The Record Company has consistently put out blues-based albums that are currently popular but would sound perfectly at place haunting a juke joint in the 1950s. Their new “Life to Fix” single is beginning its thump up the charts and receiving heavy airplay on both satellite and terrestrial radio. They’re playing in Birmingham tonight, Oct. 30, at Saturn. I spoke with their singer and splendid slide guitar player, Chris Vos, about their return visit to the Yellowhammer State.
Q: Any funny band stories that you can share?
A: You know, we’re not that interesting, we pretty much keep it low-key. But I think one of the funniest things that consistently happens is no matter how long we’re on the road we’ll get back on a Wednesday, and on Friday night we’ll all be hanging out at Alex’s house with his Golden Lab. We still open the back door, we still put records on, open the windows, and have some beers with our buddies. We’ve been having beers in the backyard since before the band began and we just kind of touch base with the home vibe with our friends back here. We talk about music and chat about why we like the things we do, and that’s just kind of the thing we like to do.
Q: The reason were talking is you’re coming to Alabama. Have you been through before? Any thoughts?
A: Yeah, I love Alabama. It’s a great region and a great surrounding region. Ya’ll have great musical things that have happened that has influenced the whole world, even down to the newest stuff that is coming out. You’ve got your St. Paul & The Broken Bones over in Birmingham. I love those guys. Actually, I met them at a blues festival we played at in Australia and I saw them in the lobby, I think in Sydney. They were playing up the road at one venue and we were playing up the road at another venue. I just went up and introduced myself and they were really friendly guys. I doubt I even told them what band I was in, I was kind of being more .
Q: You guys are not just a one trick pony.
A: No, you know, we’re trying to write songs. When people ask, “What do you play?” I always say rock and roll and that we care about the roll. We believe in The Record Company that the roll is just as important as rock. The roll is the soul of blues and gospel and that stuff. It’s in the name, that’s why I think it’s such a perfect title. It can be bit confusing because the genre got broken up and fragmented over the years. For me, in rock and roll, the roll matters just as much as the rock. The Stones are one of our favorite bands of all time, and we think about what they did and how they did things a lot.
Q: I hear a lot of stuff going on in your music. There’s a lot of stuff that’s got a retro feel to go with it but it doesn’t feel dated. I think you guys are firmly entrenched in that genre.
A: Thank you. You can be inspired by yesterday, but you’ve got to live in today. I don’t want to make a recording that sounds like 1965, that was already done perfectly in 1965. In the context of what created the music was in 1965, I don’t have any idea what life was like back then. So, you’ve got to live in your life and try to make music that inspires you the most. I think starting out you’ve got to love what you do; you have got to care about music more than anything else. You’ve got to really care about the music and the songs. You have got to have a mission and the mission is the song. Everything else is you working, putting in a lot of time, and hard work to take that music and go up there with it. They call it the “Music Business”, not the “Business,”it’s got to be music first.
Q: I listen to Sirius radio in the car and “Life to Fix” is on a few of those stations.
A: That’s cool man, Sirius has been awesome to us. They’ve been a great supporter and we’re really happy that they like the tunes and play them.
Q: Would you say that’s your life you’re talking about in the song?
A: It is. As singers and writers you’ve got to talk about an experience, but I think you try and write it in a way in the ear of the listener they can make it reflect whatever they want it to. So, when I’m singing it I’m thinking about one thing but when someone else is listening they’re thinking about another. It’s overcoming adversity. No matter who you are: top, bottom, middle, or sideways; we’ve all been slapped down back to Earth many times. But sometimes you get ground down into the dirt, and it can be something else that happened that you had nothing to do with, or it could be your own doing. I think in every case it goes back to just standing up, dusting yourself off, and rebuilding the thing one stone at a time. It’s always about the step you’re taking right now to make life go better later. You’ve got to have an idea of where you’re going, but where you’re standing right now is the only thing you can do about right now. I think in the song we are just trying to say sometimes the best thing you can fix is yourself.
Q: This is a short sentence; you’re Grammy nominated. How about that?
A: That’s pretty cool. It was a shocker when I heard about it. I was actually back from the road when found out in early December of 2016. It was 6 a.m.and I was actually sleeping and my wife went on the internet and all of a sudden she was yelling and I had thought something bad happened. I didn’t even think about the fact that we could have a Grammy nomination, and I will never forget that moment. I called my folks and then made some breakfast.
Q: I’m assuming you’re a huge music fan, and if you’re listening to something by yourself in the car what are you listening to?
A: Today I was listening to Stooges, I was listening to “Raw Power.” I put on Stevie Wonder’s “Talking Book.”I’ll listen to anything from electric blues to the heaviest rock and roll to country music to modern sounding music. If it sounds like the person who is making the music had to play it and it’s got a great melody it’s irresistible to me. I’ll listen to someone play the bag pipes if I think they’re playing their heart out.
Q: With those influences you may have owned a record store in another life.
A: Well, I got started early in the game. I grew up on a dairy farm in Burlington, Wisconsin. In high school they had a radio station, and I walked in the store and went from mom and dad’s records to thousands of LPs in their catalogue. I started pulling them down and listening. That’s what diversified the way I saw things. All of a sudden I’m listening to Miles Davis, but also I’m discovering things like The Velvet Underground’s live 1969 record. It’s stuff like as a 16 year old kid that wasn’t in my mom and dad’s record collection.
Q: Who is an artist that I would be surprised to hear that you’re a fan of?
A: I like George Michael, I think his “Faith” album is freakin’ flawless. Especially Side A. The song “One More Try”, off that record is a slow jam, which is definitely really 80’s sounding, but it’s one of the greatest vocal deliveries in the history of music.
Q: I couldn’t agree more. What would high school Chris think about your life now?
A: I think he wouldn’t have any idea what to think about it. If I was being realistic, I live in Los Angeles and I went from a small little school that had like eight people in it to a high school that had like eighty-ninety people in it and thought that was huge. High School Chris would probably be excited and confused.
— Larry May, special to The Star