspirational.
Their first full-length album Give It Back to You was released on Concord Records in early 2016 and was nominated for Best Contemporary Blues Album at the 2017 Grammy Awards, losing to The Last Days of Oakland by Fantastic Negrito. Give was written and recorded with secondhand and yard sale-found instruments, lots of duct tape and creative recording practices, quite the undertaking for this band influenced by John Lee Hooker, The Stoogers and The White Stripes. In the midst of their spring tour and a big Los Angeles homecoming show at the Fonda Theatre on June 17th, we had a chance to talk with Vos about the shows with Mayer and the rise of this power trio.
Having just opened a series of shows in gigantic arenas for John Mayer, what was that experience like for you? How do you feel your sound translated?
We were really excited and honored to be asked, and the opportunity to play places we had never pictured ourselves playing was something we were really looking forward too. We have all been playing various small and medium sized venues for years and these were all far bigger venues than anything we had done before. Madison Square Garden is not the kind of spot I had ever considered as a possibility to play, so it was surreal. I felt we played as hard and honestly as we could, and John’s crowd was very receptive to new music. We had a lot of fun and would do it all over again in a second.
Are there any stories you’d like to share about your experiences on that tour
John came into our dressing room on the first night and welcomed us. We all appreciated that so much and totally weren’t expecting that kind of welcome. It meant a lot and calmed our nerves for sure. We had flown from Berlin straight to Albany to start the tour, it was a whirlwind moment and we were not sure what was laying ahead of us. He and his crew made us feel right at home. The first night when we hit the stage it was an exhilarating feeling to be in such a big place with the sound echoing around in there and all those people in the audience. Again, it was a lot of fun.
The Record Company was nominated for best contemporary blues album for Give It Back To You- how would you definite contemporary blues these days and do you feel the blues as musicians or is it just a way to describe your sound? I hear more punk coming out?
I would say we are a rock and roll band who cares about the roll, because to me the “roll” is where all the blues influence lives, the gospel, and all the swing. We formed the band after listening to a John Lee Hooker record and that same week I saw Iggy and The Stooges that The Palladium and I left feeling that I needed to get in a band asap. So early punk pioneers we love for sure, as well as rock and early electric blues.
Thoughts on bands like The Black Keys that took a lo-fi blues sound and expanded it with each album to something bigger with modern flourishes?
Without bands like the White Stripes and the Black Keys opening doors who knows what the landscape would look like? They deserve all the credit for the road they paved with hard roadwork and great songwriting. I tip my hat to them and thank them for years of great music while having the courage to be themselves and do what they wanted how they wanted with their music.
Where would you most like to see your sound go as you record more albums?
I’d like to see our sound continue to evolve sonically while still remaining true to what we feel we are as a band. To write honest songs that we believe in and love to play. Basically to continue to leave the door open always for growth and change. We record and produce our own music at this point.
The band got its start hanging up old microphones. Were you a microphone collector and how did vintage instruments play a vital role in your sound?
Old mics and instruments have ghosts in them and sometimes they have songs in them. They also have limitations just like we do as people. Part of using old gear came out of the fact that we didn’t have any budget and just were using what we had. Old doesn’t necessarily mean fancy in our case, that’s for sure. Sometimes boundaries and struggle with an instrument, equipment, or budget is a good thing. They can keep you in focused on the song instead of something else. We like to chase sounds, and we tend to follow the ones that turn our switches on. If that happens to be an old microphone, guitar, or drum set then that’s awesome. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Whatever gets the sound, whatever serves the song, that is the most important thing we are looking for. We try to believe our ears, not our eyes.
What can you tell us about the upcoming LA show at the Fonda? What are hometown shows like for you know and what do you consider your hometown venues?
The Fonda is definitely a special place in LA, I have seen so many shows there. It’s a dream you don’t really consider when you are starting out because it’s so far away, so it means a lot to have the opportunity to play there. Anytime we play LA it means so much. You have all your friends there, all of your old dreams and your new feelings collide, plus you can play a gig and then go sleep in your own bed! That’s especially nice if you have someone you love to come home too. As far as what we consider our hometown venues we have played so many in LA we enjoy, but to name a few The Satellite, The Echo / Echoplex, The Hotel Cafe, The El Rey, The Mint, anybody who supports local talent. Venues that book local acts and the people who buy tickets to see bands when they are starting out are the match that starts it all. They are the best, no band has ever gotten anywhere without those first couple people who let a band know they enjoyed what they were hearing and would come back again. LA definitely has some saints in the scene who prop up bands when they need it the most. There is no price for that.
The Record Company’s wikipedia mentions it features the vocals of Chris Vos who grew up on a Wisconsin Dairy farm. In all matter of lightheartedness does that make for good vocals?
No idea haha. I will say that my heroes taught me that you have to sing what is real to you for better or for worse. You have to let go of something that you are honestly trying to express or rid yourself of. The long silences and open spaces of where I grew up gave me a lot of time to listen and think about that.
Photos by Marc Lacatell