California’s Vintage Trouble seem to have played shows with everyone from AC/DC to The Rolling Stones, and this week they’ve headed out on their own tour of the UK. We chatted to guitarist Nalle Colt to get the lowdown on everything Vintage Trouble.
Soundsphere: Hi Nalle! You guys seem to have been everywhere lately – you were in Australia last month and now you’re prepping for your UK/EU tour…
Nalle: Yeah, we’ve went to Australia, Korea, Japan, then we flew straight to the Caiman Islands to record a song.
S: Oh wow.
N: Then we flew to Austin, Texas – played a show and now we’re here! Crazy.
S: Are you looking forward to the tour coming up?
N: Yeah, it’s gonna be so much fun. We tour quite a lot, but the UK is our second home. It’s always important to do this right.
S: What’s the best show you’ve played over here? You’ve done Glastonbury and loads of other prolific things…
N: Glastonbury was, of course, amazing. We had a crazy experience there. It’s hard to pick one favourite place here but we usually have some amazing stuff going on in Glasgow. And Newcastle. There’s a place called Sage Gateshead – amazing venue. We played there last New Year’s Eve actually. I love that venue, it’s beautiful. But you know, it’s hard to pick one favourite show. Anytime we can make people smile just for a couple of hours.
S: Is it a consistent crowd reaction here compared to any other countries you guys play?
N: Well, you guys definitely get it. When we first started the band we’d just play club shows in Los Angeles, and we came over to the UK to do the Jools Holland TV show. And all hell broke loose! We didn’t know what it meant to be on Jools Holland, and it just exploded, it was unreal! Our website crashed and all these people kept hounding us, you know? We extended the tour. We were only supposed to do a short tour here and we ended up staying for months. Like I said, you just get it here. There was something about UK people and soul and rock and roll that really fired up. Suddenly we were doing sold out shows everywhere and they moved us to bigger venues – we couldn’t believe it! We were in shock. After that it’s just been going on and on around the world. We’re blessed, you know? I don’t know how it happened. We’re just doing our thing and it’s been very special. We really pay attention to what people think [in the UK]. We have a strong fanbase called Troublemakers – they’re very opinionated! -laughs-
S: About your music or about you guys?
N: -laughs- They tell us if they don’t like new songs! And when they love new songs. They care about us a lot and I like that. That’s the way we have it – very family-based.
S: It’s like a democracy instead of you being the untouchable band and them aspiring to meet you and talk to you.
N: I agree, and we’re trying to do that all around the world. With our live shows, the audience is such a big part of the action – trying to get them to sing along to every song and we need that! The energy, their vocals, the dancing, the clapping. It’s part of the sound, you know? We rely on it a lot.
S: I think that’s a really nice way to talk about fans and their reactions, it’s a really good attitude to have.
N: We need it. It’s fun now because we’ve been in the studio for a while, we’ve been home, so tonight we’re going to play for a few hours. We’re excited to get back on tour and feel that rush, that adrenaline. Like, “oh my god, I’m on a tour bus again!”.
S: Your music’s quite a retro throwback to the 50s and 60s, how do you translate that in a more modern setting live?
N: I guess when we started the band we definitely infused the old collective, like 50s soul and rock and roll like Chuck Berry. But even in the beginning, we never had the desire to sound exactly like a retro band. We were inspired by it, but for me as a guitar player for instance, I never really honed in on all these super vintage sounds – I try to just do what I do. I think now with the new recordings, we kind of push our boundaries. We’ve always had a deep connection with that style of music but now we’re definitely pushing our boundaries with this new stuff. We all listen to pop music, any type of music. I don’t want it to ever stop us or to feel like we’ve dug ourselves into a hole where we have to be this or that. With a band like this we can make a lot of big moves towards this style of music and it’s gonna end up sounding like us anyway because it’s the four of us playing it. So we definitely try to step out of our comfort zone. I feel like it’s really good to step out of it sometimes for all of us – rhythm, melody and music in general, trying to push our boundaries. I think a lot of people will be surprised by the new music we’ve recorded. We’re taking it a step further towards modern music but still keeping what we did do. We’ll see what happens!
S: What kind of influences are there that you think might surprise people? Because you say you listen to pop music and everything inbetween…
N: We listen to a lot of hip-hop. I mean, I was so surprised a couple of weeks ago with Harry Styles’ new album. I couldn’t believe it, it’s a great record!
S: It’s really good isn’t it?
N: I love it! And I was so embarrassed, like “oh my god, I can’t tell my friends that I listen to Harry Styles!” And it’s such a great record. I know Ty [Taylor, Vintage Trouble’s singer] listens to a lot of Rihanna. There’s nothing wrong with it. There’s so many ways of making music and it’s fun to hear what young people are doing and I don’t ever want to let it stop me. Like, I don’t want to be embarrassed to say I like this or that. I even listened to some of Drake’s record and it’s good. It’s so simple and gets such a clear message through. I think all of that inspired us to push something a bit different.
S: So you’ve got a new video for ‘Knock Me Out’. Even though the song’s been circulating for a while because the Long Live Rock campaign you were involved in…
N: Yeah, with John Varvatos, a clothing designer in America. He’s a big rock and roll fan. It’s just men’s clothing – I wish he would do female clothing – but it’s very rock and roll inspired. The blacks, the greys, leather…but he’s also really inspired by suits. We met him four years ago with The Who – he’s a big Who fan – he went on the tour with them and we met him there. And we were already huge fans of his clothing line, we were wearing a lot of his clothes already. So we just started this relationship with him and this year he was doing a whole spring campaign of his clothing, then he called us and said “I wanna do this with you guys” and we definitely didn’t say no. -laughs-
S: How did it feel to be chosen for that? Because Slash and The Who have been part of it as well.
N: Willie Nelson and Gary Clark Jr. too. It’s a huge honour. I mean, to see yourself on big banners around the city is so crazy. [Varvatos] is such a sweet guy too – he’s a great supporter of our music and he ended up making that video [for ‘Knock Me Out’] with the photographer Danny [Clinch]. But he’s a great videographer and he shot the video. It ended up being John Varvatos who picked the song as well! It was a demo that Ty had done with a songwriter quite a long time ago and he ended up hearing the song and he loved it. We ended up going in and recording a new version of it.
S: I think it’s a good choice, it’s a strong song and a good way to lead someone into you guys.
N: Oh cool, thank you. We have a lot of fun playing it live now.
S: It seems like it would be a fun song to play live.
N: We end a lot of our sets with it now.
S: So obviously that’s going to feature on your new album that’s coming out soon I assume? Can you say anything about that or are you sworn to secrecy?
N: We’re kind of coming to decide what we’re gonna do. There’s a big change in the music world right now. It seems that the biggest connection with the audience and releasing new music is almost to release a song by itself. CD barely sells really at all anymore – I think it’s Germany and Japan who are literally the two countries left in the world that truly buy CDs anymore. Otherwise, the sales have gone down so much. We released ‘Knock Me Out’ on streaming platforms and then release other songs quite often. There’s a new song coming out pretty soon and we’re gonna release another maybe six weeks later. Eventually, we’ll obviously get out a full album on a CD. I’m just not sure the album way is the right way anymore. The environment’s changed so much and with social media it’s always more fun to just release individual songs. People listen to it more than if you release a full batch of twelve songs. It feels like so many of those songs get kind of forgotten.
S: People have really short attention spans now. Everything has to be bitesized.
N: Yeah. I don’t know how much you care about modern music but John Mayer released his new album…
S: As a set of EPs, yeah!
N: He did it over a couple of weeks and they eventually became an album. So to be honest we haven’t 100% decided how we’re gonna do it but we’re gonna release two more singles before the album comes out.
S: Do you feel like performing live has a lot more weight to it now then? Because obviously you guys tour a lot. Do you think it means more than ever to a musician to get yourself out there and perform?
N: Yeah, in many ways. For us to survive. -laughs-
S: -laughs- Yeah, true.
N: That’s basically the only way for us to pay our rent, pay our bills. Like I said, music doesn’t really sell anymore so this is the way for us to eat every day and survive, to keep our crew happy. We love it, of course, but shows do mean more than ever, I think. It was always our thing ever but of course the whole music industry, for all artists, is more and more about live shows. Obviously festivals are becoming such a big thing now, so we try to play as many festivals as we can. That’s where you’re going to reach new people.
S: It’s a good job that you enjoy the touring aspect of it so much, because your diaries are stacked for the next few months.
N: Yeah, it’s sometimes a little crazy, but we do love it and we have a lot of fun. Last year, I think we toured straight for nine months without stopping. And sometimes you do get tired, and you’ve gotta take care of yourself and not party a lot. We have a lot of friends who we see every day and you come to a new city and meet new friends…so you’ve gotta pay attention to how you live and eat well, and we all are. We take care of ourselves but we still have a lot of fun.
S: I think that’s a really enviable work ethic to have. Nine months straight and then you have the dedication to looking after yourselves and making sure you can put on the best show that you can.
N: We want to be good, and like I said, we have our Troublemaker fans. They let us know if we do a shitty show! We gotta keep it up. And we are, we’ve been working really hard and we’ve actually added a keyboard player to the live show which is really fun. You get a bigger sound and this guy, Brian London sings really well too, so that added a lot. The rest of the band, we all sing backup, but we’re more kind of shouting and background vocals. To have someone who can really sing and sing around Ty, it’s really nice.
S: Do you think that this is all starting to pay off now? You’re getting your name out there more and more opportunities are being handed to you because of it.
N: Totally. We’ve been on the road a little more than six years now. It’s slowly building up, which is really cool. Every year we see the venues getting bigger and we start selling out a lot of shows. Every year it’s moving up. A couple of years ago we ended up supporting AC/DC for almost a whole year and it was incredible to see the change after that, especially in Germany. My god, we had to change all our venues after we played [with AC/DC] because we doubled our audience.
S: That’s like the dream.
N: Yeah! I mean, I still have the dream that we can still play our own shows of that size. It’s surreal to stand in front of 130,000 people. It’s incredible to feel that energy, it’s so addictive.
S: Do you feel like that could be achievable and within your reach? Do you have that ambition?
N: We definitely have the ambition. Obviously we’ve toured with quite a few old, legendary bands like The Stones, The Who, AC/DC, Bon Jovi – all those guys are coming from the old times, when they were selling 30 million albums. Young artists now, are they gonna be able to do full-on stadium shows with 100,000 people there? I think so, hopefully. I know there’s young, super pop artists like Justin Bieber that are actually doing it. -pauses- I hope so. We definitely have the ambition to go there. We love to build up our show, we’ve bought a whole stage for our show now and we’re building it up. We wanted to get bigger and we want the audience to get bigger, so yeah. I want to have the dream and the potential. Music is important for everyone, more now than ever. We live in a crazy world and there’s a lot of fear and unnecessary horrible things, like the thing that just happened in Manchester. I had to stop the car, because I heard it on the news. We were rehearsing in Los Angeles, and I just couldn’t believe it.
S: It’s horrific.
N: This is our joy. For people to go out and see music, and especially for teenagers. I want them to see live music and enjoy it and feel what it really means. We’re starting to get more and more into a society where you have such an amazing TV at home – all the entertainment is at home, you don’t go out. And I don’t want it to be that way. Because we’re a community, we’re together in big masses of beautiful humans. And I don’t want teenagers today to never see that. It’s so important and it made me so angry about the incident. Us, as artists, we just gotta fight it through and keep on playing to people as much as we can, and bring joy, you know? Because music is such a great way of connecting and communicating. Sometimes, maybe you want to date some girl or a boy and you don’t know how to say it, and the best way is to put on a song! You know what I mean?
S: Make them a Spotify playlist.
N: Yeah! Long live music. We have a great job and we have to fight this evil going on in the world any way we can.
Vintage Trouble are touring the UK this week.