Chris Vos on How The Record Company’s ‘All of This Life’ Came to Be, and More.
By Mica Kendall
Surging in musical charts and press in a mere two-year time span for their debut album Give It Back To You and their latest album released this past June All Of This Life, Los Angeles based band, The Record Company, has been making their musical debut across the country while capturing the hearts of many Blues and Rock & Roll lovers. The distinctive, gritty vocals and authentic rock instrumentation that The Record Company projects into their discographies justifies the group’s rapid surge in earning more than millions of streams on some of their hit songs. Focusing on the band’s recording and songwriting process, life on the road, and future dream aspirations -- vocalist and guitarist, Chris Vos, spoke to WERS about his personalized view on The Record Company’s rising claim to fame in the music industry before they come to Boston's House of Blues on October 19th.
Mica: In your first album, Give It Back To You from 2016, you personally recorded and produced the album yourself with your other band members in your basement in Los Angeles. While your latest album, All Of This Life, you recorded at Boulevard Recordings in Hollywood. What did you guys like about moving to a studio environment to record this album? Or did you miss the personalized free range ability you had producing music in your own basement?
Chris: There’s positives on either side. The first album we had a lot of time and control on how we wanted to do things. The second record we did use the living room actually, which is where we recorded the first one. We did use that to some degree on the second record, but did a majority of the recording in a bigger studio. I mean, the positive side of both is that in a living room, you have all the time in the world. You can hang out, explore, do what you want, and we still use that space for writing and demoing, and some over-dubbed recording we’ll do there too.
In the bigger studio you just kind of go in knowing what you want to do and it allows you to really focus on the music. In the studio you don't have to worry about “is my amp too loud?” or “are the neighbors going to complain?” kind of stuff, which helps. You get a chance to experiment with different things that you otherwise would not be able to experiment with, because obviously a great studio comes with equipment and in the end all records and all music is about the songs first. But having some equipment to mess around with is a lot of fun. To answer your question, we just wanted to grow and have our sound grow along with the growth of our writing. The experiences we have had as a band have grown us as people and we wanted to reflect that in the sound as well as the writing, and the studio allows for that.
M: In terms of mixing since you produced your latest album in the studio, how was it like working in conjunction with a music engineer?
C: There’s an engineer there who's kind of in charge of making sure that everything goes to plan. Your job is to play the songs and listen back to the playback, and the engineer has an idea of what kind of microphone to use and where to put the drum kit in the room -- all the stuff that we have been doing ourselves. We were lucky we had a good fit with a guy named Clay Blair, who owns Boulevard. He just kind of got what we were looking for; we showed up and the drum kit was set up in the corner all mic'd up and sounded great, and we just went from there.
M: Since 2016, when you guys embarked on your first headline tour for Give It Back To You, you guys have been consistently on the road opening for John Mayer, playing festivals, on late night shows, and you’re about to kick off tour for your newest album this week. With how fast you guys have skyrocketed as a band within a two-year time frame, how do you guys balance your personal lives amidst your busy musician life that’s always on the road?
C: I don't feel like balancing them at all. I feel like you just live and you do the best you can to be loving and caring to the people that you're close with and you just don't let that change. You stay in contact, you call each other, and yes, it does save your life at home because you're never home so it's a little different. It certainly adds another dynamic in relationships and things like that. But just like everything else, when you have strong friendships or strong relationships, they survive those things and actually can get stronger.
I think when you're playing music, it's got to be all about the music and caring about the music, but when you’re in a relationship you gotta tend to that and make sure you're there for the people that care about you. You stay in touch with them so that you don't get all aloof and lose contact, so it changes your life quite significantly. It's just like anything else if you're a busy person with a busy job -- you have all sorts of stuff happening and multiple things you're juggling. You still have to find time for what matters. When you're a musician, what matters in your creative world is the music, the songs, making sure you're tending to that, but also staying healthy so you can deliver the songs in a live setting. In your personal life, you just have to continue to evolve and learn how to keep healthy relationships and friendships going while you're traveling the world.
M: It seems like as a musician, you are really grounded with your values, which is hard to find in a lot of famous musicians today.
C: I look at all of this as a great gift that you have to earn. If you start losing touch with what matters and what you care about, it starts becoming about the wrong things and you can lose yourself. And when you lose yourself, you lose everything you care about. I’m not interested in that. I want to continue to grow and have experiences, and have them with people I care about.
M: A ton of songs from your first album like “Off The Ground,” “Rita Mae Young,” “Baby I’m Broken,” and off your latest album, “Life To Fix” have achieved chart status with Triple A radio, and gained attention from prominent publications like NME and Rolling Stone. Reflecting back on your past as an aspiring musician since you first picked up a guitar at age 14, how do you feel about where you are as musician now? Also, what form of advice would you give to aspiring musicians today amidst the competitive music industry?
C: I’ll answer the second part of your question first. To a person starting out, I would say believe in yourself, but also be critical of yourself and learn how to get better at what you do. This is not a easy job to get, nor should it be. It’s something that has to be earned through hard work and a lot of self reflection. There’s nothing wrong with going deep in your own world of who you are and trying to find out what you have to say, while figuring out what your individual voice is. If you're a little different, be proud of that shine from that place because that's what’ll make you ultimately special. Don't worry about the goal. The horizon is there, but you don't just suddenly arrive at the horizon. You have to keep your eye on the moment of your life that you're living in.
The future is not here, and the past is gone. The only time you can correct is right now -- the moment you're living in. So, if you give a lot of attention and energy to the moment you're living in, the past behind you will make a lot more sense, and the future in front of you will open up. Focus on what you’re doing now and keep an open mind, but be realistic with yourself and have some idea of what you want to do.
Do you want to play shows? Do you not care? What kind of things do you want to do? All I ever wanted was to play music as often as I could, and I knew that if I wanted to do that full time, I would have to get out there and play some music for people. I found great joy in that, but as far as where I thought I would end up, I don't know. I never really gave it a lot of thought, I was just trying to survive and get a little further than where I was. I was just finding myself in any given moment. I was trying to get to that next step, and you do that for a while and you look over your shoulder and realize you're going somewhere.
M: So, basically you just lived your life in the moment with your music endeavors just to keep going in life.
C: You try to. That's the lesson I thought of all the time. Nobody's perfect and I've certainly had those moments where I get hung up, but in the end you have to bring yourself back to making sure you're doing the best art that you can do, because that's what this is about. If you want to be a songwriter and be that kind of person, then it’s about songs and music. If you make it about that first, then other things will be easier -- getting shows will be easier, and getting people to play with you will be easier. If you start getting really good with what you do, all of a sudden you'll find that there are people around that want to be a part of it.
M: Lyrically on your latest album, All Of This Life, the album is heavily personal deriving from your real life experiences since your first album came out. It’s also thematically very nostalgic and raw in emotion in its lyrical craftsmanship. With all 3 of you guys contributing to the songwriting process, how did the lyrical process for your newest album differ or evolve since you wrote Give It Back To You?
C: We all write the tunes, but the ideas have to come from a genuine place. For instance Alex, our bass player, came in with big ideas, and then there were tunes that I had a couple ideas for, but in the end if you're going to be apart of a group its got to be everybody working equally hard.
Sometimes one person may come in with a pile of ideas that are clearly the best ideas out of anyone in the group. You leave the door open and you don't get egotistical about who said what and whose idea this is. You all get together and try to do something together. You cannot be divided within your own group and expect to go out there in the world with your music.
If you can't stand together as a group, you will never survive what's going to happen when you go out there. It's tough out there, and you have to be ready and have to be a team so work as a team. Lyrics are personal to ourselves as a group and as individuals. We didn't want to rewrite -- nor should we have rewritten the first record. The first record was three guys that had done some touring, recording in a living room. We all had experiences from other bands. And then in the second record, a lot of stuff had occurred and we couldn't go into it and pretend that all that stuff hadn't happened. On the contrary, you know you want to ask yourself the deeper questions. What does this mean? What does this say about the journey in my life, and what's really important?
M: Lyrically, even though you guys all have different lyrical experiences, you guys are very open towards a collaborative lyrical process.
C: Absolutely. On this album, for instance, where Alex contributed 95% of the lyrics on a couple of the tunes, and that was never the case in other bands. It’s just this guy writes all the lyrics, and this guy does this, and now it's just like, hey, if you come to the table with a great story, great melody, and it sounds like it's from the heart, then lets sing that song. Let’s make it better.
Q: Your music consists of a nice blending of genres like Blues, classic Rock and Roll, and a bit of folk. Before learning you guys were from Los Angeles, I would have guessed Louisiana with how your sound is so authentically enriched with blues. When it comes to being exposed to so many music genres, how do you think genres of music or specific artists have inspired you to curate your own unique and independent sound as a band?
C: We listen to everything. In the course of an evening I may listen to Sam Cooke and then turn and listen to Boards Of Canada -- it's all over the map. I’ll be listening to old Appalachian stuff, then I’ll be listening to the Carter family, and onward. The next thing you know, I'm listening to The Stooges. I think the thing that you learn from all these genres is that there's something to be learned and there’s nothing wrong with being inspired from other places.
That's the melting pot that's created popular music. All those genres that you named are not exclusive to themselves. They came to be by being influenced by the things that were around them at the time they were created, and there's nothing wrong with listening to whatever floats your boat and letting it affect you as an artist. Does it obviously get reflected in what you do? Not all the time, but I think it sometimes can be as easy. There's a phrase in certain things that'll change the way I look at a verse or sing something. All I know is they always say “the better what you take in, the more pure and awesome it is, the better you're going to put out.”
If all you're doing is listening to inspiring music that makes you feel amazing, you're going to write stuff from a place like that. I’m especially aware of the fact that each person, or each group, is distinct and they weren't afraid to be who they are. I always say, if you can hear a couple bars of an Aretha Franklin song, you're gonna go, 'I know that's Aretha Franklin.' Three words and you'll know it's a Bob Dylan song. Finding your voice is something I think is really important.
Q: With the release of this new album and the tour you’re about to embark on, what are some personal introspective-looking future goals for The Record Company? For example, you guys have played Madison Square Garden through opening for John Mayer. Would you consider a goal of yours to headline your own show at iconic venues such as MSG, or is your goal as a band to continue spreading and playing your music on an international scale for people?
C: It's interesting. You’ll hear a lot of people talk differently about that subject, and I classify things into dreams, and then into goals, and I look into them as different. Goals are something that you are setting down and saying 'I want to do this.' The big goals would be to continue to create music that we believe in, and take it to as many people who want to hear it for as long as we possibly can.
What I spend my whole day thinking about is: how do we continue? When I’m not creating, I think about how do we continue to improve and make things better and, you know, keep going. As far as what you were thinking of, I would classify those as big dreams.
Dreams are a funny thing -- I don't necessarily try to picture myself doing anything, and that sounds goofy. I gave up on that a long, long, long time ago. What I try to do is learn from the people that inspire me, and I know that if I really work hard, things will happen and you can't anticipate them. It’s fun to dream, but whatever you're picturing in your mind is not what's going to come to pass, even if it's what you think is going to come. It's a day in your life, and it happens. It goes by and it's fun and it's great -- but that's not the driving force.
One of the best and most difficult days of my life was realizing very young that I had no choice but to play to make me complete and happy. I knew I had to fight to make that happen in my life as much as possible, and that it wouldn't be easy. That's my dream -- to keep playing everyday, to stay healthy, and to have a chance to play for a long time, and all the experiences that come along with that are just beautiful little additions to the story.
The Record Company just kicked off their second US leg of their “All Of This Life” tour. They will be in Boston headlining the House of Blues with The Mama Bear and Madisen Ward on October 19th.