Ty Taylor, frontman for the supremely funky bunch known as Vintage Trouble and a full-fledged soul star in the making, has been described as a modern-day James Brown. In fact, imagine James Brown singing lead for Led Zeppelin, and you'll get an idea of Vintage Trouble's muscular, in-the-pocket sound. But don't let the band's name, natty fashions, or penchant for old-school showmanship and analog instruments fool you. Vintage Trouble is no nostalgia act. These guys are more interested in being timeless than existing in some sort of time capsule.
"We never think about being retro or anything like that," shrugs the band's guitarist, Nalle Colt, saying VT's mix of classic rock 'n' soul just comes naturally to them.
"It was in all of our houses from the time that I was young; everything in my house was the Staples Singers, Ike & Tina Turner. And all of us grew up on the Stones and Zeppelin and the Beatles," says Ty. "Basically, we've always dreamed about the period when rock 'n' roll and soul kind of had that collision with rhythm & blues, that time when people said 'forget it' about what you were supposed to be playing. It was OK for black musicians to do rock 'n' roll, so you had your Little Richards and Chuck Berrys, and it was all right for the white musicians like early Stones, early Zeppelin, and early Beatles to bring in a lot of rhythm & blues influences."
As for why popular music seems so much more compartmentalized than it was during the golden era of which Ty speaks, the VT guys blame the music industry's powers-that-be, not supposedly closed-minded radio listeners, for such restrictions.
"It's not really the kids and the people that are listening to music," says Ty. "It's actually the bigger wheels that are in charge of what the masses hear that are not allowing things to come together. So yes, you have kids that are into Kanye West and Amy Winehouse and Lorde, but there aren't too many radio stations that are going to play these three things together… So it's great that we're back into a whole vinyl world now. I want to thank some stupid places like Urban Outfitters that have record players [playing vinyl] when you're shopping, because it has created such a great resurgence of something that we have loved for so long! But I think the idea really is for people to stop thinking about what things have to be, and just use all of your influences and let that come out in your [music]."
"We do find kids discovering old music today," adds drummer Richard Danielson, who along with bassist Rick Barrio Dill rounds out the super-tight Vintage Trouble lineup. "Some of it has to do with the way it came to fruition, with people playing music live and in the moment and without click-tracks, just very organic. A lot of kids grew up on computers, so they don't really know anything else as far as music, so when they discover something old, I think it speaks to them in a way they don't quite understand. But it feels good, because it's touching their insides in a different way that's not so quantized and perfect and oversaturated. It's real people having real moments, and there's something that's very exciting about that. And I think that's what they're discovering about old music."
The band, which recently released The Swing House Sessions acoustic EP and is working on a sophomore album for Blue Note Records (to be released in 2015), has won praise from iconic artists of various ages and genres. They've landed plum gigs opening for the Who, the Dave Matthews Band, Bon Jovi, the Rolling Stones, Lenny Kravitz, and Queen's Brian May, and they're even signed with legendary rock 'n' roll manager Doc McGhee (who's helped guide the careers of KISS, Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe, Guns N' Roses, Skid Row, and Hootie & The Blowfish).
"We've been really lucky. We've been on tour with a big variety of different artists, with so many different audiences and different generations," Colt marvels. "It's hugely humbling. We're just simple musicians, and hopefully we can be some inspiration for young musicians to just go out there and play. We're not virtuosos or anything. We're just having fun."
And fun never goes out of style.