From AC/DC Tours to Afropunk, Vintage Trouble Are All About Rock 'n' Soul

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Vintage Trouble
Photo by Timothy White

“Oddly enough, I am in Pebble Beach, California,” exclaims Ty Taylor, the powerhouse vocalist of Los Angeles–based band Vintage Trouble. “I am at this amazing country club, probably one of the most beautiful country clubs in the world. It’s crazy, because we’re used to playing cruddy dark clubs and we’re here in this beautiful place. It’s an odd dichotomy.” Vintage Trouble, as it turns out, have been booked for a private gig at the Pebble Beach Golf Academy; the band is about to soundcheck. Maybe Taylor can get a round or two in gratis while he’s there and enjoying some downtime? “Some of the band was on the range, picking out their nine-irons or whatever. I don’t even know what I’d do if I was going to pick up something,” says the decided non-golfer. “I’m more of an adrenaline junkie, so the pace of it puts me off.” Golfer or not, Taylor pauses, just taking it all in. He lets out a hearty chuckle. “I’m letting my brain adjust to all this."

There’s a lot of brain-adjusting going on for Vintage Trouble right now. Taylor chats with the Voice just one day after the band’s second album, 1 Hopeful Rd., was released on Blue Note Records, marking the quartet’s major-label debut, and eight days before the group plays Brooklyn’s annual Afropunk Festival, which takes over Commodore Barry Park August 22 and 23. It's a homecoming of sorts for Taylor, as he considers himself a New Yorker. He originally hails from New Jersey, but did enough time in the city before moving to Los Angeles that NYC is part of his DNA.

Not only does the band — which also includes Nalle Colt (guitar), Richard Danielson (drums), and Rick Barrio Dill (bass) — have the enormous business backing of a notable label now, they also have creative (and subsequent emotional) support from label CEO Don Was, who not only signed them after hearing their self-released 2011 debut, The Bomb Shelter Sessions, and checking out a show, but also offered his services as producer for 1 Hopeful Rd.

When Was — a renowned funk bassist whose production résumé includes the Rolling Stones and Bonnie Raitt — offers to produce your record, well, you don’t say no, surely? But Vintage Trouble took their time in saying yes: It was imperative they look at their options and choose the right man for the job, even if it meant offending “the boss.” “We went into courtships with different producers and nothing struck us as much as when we had talked about music to Don, so we decided to go all the way.”

Already, Taylor says, fan response to the new album has been overwhelming. Some of 1 Hopeful Rd.’s songs are three or four years old and already live favorites. Some were written as the record was made. In any event, the online chatter about all the songs has been enormous, with more voices continually adding to the discussion.

“That’s what you want: old fans to be happy and new ones to be loving you. It’s a smooth ride then,” says Taylor. “We do a lot of social networking, and it’s wild to me that people are talking about their favorite song and the album was only released yesterday. One day it’s private and then the next it’s very much in the public arena. It’s a weird thing.”

It's certainly tapping in to something. Bands like Vintage Trouble and Alabama Shakes, as well as solo artists like Leon Bridges, represent a sort of anti-tech movement infusing raw rock 'n' roll with vintage soul and crossing regional and age barriers. Not only do fans both old and young dig it — Vintage Trouble have also become something of a pet band for rock giants whose music is rooted in the same Americana. Last year Vintage Trouble opened for the Who; the year before it was the Rolling Stones; this year, well, let’s just say, “Let There Be Rock.” The upscale country club gig at Pebble Beach came just after Vintage Trouble returned from a long stint opening for AC/DC in Europe; after a short break they'll pick up AC/DC duty on the East Coast, and will continue playing stadiums throughout the land beginning August 22 in Massachusetts. So Afropunk is a worthwhile detour off the AC/DC map.

“If you had asked me four years ago if this legendary band was going to take us under their wing, I’d have said no way,” Taylor says. “It’s kind of an adult dream, and I think about being a kid hoping that something like this would come true one day. Quite often, I allow that little kid some headspace. So often as an adult we have to act cool, like nothing means anything. But on this AC/DC stage, I drop all that. I feel like I’m a kid every day; it’s the most exciting time in our lives right now.”

Vintage Trouble perform on August 23 at the Afropunk Festival. For ticket information, click here.

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