Tomorrow, May 10, will see the release of the latest studio effort from rock and roll soul band Vintage Trouble: Chapter II – EP 2. The release, a collection of five new studio songs along with five live tracks from the band’s recent world tour, comes as the follow up to a two-set release, with the first EP being released last fall. Coming right on the edge of Vintage Trouble’s ten year anniversary as a band, Chapter II is the most recent accomplishment on this band’s impressive career track record: Yearly world tours, shows opening for rock giants like The Rolling Stones and AC DC, and a nearly a dozen performances on multiple late night talk shows like The Tonight Show and Conan O’Brien.
Anchoring the infectious rhythms behind Vintage Trouble’s modern-old-school sound is drummer Richard Danielson, who sat down with The Poke Around recently to talk about the forthcoming EP, the band’s endearing fans, and much more.
[ Below the interview, you can stream a lyric video for “Everyone is Everyone,” which was released last month as a teaser for the new EP. ]
The Poke Around: Richard, very cool to sit down and talk with you. What’s going on in The Vintage Trouble world?
Richard Danielson: Likewise! Well we just got back two days ago from Japan and Australia, so we’re all completely jet lag, on the opposite time schedule. But that’s just rock and roll. We’ve got a good thing going on in Japan, we go every year. And Australia, we played a Blues Fest out there called Byron Bay Blues Fest, and what a great place to play. I’d heard of this festival even years before I’d gone. People around the world were like, “You gotta play this one.” This was the third time we’ve played it. The thing about blues festivals, in my experience, is that people go to see music. Whereas other festivals, people go to hang, and party, and that’s cool, that’s festival. But man, blues festivals are music people. They’re there to see music all day every day, and you just get a lot from that. And this one, Byron Bay, is just such a good one.
So you do Japan every year? You must get some pretty invested fans out there as well, then
Absolutely. So we’ve played Summer Sonic twice, which is there big, giant festival there. But then we also headline some of our own shows there, like Nagoya, Tokyo, Osaka, and we have a good little following out there. It’s really popping. You know, Japan was also the first place to give us a number one radio hit, our song Strike Your Light.” I don’t know if you would think it, or maybe you would, but the fans are so in it. They’ve got so much soul. They really seem to love the music for what you would want people to love the music for. They’re really into the music for what it stands for and what it means.
Just before this interview, I was watching some live stuff from Japan. Something from The Green Room Festival there.
Oh, did you come across one of the videos of the Soul Pit? (laughs). We’ve had these contests of sorts, that we throw out to the world on social media. Ty, our singer, he’ll go out in the crowd, and get everybody down in this circle, while we’re playing a song. And we call it a soul pit, kind of a like a mosh pit but for soul. And we would see where we could get the biggest ones going, and we’d take video of it, and then show the next country, like “this was the biggest soul pit, maybe you can beat it!” And, to this day, I’d say that Japan still has the biggest soul pit, and it was at that festival, The Green Room Festival. It was just this thing that happened once, and when different places saw it, they kind of wanted to compete to see who could get the biggest one.
So, the new EP. To start, what’s the meaning behind calling this new one, and the first one released last fall, Chapter II?
We’ve felt’s been a new chapter for us. We’re turning the page onto a new page for Vintage Trouble. We’ve just been trying some new things on this last record. We tried different recording techniques, as well as different places. We used to record live as a band in the studio, and we’d have to do everything in one take, and then splice the takes together. And that’s cool, it’s somewhat charming, and it’s what our heroes did back in the day. This band started with all of us coming together with one cause, which is we love the music of the late fifties and early sixties, when soul was becoming rock and roll, and gospel was becoming this and that. That’s sort of how they made records back in the day, they recorded live for the most part. So that’s how we’ve been making records. And then on Chapter II, we decided to try a more modern approach, which is how everyone is making records today. Isolate the sounds, individual takes, and you have a lot more tools at your disposal, by doing that. When you record live, you kind of paint yourself into a corner because there’s bleed everywhere, and you can’t really edit very well, because it’s just full takes. You either get it or you don’t. So Chapter II is a new way of thinking for us, we wanted to try and experiment, and maybe try and evolve as a band. Some new recording techniques, a new style of writing, and it just made sense that it was a new chapter in our musical career.
The reason it’s EP I and II is because it just feels like the world today, in all honesty, the attention span has kind of gone out the window. People like to have things in smaller doses, so we thought we’d split the record in two, an EP and then another. Which, in the end, those won’t even be EPs. In the end, it’ll be just one record called Chapter II. We just decided to release it in chunks. But, having said that, on the first side of EP I, we did all the same five songs, but we did them acoustically. So it’s still a ten song record, in essence. And on the back side of EP II, we did live songs of the songs we have on Part I. So, essentially, it’s twenty songs in the end. It has us stoked to make a live record, because everybody wants a live record from us. Now that we’ve put a few live songs out, we’re really excited to start throwing a bunch of live stuff out. That’s going to be coming as well.
Would you anticipate such a live album to be like this new EP, a collection of tracks across a tour? Or one full show?
Right, well that’s a good question. We’ve tried to do a live record here and there, like we’ve tried to do it at New Years Eve, and at The Roxy, at Hollywood. But the sound gear went down, and it messed up the recording. And we do have some live shows that we could just probably turn into a live record. The truth is, what we’ve really ben thinking of doing is releasing The Bomb Shelter record, which was our first record, live. So, top to bottom live, and then after that, just probably a collection of live recordings, various songs from all over the world.
We’ve got quite a little catalog going, we’ve recored a lot of shows, so we feel like we’re sitting on a trove of live material that’s all just dying to be released out into the world, you know?
Commenting on what you mentioned before, I’ve heard that from other musicians. That the way to go these days is releases over time. A single here, maybe a video release there.
Yeah it seems like a lot of people are doing it, we’re following the trend, and it kind of makes sense. We do liken ourselves as an album band, and we all love records, the feel of a record. And what it means to make a record, a whole piece of work all in one. But it’s a shame sometimes, you release a record and people hear the first two songs, they don’t even get to track eight—which is really where it starts to get good sometimes—so it’s just unfortunate that people don’t have quite the attention to sit down and listen to full albums. Believe me, there’s a ton of people out there listening to full records. I’m not saying they’re not there. It just seems like, in general, smaller doses is what every seems to be doing. Me, I love records. I love sitting down and listening to them front to back. Abbey Road, that record is front to back. The new Ray Lamontagne record, the one called Ouroboros, that’s one you hear front to back. That Damian Rice record a few years back, O, which was such a huge record for him. That’s a record front to back. Old Pink Floyd records, it’s one body of work, and it’s hard to pin the needle right in the middle of that record. You sit down to listen to the whole thing like a piece of music, and I think that’s just such a beautiful thing. I’m kind of sorry to see it go, to be honest. Maybe it’ll get back to that, the pendulum’s always swinging. Right now, it seems like a singles world, and we’re just trying to live in it (laughs).
And, for Chapter II EP II, you went down to The Cayman Islands. What inspired that move?
Our manager had a connection down there to a studio, which is this mansion right on the ocean, and we kind of couldn’t say no to that. But what made it really special was that we got to live our dream. Which is, putting yourself in a recording environment, and living in that environment, until you finish the record. So you never go home and sleep in your own bed, you never go home. Your in the studio twenty-four hours a day, or if you’re not in the studio, you’re in the house sleeping, or you’re down at the beach swimming, or whatever it is you’re doing. But there’s nothing else to do except make music with your band, and you’re all under the same roof for however long it takes.
If you remember, The Rolling Stones did that, Led Zeppelin did that. There’s been so many great records where bands holed themselves up in a house and just made the record. So that’s what we did, and it all sounds cohesive in that sense, because it was all made there, in that moment. We’re very fortunate to have gone down and been able to do that. It’s a beautiful, beautiful place to record music, and it just gets you out of your element. You just focus, focus, and put your computer or phone away, and just play music. It really pulls the band together in a cool way as well. So it was really a cool experience for us.
The change in recording style that you mentioned, this experiment that brought on ‘chapter II.’ Has it allowed you personally any new experience in working in the studio hands on?
I do have a lot of experience just from being in a lot of different bands. It’s not necessarily like this anymore, but when I was growing up and making music in studios, the drummer had to play it front to back, and if you made a mistake, you went back to the beginning. That’s just how it was. And it gives the music a certain sense of urgency that you lack when start editing stuff, and chopping stuff up. Not to say you can’t make great music that way, I just think it lacks a certain sense of urgency.
But, to be totally honest with you, there’s also something really amazing about doing it this more modern way. You can really focus, you can really bear down on each section, everything has intent. Which, I think music today has so much intent. Everything has to mean something. You can’t just plow through sections, it has to be very intentful. It doesn’t seem to take much longer, you play through the part four or five times, and that’s it. You construct a song together.
But as a band, you have to grow. We just saw that new Queen movie, Bohemian Rhapsody, and it’s just so inspiring. We made this Chapter II EP, and a lot of our fans are like, it’s a little bit of a departure from where you’re going, and we’re like, “ Yeah, it is.” But, this movie kind of hammered it home for us to remember Queen. Every record they made was a different record, and it really opened them up to possibilities. So I feel like this Chapter II has really opened us up to possibilities as a band, because we no longer say no to things that we used to always say no to. Like, never having keyboards on our record, things like that. We’re open to new possibilities, and it’s good for us. It’s good for the growth of the band. You just gotta keep things flowing through you. When you start saying no to things, everything just kind of stops. That movie really inspired us to realize, hey, we’re kind of doing the same thing, and we’re just trying to grow as people. And when we grow as people, that goes into our music. Who knows, we might get back to old rock and roll in the end, or we might make more pop records, or we might find the magic marriage between the two. But whatever’s happening, we’re at least giving ourselves the opportunity for growth, and I think that’s super important for a band.
It’s true for most bands today, but maybe especially for a band with as diverse a style as Vintage Trouble. If you’re not growing, you’re dying.
It does work for some bands, of course. Like AC DC, they never had a disco phase, for example, like KISS did. You take a band like AC DC, they never change, and people love them for it. When they tour, they’re one of the biggest money making tours in the world, people are dying for AC DC. So there is really something to be said for holding on to what you do. But a lot of our favorite bands, we’ve had growing pains with them, but we’ve appreciated their growth. It’s hard to say which is right, I don’t know if there is a right or wrong way to go. I think you just have to go with the way you’re feeling at the time, and just be as honest as you can in your approach. I think that if you’re putting honesty out there, people recognize that, and they’re cool with it.
And our fans that aren’t loving our new stuff, they recognize that we’re working it, and we’re having fun doing it, and they like to see that. And they hang in there with us. And, on the opposite of that, we’ve gained a ton of new fans off of this last release, fans that would never have come to us on our previous records. You lose a few, you gain a lot more, you know it works.
Thinking of the live experience of Vintage Trouble now—has playing in this band been a fruitful experience for you as a performer?
It’s been the best ten years of my life. And I have decades where I might have said those were the best years…..you know, before this band, I’d stopped playing music, it just wasn’t speaking to me anymore. I’d done it for so long. But then I found these guys, and it just reinvigorated my spirit, and made me want to remember who it is that I really am inside. I’ve been music since I was a very young kid, I’ve been listening to it since I was even younger. It’s what excites me, and what gets me through this world. And I got back to music through this band. The drug is the people, playing out in front of live crowds, and we’ve been a band that people have always watched.
It’s exciting when we play, because people anticipate it, and they show up and they know us. And something happens to us when we step on stage, as lots of musicians say. We just have such chemistry, and it works. And you don’t always get that with bands. There could be some great bands, with some great players, but they lack that chemistry. Or, there could be some really crappy bands, with really crappy players, but they have such chemistry that you can’t take your eyes off them. So it’s been a godsend to have found what we have, we’ve been blessed.
I was going to ask about The Troublemakers out of curiosity. When did that start?
It started really early on, right here in Los Angeles. There was a famous old blues bar called Harbelles, and we had a residency there. We played there every Tuesday night, which Tuesday was always the deadest night of the week. But the bar owner gave us that, and we turned it into what we called Trouble Tuesday. And that place filled up, and became sold out every Tuesday, in the months following. We did it for a year, and it became a scene in a place that needed a scene. L.A. doesn’t have a lot of scenes musically like you think it would. It’s not like it used to be. And people want a scene, they want a reason to go out and meet people.
It just started steamrolling so much so that we had to take this residency and do one in downtown L.A., and then Eagle Rock, and then one in Hollywood. So we started doing these four night a week residencies, and it turned out that all the people started coming to all the shows, east meeting west, and they started calling themselves The Troublemakers. It was a really dynamite crowd of people. A lot of artists and musicians, a lot of sweet people that just like to hang and loved music.
So we thought why not take this Troublemaker thing to the world, and we did. We went to the UK first, and hung out with a cool group of people there. And it just kept evolving. It was like a club, but anyone could be in it. You don’t have to be on ‘the cool side.’ There’s people from six years old to ninety, and I swear I’m not exaggerating on that.
And what they did was form this community. They all take care of each other, they all talk on social media. If a Troublemaker from Japan travels to UK, the UK folks will take them in, or if an American goes to the UK, they’ll make sure they get to shows, they sleep on each other’s couches. This thing has grown, and it’s bigger than us, you know? People have reinvigorated their lives by making all these new connections. What’s even cooler is, they will go out to see other bands as Troublemakers, and they’ll support other bands. And these bands will be like, “Oh man, the Troublemakers are here!”
Stream a lyric video for “Everyone is Everyone,” from Vintage Trouble’s new EP Chapter II – EP 2. To check out the band’s tour dates and more, head to https://www.vintagetrouble.com