"Keep your mind open," advises The Record Company's Chris Vos

The Record Company play songs from their new record, 'Play Loud' (MPR)

Ahead of their new record, 'Play Loud,' The Record Company join Mary Lucia for a virtual session to talk about the importance of staying open minded in artistic collaborations, and how the band's writing process changed in a virtual setting.

Interview Transcript

Edited for clarity and length.

MARY LUCIA: 89.3 The Current I'm Mary Lucia, and I am talking now with Chris from The Record Company, the band. How are you, Chris?

CHRIS VOS: I'm doing great. How are you doing today?

I'm alright. So tell me a little bit just about--I think everybody I've talked to in the last couple of months has gravitated a little bit towards "let me throw a few more cover songs into my repertoire," and I don't know if the reasoning is that there's a certain comfort with that, but a lot of people during the lockdown when they weren't able to maybe go out, tour, finish a new record thought cover songs, and you guys--you have cover songs on an EP and is it a wide range of tastes? Or is it pretty focused?

Well, for us, the cover songs were just something that kind of happened out of the need for more music. We had completed our album and it was time to continue creating and we had finished our album about a year ago. So we're looking around and we'd done the acoustic outside stuff, and we've done all that stuff and it's just the need to challenge yourself. We were really inspired coming out of the studio so we're writing songs and stuff but the album is complete. So these are the songs we're going to be playing for a while, so to answer your question, it was just a simple idea of, "Hey, it would be great to get a few more things that we could share with people," and we're like, well if we're going to share something, I don't really want to have me scrambling eggs and telling my--you know, I'm a musician--I should do music. So I just started recording through this very microphone some vocal stuff. I'd send a track a day. We had just been through the studio with Dave Sardy so we were really inspired by the production that he did, and I would send--I'd do it to a click, acoustic and vocal and just try to do something that felt interesting to me that particular day. I'd send it to Alex, our bass player and he produced the first records and I was like, "Hey, do whatever you want," and he would mess with them. So our song "Ball And Chain," that is actually the cover of the Willie Dixon made famous by Howlin' Wolf--excuse me? "Spoonful" is the cover, "Ball and Chain" was--I'm on my first cup of coffee, Mary.

That's fine, I was gonna say Social Distortion from Cannonball Adderley. Okay, yeah.

Yeah, the "Ball and Chain," which was the Big Mama Thornton song. I just sent that over, I was just like [sings] "Ball and chain," and then all of a sudden he sends something back where he had accidentally hit a button and went "ball and ball and ball and ball and ball and chain," and instead of running away from that, we flew into it, you know? So I sent him probably about 20-some odd songs, and it was as wide as like Cypress Hill to you know, Big Mama Thornton to INXS. Whenever we caught wind in our sails, we went. That's how we did it, and we recorded probably about 10 to completion. Then we just picked four that we felt would be interesting and challenging at the same time, but somehow makes sense. We looked at it as like we're pressing new ground with this record. So it was like, how do we give our listeners and people who enjoy our music kind of a challenging listen going into a record that's definitely expanding our sound, so that's where it came from.

Are you in Milwaukee right now? Are you in Wisconsin?

No, I'm in Los Angeles.

Okay, so are you all three in the same city?

Yes, we all live within about 25 minutes.

Okay, so even when you guys were tossing around ideas when you were supposedly on lockdown. It wasn't like you were miles and miles--you saw each other, FaceTimed each other, talked about, "What the hell are we going to do with our tour dates," blah, blah.

Yeah, other than the record, we didn't see each other at all, except for FaceTime. So I could have been across the sea, and it would have been no closer. We tried to stick to the rules as best we could to keep each other healthy and everything. But that also made us learn how to do things differently, like I never understood how to create across this new medium, you know? I've always just--you go in the room, you play guitars, you plug in and it was a good tool to have because now there aren't a lot of silver linings through this entire experience but two of the ones that happened was forcing you to learn how to use technology, which I'm still learning, but aren't we all? Also when we made the record there was nothing going on. When we made Play Loud, it took you back to being 14. Your agenda was simply music, there was no other thing. There was no, "Are we going on tour, or what's going on over here?" Even the ability to visit other people, see family--the only thing we could do was listen to music and write music and that was by far the most interesting thing we could do too. So that helped the process of writing.

I can imagine that, in the first song that we're going to hear off of Play Loud--is it your most recent single?

Yes, "How High," yes absolutely.

That video had to be made pre-quarantine.

You know what it was made during? It was made in that little sliver of time in May and June where Biden was like "Hey, we're all good!" It was the first time that we had been around people, that was one of the first times we even saw each other and everybody that was there. We thought it was gonna be the summer of love everybody, so we did the pro--you get the test, and the thing, and all that. So everyone's just so elated to be around each other and it was in that little window where we were all like, "Oh this is gonna be great. We've done it, we're coming out of it!" And obviously that hasn't been the case, but it did capture an elation and a joy. Everybody in that video was very thrilled to be around each other and then, sadly, after it's gone a different way but rest assured we covered every protocol making that and we thought--I watch it now and I'm like, "Wow, ignorance is bliss." You know? We thought, "Hey, this is gonna be great," you know, "Wow, welcome back--it's gonna be great." So that's reflected in the video, it was a really positive and fun day and I'll definitely hold the memory of that day in my heart for a long time because we're in it to keep people safe and we're in it to make sure everybody can go to concerts and be around each other. So obviously you got to go back a couple steps, but this was in that nice little week and a half where--

About week and a half. About eight, nine days?

About a week and a half where we were like, "Oh it's gonna be great!"

Let's take a listen, it is The Record Company here on 89.3 The Current.

[music: "How High" by The Record Company]

89.3 The Current that is "How High," The Record Company from the brand new, forthcoming Play Loud. I'm talking to Chris, and you got together with some other songwriters for this record. I'm just curious again, when does a band get to a place where they go, "Well, what we're doing is great, but let's just experiment a little bit more with someone else's ear, with someone else's flavor." What made you guys think, "Well, who should we ask to bring in from outside?"

Well, I love the way you line that up, because in rock and roll songwriting is very confusing--I mean, working with outside people is very confusing, and a little bit controversial, depending upon who you ask. We had been in the mindset, previous to this record of we do it all ourselves, and I've been that way my whole life. These are the people I'm in a band with. These are the ideas. This is the vision. We produced our first two records on our own, we recorded them for the most part on our--the first one completely on our own. Then the second one, we had an engineer, but we were still producing. That was our mindset--we're going to make these songs, we're going to say what we got to say. Well, after two records, and touring and whatnot, you kind of--there are three of us, and you kind of look at each other, and you go, "Okay, what else is there?" So some people that we work with actually suggested, our manager Ken actually suggested, "Hey, you should bring in a person and sit down and write a song." And at first we're like, "Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no." And this is where one of the great lessons I've learned is keep your mind open. Keep your mind open, because if you don't know at all, there's no way you do. He says, "Well look at it this way, the worst thing that could happen, you're going to meet a nice person hang out for an afternoon, the best thing that could happen is you could write something that could be a song that you would want on your record." And we all were like, "That makes a lot of sense."

So what the experience ended up being is I've completely flipped the way I look at it, because it seemed like to me, and make it relatable everybody, whether you're a songwriter or not, you're just bringing another--say you have a group of friends, and you have great conversations with these people, that's what you're doing when you're making music. You're having a conversation, deep one, and you're hanging out one night and then one of your friends brings a new person in for an evening. The conversation doesn't decrease, it actually spins into a whole new area because of the perspective of this one great person that walks in. That's what songwriting with somebody else, when it's working, feels like. They've joined the conversation. They inspire you, they excite you, they reawaken, they change perspective. In the end, as a band--Dave Sardy, the guy who produced the record kept saying over and over, and it's the mantra that really got stuck in my head was, "This is your album, you make the decisions of what it is and what it isn't. We're just here to give you opportunities to see things differently." So in the end, it's your job as a band to say I believe in this and if you don't believe in it, or if you're doing it for some reason that isn't pure or whatever, that's on you. For us, we wrote with some people and didn't come up with anything. We wrote with Dave Sardy, we wrote a couple with him, we had two, three on the record with him that were great. And then there were a couple that we tried to write with him that didn't go anywhere it's just like that. So it was a great expansion of our understanding what songwriting is. And just having stuff, like we wrote with a girl named Schoon, and had just having the experience of being able to write a song with a woman, which had never happened in this band. Having her there, her perspective, and her just blast open so many things that I, with my experience and where I'm coming from, don't know anything about because I'm not her, and she's not me. So it was great. It was fantastic.

I love the way you explain that, because it truly is just about having the open heart, mind, spirit to see what happens. Because again, I think when you hear like, "Oh, so and so had somebody write?" Your mind goes really narrow to either like Nashville, or what's her name? Diane Warren, who can write songs for like, Aerosmith and whatever. But it's really cool, I love the way you describe that as a conversation. With what you guys accomplished, and had that eight day window, where are you guys at now, in terms because the records coming out soon here in October--have you had to modify plans? Or what's in the works here?

Yeah, I think the biggest thing that we're trying to do is, we want to make sure everybody has a great experience and is safe. So for us we're following all the protocols and we're going to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to know ahead of time, it's like, if you come we're following the same protocols as everybody else--vaccinated and/or 48 hour test for negative. The band that we've been really admiring how they're doing is Dead & Company. We've been modeling what we're going to do, after what we've heard they're doing. We do all that, and mask up, and the whole thing. That's the choices we're making, because we feel responsible to each other and we love our fans, and I understand there are people that don't feel that is the way they want to do it. And that's--you go your way then. That's fine. We'll see you down the road when we can all do it without all this stuff.

But for a band right now, if we want to go out there, we have to do it in a way that we can know that we can get to the end of the tour, even. If I get sick, the show's over. It's a drag to talk about it, but it is the real thing we're dealing with. So let's take it on as people and music lovers together, and we can still have records come out and if two weeks from now, they're like, "Shut it all down." We'd shut it down. I'd be heartbroken, I really would. Believe me, everybody feels the same way, I believe. And I think there's just a lot of--some of the things that we're all dealing with is just born of the frustration of just needing each other, again, needing our lives back. When I was in high school, I wanted to graduate when I was a freshman because I wanted to go out on the road, but I had to get through those last three grades, so that's the way I look at it. I grew up on a farm, my dad, he milks the cows every 12 hours, that's just the way it is, and this is just the way it is. So we're gonna go out and try and be as safe as we can and we're gonna rock, and we're gonna have fun.

I will share with you that I was on the fence last weekend, my absolute favorite band in the world was playing in a sort of festival setting, and I didn't go. It was one of those things--because it's almost like I didn't want to taint anything because every time I've seen Spoon, it's been amazing. The experience with all the fans and the people and I literally just thought I have to have the confidence, like you just said, that they're going to come back around at a time when this is all different. I just feel like I'd be worried the whole time, and I would not be able to just stand there slack jawed in amazement like I normally would.

Yeah, I think in those instances you make the right decision for yourself. I mean, we're in uncharted territory, and I think we all got to forgive ourselves for not knowing everything. Isn't that the way we always were? It just was a little easier to think that we could do what we wanted and now I don't think we'll take it for granted, our abilities to be together, ever again. But if you don't feel safe, don't go. if you feel like you want to go, go! I'm going to be there because I have--this is what I do for a living, this is what I want to do. I'm empty without music, empty inside for the most part. It attaches to every aspect of family, friendship, life. So yes, I'm going to go out there. But if you're not feeling it, hey, I tip my cap to anybody who has to do what they have to do to further their own personal well being and feeling good. Rock and roll, it's like this forge ahead firestorm, let's do it, let's rock. And that is still the case. But if you come to our show, we're going to throw down, we're going to have fun, and we're going to do our thing. We all know that you're out there, you're in the world. But I think we all have to bravely face that too, with reasonable expectations within ourselves being accountable for our own decisions. It's like, yes, the first time I flew, I was scared to death, right? Because it's new. I'm like, what's going to happen? I don't know. First time I went to a restaurant, I felt the same thing. But in the end, for me, I've just made those decisions as they've come. And I try--personally knowing that I am an imperfect, flawed human who makes mistakes and am accountable to try and learn from them--that I do the best I can with the knowledge I'm given. And I try to be responsible for that. That's what I think we're going to do as a group, and I think we all as people are trying to do that in our own way, to put a little bit of a rose on it.

The date that you have scheduled to come to Minneapolis is November 10 at the Varsity Theatre, and that will be great. There's two things I have to ask you because you have played with one of my complete heroes who scares the hell out of me just with his talent and real rawness, and that is Buddy Guy. What was that like? Did you hang? Did you just shoot the crap with Buddy?

I was really intimidated to hang with him and when we played with him it was at the beginning of this whole experience of The Record Company, so we got to play with BB King right before he passed, and we played with Buddy Guy. And yes, I said hello to Buddy, but the thing that was really cool is his band was so accommodating. I see the polka dot strat, the black and white polka dot strat, and his guitar tech's like, "You can play it for a second if you want," I'm like [gasps] and I didn't play it. I actually just touched it. I'm like, I'm not gonna play it, you know? I just can't do it. But not because it's like holy, it's just his, you know? If he would've said, "You can play it," I'd be like, "Alright, I'll play it." But I'm just like, eh, I feel like I'm sneaking behind the scenes here, I can't do that. But he's an inspiration. It's funny, I went and I toured Chess Studios in Chicago, which if you ever make it to Chicago, you should definitely tour Chess. People make the pilgrimage out to Detroit and they see Motown people make the pilgrimage down south, they see Stax, people make the pilgrimage to Memphis to see Sun, but right down there in 2021, Michigan Avenue in Chicago is where Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, all these people cut all these songs. And it's just sitting there. I went on a tour there. There were two people there, and me, and they have a picture in the inside, and it's a picture of Muddy Waters recording the Folk Singer record, and it doesn't say what it is. And I said to the host, I'm like,"Is that.." It was Buddy Guy, Willie Dixon, and Muddy Waters all on acoustics. And I said, "Is that Folk Singer session?" He's like, "Yes," I'm like, "Yeah!" My musical dorkdom pays off, you know? Just being around people that have seen that much, and done that much. I mean, he influenced Hendrix, man. End of story.

Keith Richards' documentary, he goes to Chess and he said that originally when he went to tour Chess that that Howlin' Wolf was like painting the ceiling, like he was on a ladder and he was walking past him.

He said it was Muddy Waters. I know exactly the story, and what's funny is Leonard Chess' son, what's his name? He disputed it, he's like, "That never happened," because he's like, "Muddy Waters would not be on a ladder painting at Chess," and he's like, "I love Keith, but..." I love stuff like that. I love that, that's so cool. Keith Richards, like, "Oh yeah, I saw Muddy Waters painting," and the guy who owned the studio is like, "Muddy Waters would never paint our studio." Who knows?

It's possible.

That's the beauty of it, I love it.

You guys are gonna do one more tune, and which one is that off of Play Loud?

I believe we're doing "Paradise".

[music: "Paradise" by The Record Company]

89.3 The Current, you are watching The Record Company and listening to The Record Company from their new forthcoming record Play Loud. And Chris, thank you so much. We look forward to seeing you at the Varsity Theater in-person on November 10. But I will tell you one thing I miss a lot about talking to bands where I'm not in the same room, and that is I'd like to know what kind of shoes you're wearing right now.

Barefoot.

I'd like to see.

You'd like to see my bare foot?

I would like you to prove that you are barefoot.

You know, you are a very influential person. I don't even go barefoot in public.

Are you weird about your feet?

But I will make you a deal. I will go barefoot--

You might have crocs on, and you're embarrassed. Are you sure?

As my hands are here, no I don't wear--I don't have crocs on. If that's your deal, that's great.

Then you don't need to show me your bare feet.

I'll make you a deal, I'll show you the bare foot. But I need to talk about what this is. This, I'm wearing a Minneapolis Moline hat, which was a tractor company in Minneapolis, Moline and I just need to point that out because nobody has gotten this right yet. I grew up on a farm and if anywhere I'm going to bring it up, it's gonna be here. So this is not a Mickey Mouse thing. This is a Minneapolis Moline thing. So now I will actually prove that I have--I don't know if I'm flexible enough to pull this off here.

I know it could be weird.

See?

Okay, there you go. I just seriously, when I'm doing interviews--

I hope that was a clean foot.

I didn't even look, I'm going to assume--

Well a lot of people are gonna be looking now. Not only am I barefoot, but I'm in shorts. I see you're very dressed, very nicely rock and roll. And I look at myself when we were talking and I'm like, I'm in a T shirt and shorts and bare feet. Thank God for the Minneapolis Moline hat or you'd never know I was in a rock and roll band.

You could just as well be in your jammies right now. Well, thank you again. The record's coming out, what is it October--the release date official?

I believe it hits the road, it hits the streets on 8th.

The 8th. Okay, and then the show that is set up here is at the Varsity Theatre in Minneapolis on November 10. And, Chris, thank you so much for showing me your bare foot, showing me the love you have for the Minneapolis industrial world and thank you for taking the chance to bring rock and roll back out to the fans.

Hey, and I want to thank you for the opportunity and The Current for supporting us for a long time and the people of Minnesota, Minneapolis and everybody have been extremely kind to us. So I'm really excited to come back, and I guarantee you, if you do come out we are gonna throw down. I always say, when you go into a show, it's one less time, not one more, so give it all you got, because you never know. That was proven again so much when I stepped off stage in Philadelphia in 2019 and didn't step back on till a couple weeks ago in 2021. So rest assured, this will be a rock and roll show and we're going to have a dang good--can I say damn? We're gonna have a damn good time. Yeah, we're gonna throw down, so come on out. If you're feeling it, we'll make it worth your time.

Very cool. This is The Record Company, and I'm Mary Lucia. You're listening to 89.3 The Current.

Songs Played

08:10 Paradise
25:41 Paradise
Both songs appear on The Record Company's 2021 record, Play Loud.

External Link

The Record Company - official website

Credits

Mary Lucia - host
Producers - Derrick Stevens, Jesse Wiza
Technical Director - Eric Romani

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