Interview with Vintage Trouble
Soul music is often mistaken for something faddy, a chapter on a musical timeline, a genre bastardised by commercial success and – yes, I said it – Luther Vandross. The truth is, even if you’re a lily-white grandma, sitting in front of her phonograph listening to Patsy Cline, if you feel the message of the song, if the song moves you to feel, then you – and it – have soul. Soul music can often be defined by people’s reaction to it and that’s why Vintage Trouble, equally wealthy in rock and blues heritage, are for me, the newest and greatest exponents of raw soul power since its original inception. An electrifying live act, with a sharper groove and edge than a chainsaw, Vintage Trouble are back in the UK, and their Swedish counterpart Nalle Colt was a gentleman when he took the time to talk to us…
You’re back in Camden tonight, aren’t you?
Yeah, we’re doing the Classic Rock Awards today.
Yeah, and you’ve been nominated for Best New Band. Would that be a nice cherry on top of a sweet year?
Oh my god, yes, it would be amazing. It’s so funny though ‘cause we were just chatting to some people on Facebook and you know, no matter what happens, if we don’t win anything, it’s still amazing to hang out there with such an amazing group of people today – it’s quite exciting.
Camden is a familiar place for you – you left an indelible mark there back in February when you were on your UK trip. You said, “We’re here to test the waters…” – that went well!
Yeah, exactly, right?! It’s amazing; Camden’s definitely been our home now for a while, it’s lovely. We started everything there, so it’s been great.
At the time, you were bringing the rest of the boys back to Europe, of course – were you proud? You knew we had just as much soul to give…
Yeah, exactly, we’d always been talking about going over to the UK and playing music and that we got the opportunity to do it this was amazing, and the fact that we got to jump on the Jools Holland show was incredible.
Yes, you got a magic slot on Jools Holland – that can be such an accelerator for bands. Did you feel the momentum pick up apace after that show?
Yeah, I had no idea but they said we were the fifth highest twittered thing in the world, or something! You know, it was such an honour and we knew very little about the show in America, we hadn’t heard much about it, then we realised what a huge impact it has over here, it’s incredible. We were more than honoured to get to do it and it was great to see that it had such an impact.
Jools Holland is our way of seeing credible music on the TV, away from the talent shows…
I was stunned myself to watch KD Lang and all these amazing people, it was stunning.
I remember watching you on that show and thinking of how my parents gave me original soul music, and how I wanted to bring them to see you to give it back. It’s time for us to reclaim soul music…
Aw, that’s really nice and please do!
Now Nalle, back in the day, you and Ty were in a band called Ghosthound before Vintage Trouble – you wrote some material, but what was missing? Rick talks of chemistry…
Well you know, that was a great band but it was a little tough ‘cause it was a nineties band and you know, we felt there was some kind of restraint for some reason, on what people wanted to do. All I remember is looking over to Ty and saying, ‘it’s time to move on…’ Definitely the whole thing was chemistry. It’s so important that we managed to meet both Rick and Richard and that they both wanted to do what we want to do… and it takes a lot of work, you know? There’s a full-on devotion to it, and to find people that really want to put down the time and get into it and really find out what you want to do. It’s hard; there are so many bands that try but people have got families and people try to work around life, so sometimes it’s not that easy to get everybody on the right track. So we had a great time with that band too, but we were writing so much music together and it felt like there was a really big need to get together with guys that had the same feelings and understanding about what we wanted to do. We got really lucky…
You mentioned hard work and it’s true, you don’t get anywhere playing a couple of half-baked shows two months apart, but your work rate is phenomenal… what kept the motivation going, even before you’d been noticed?
Yeah, that’s a really interesting thing, because we were in Ghosthound and these guys, if you live in LA, you play a couple of days a month because people say in LA you can’t play too much and we said the complete opposite! We’d just get off and play all the time and start working right away, you know. We got a bunch of these residencies because we couldn’t actually afford to travel that much anyway. They ended up turning out to be such a great energy and we’d get all these people coming down to our residencies every week. We did four or five shows a week, you know, and we started getting so hungry about working, working, working and we’d spend a lot of time on Facebook and websites, and trying to really communicate with people and it’s been an amazing journey, actually. Now it’s been really taking off and we get to do this in other places in the world, and it’s amazing, you know? So hard work, but we do what we love to do and life can’t be better.
Your album was recorded in 3 days, your video for Nancy Lee was filmed on an iPhone – there’s a raw immediacy to what you do that means there’s no chance for the energy to dissipate – how are you gonna keep that up?
Well it just seems that for us, everything seems to be coming out better the less we think about it. The less you sit around and think, ‘well, we can’t do that because the universe says that won’t work…’ Let’s just do it, you know! Instead of working, trying to make some fancy video and get a whole load of directors, we can just shoot it on an iPhone and make it happen! The album wasn’t really meant to be an album; we’d been together for a couple of months and we wanted to record a song as demos and try them out and see how it worked out. We walked in with a great friend of ours, Peter McCabe, who produced the record with us and we just asked him to track the songs. We didn’t have much thought about it, but we ended up sitting there, listening to the songs saying, ‘wait a minute, these are actually pretty good!’ So you know, again it was ‘let’s not think about it, let’s just go!’ That’s just been our whole motto the whole time now: let’s not over-think things and when we get inspired, let’s just try it. Of course, we get to see everything on a much larger scale now and sometimes some planning comes ahead, like for us, doing these tours now, we have an amazing management team who’ve been arranging all of this. There’s lots of work and the work that’s been done even in the UK so far has been amazing, you know, and we’re starting the tour tomorrow and we’re so excited about this. The response has been so overwhelming. You can’t be more than just so grateful for everything.
I’ve been listening to the new song ‘Nobody Told Me’, which does what all good blues songs do, and has drawn us into the story. Is the song indicative of the new album’s material?
Erm… yes. You know, Ty writes all of the lyrics for us and we work together on the melodies and stuff. I should say very much so, but the thing is it’s tough, because you gotta keep touring on this record for a while, you know – we’ve got to go to Australia and America; we haven’t even released the record in America yet! So you know, it’s weird because we have such a lot of new music, and a lot of it’s going to be heard on the tour – we’re gonna end up playing lots of the new songs and see what the response is going to be.
You are vintage inspired, obviously, but this isn’t all a retrospective – you write new material, not covers, and there are other bastions doing good things out there – Black Keys come to mind instantly. Do you think it’s important to keep inventing, even when paying homage to a classic genre.
Oh, of course and I think we kinda do, in a way, with the energy; I definitely grew up listening to more rocky stuff, like Led Zeppelin and Rory Gallagher, you know, a lot of rhythm and blues music, whereas Ty was definitely a lot more soul music. So I think that even if you do an older style of music, the way we put it together, it comes out in a new, fresh way anyway, I think because of the mixture of everybody’s influences, you know. Rick is a huge Prince fan, for instance and so we get to learn so much from each other and that creates a lot of new music, I think.
Soul and blues music is a leveller – nothing creates harmony like a good ol’ foot stomping soul track…
Right?! I love it too and it’s so funny because we’ve been hanging out at the hotel for a few days now and mostly all of our playlists are old music because there’s nothing… I listen to Little Richard more than anything these days! It just makes you smile, it’s great stuff and I just love the way it was recorded, too, just spot on, one-take and you can feel the energy. That’s what I think is missing a lot in modern recordings – everybody tries to be too perfect, you know? That’s why it sounds dull. Some mistakes and some grooviness is totally fine!
Yes, the Amy Winehouse new album is coming out and these were takes that were never meant to be heard, just vocal takes, but you can’t deny the raw soul that’s come from it and it’s all the more moving because it’s not polished…
Yeah, and what a beauty she was. It’s weird ‘cause we’re hanging out so much in Camden and you can definitely feel her energy everywhere, you know. What a true legend, such a sad thing to go by that quick. It’s crazy and a lot of that kind of stuff, you know, I love her music and she gave people that chance who hadn’t really heard it before. We’re riding on that same horse, you know. We just love the simplicity of good soul music.
Now Nalle, I want to talk about the Troublemakers… could the UK Troublemakers come close to matching the energy and loyalty of the US Troublemakers?
Absolutely! What can I say? They’ve kinda been topping the list right now, for sure. There’s that much love and support, it’s unbelievable.
Our next challenge is for the Norwich Troublemakers to really bring the energy. What would you like from us, your crowd?
Just come to the show and have a party with us please!
Nalle will bring the rest of the band, Vintage Trouble and their soul and rock explosion to the Waterfront on December 14th. For tickets, go to www.ueaticketbookings.co.uk, or for more information, go to www.waterfrontnorwich.co.uk