From the humble beginnings of a Craigslist ad to a nomination for “Best Contemporary Blues Album” at this year’s Grammy Awards, Los Angeles-based rock band The Record Company is the perfect cinderella story in today’s music community. Formed in 2011 by Chris Vos (vocals, guitar, lap-steel), Alex Stiff (bass, piano), and Marc Cazorla (drums), The Record Company’s soulful brand of American blues rock has caught the attention of audiences and critics alike with electrifying live performances and raw studio recordings.
In February of 2016, the trio released their debut full-length album, Give It Back to You, which was recorded in bass player Alex Stiff’s home studio and released via Concord Records. The record has since grossed millions of streams, placed #30 on Rolling Stone’s “Best Albums of 2016” list, and was recently nominated for “Best Contemporary Blues Album” at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards. Building off the tremendous momentum of 2016, The Record Company launches into 2017 at a meteoric pace with award ceremonies and monumental live performances to look forward to.
After performing in New Orleans with the Marcus King Band in November, The Record Company is scheduled to return to the Big Easy on Friday, April 28th at Republic NOLA with the North Mississippi Allstars & Anders Osborne present N.M.O. The show is part of NYC-based promoter Nolafunk’s Annual Concert Series During Jazz Fest, which this year also includes performances by moe., Twiddle, VooDoo Dead, and many more.
Ahead of their big performance during Jazz Fest, I had a unique opportunity to catch up with frontman Chris Vos to talk about his Grammy nominated album, the origins of The Record Company, his relationship with New Orleans, and much more. Tickets for The Record Company & NMO at Republic NOLA are currently on sale and can be purchased at this link. Additional information on all other concerts in the NolaFunk Series During Jazz Fest can be found here.
CEG: Hey Chris, thanks for taking some time to catch up ahead of your performance with the North Mississippi Allstars and Anders Osborne’s N.M.O. on 4/28 at Republic NOLA! To kick things off here, tell us about your past experiences performing in New Orleans. What is it like performing in such a unique, historic epicenter of music?
Chris Vos: This past year was my first time performing in New Orleans and I loved it. It’s a place I always dreamed of seeing and it lived up to and exceeded anything I had thought. It’s such an honor to perform in a place that has shaped the course of music all over the world for such a long time. The ideas and artistry that have come out of New Orleans changed the landscape of music forever, so standing on those streets and being in those venues makes you feel like you are standing and performing in the presence of a continuing living history of music. It’s a thrill.
CEG: In what ways have the music and musicians of New Orleans influenced you as an artist?
CV: Bands like The Meters really hit me when I heard them as a kid. They have all that slinky amazing rhythm, cutting grooves, and melodies on the bass that stick out and stick with you. Of course all the great jazz musicians from throughout New Orleans history have shown others to follow their creativity wherever it leads them, and to play in the moment.
CEG: Your band’s first full-length album, Give It Back to You, was released in February and then nominated for “Best Contemporary Blues Album” by the Grammys in December. How does it feel to achieve such a remarkable accolade so early in your band’s recording career?
CV: It was a shock to us, we didn’t see it coming really. When I heard we were nominated I felt very honored and was very grateful. We all have been touring in bands and making records since we picked up our instruments. Each of us were always just plowing ahead and never thought something like that could or would happen. Now that it has, we are just thankful for the kind recognition and we will continue to work hard making the best and most honest music we can.
CEG: The Record Company has released a handful of EPs and singles prior to Give It Back to You. How would you describe Give It Back to You, and how does the album compare to your previous body of work?
CV: We recorded the album in our bass player’s living room and mixed it ourselves. We wanted it to be raw and to play well as a whole record from beginning to end. We are a rock and roll band that cares a lot about the roll, that’s were all the blues/soul/swing is, so we tried to keep that in there. Not to make perfect recordings, but rather to make recordings that show who we are and have the vibe of the song out in front. We have held to that concept through all our writing and recorded work. Keep it simple, raw, honest, and don’t be afraid of imperfections because that is where some of the greatest magic lies.
CEG: You’re a musician with several weapons in your arsenal, including (but not limited to) vocals, guitar, lap steel, harmonica and pedal steel. Do you have a favorite instrument? Are there any others you’re planning to to add to your sonic stockpile?
CV: I love anything that has strings and will try to play it. I don’t really have a favorite, but I did feel a real connection with lap-steel guitar when I picked it up. Honestly though, I love all instruments and I’m always looking to discover a new one that can bring out new ideas.
CEG: Taking a step back here, tell us about the first chapter of The Record Company. How did you, Alex and Marc first get together to form the band?
CV: I grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, lived in Milwaukee for a while, and then moved to L.A. because my wife had a job opportunity. Once there, I realized I was in a really big place, far bigger than I had ever been before. I put up a Craigslist ad just out of desperation to meet some similar minded players. Alex, our bass player, happened to see it and liked my list of influences. He gave me a call and we struck up a friendship. Alex and Marc (our drummer) were already friends and had played together before, so that connection was natural. We hung out as friends for about a year listening to old vinyl records and occasionally jamming late night. One evening we were listening to a John Lee Hooker record from the 70’s called “Hooker N Heat” and we were so floored by the honesty of it we decided to get together the next day, jam some songs, and hang up some microphones to see how it sounded. We recorded that first day, listened to the playback, and decided we were a band right then and there. After that, we just kept on going.
CEG: Every band has a different, unique approach to creating new music. What process does your band take when writing and recording new material?
CV: Ideas can come from anywhere, it is a true collaboration. Everybody has a voice and has the floor for ideas. Whenever one of us has a song idea the other two are right there with ideas to help make it a complete song. Not one of us could write a song and have it sound like us, it takes all of our ideas to make that happen.
CEG: Looking ahead, what’s in store for 2017? Can we expect any new releases or standout concerts / festivals?
CV: We are going to be releasing new music and playing a bunch of shows and festivals. We’ll be touring the US again, going overseas to Europe, UK, and Australia, and we’ll be coming through New Orleans. We can’t wait to come back!
CEG: Finally, I like to end with open forums. Is there anything we haven’t covered here that you’d like to share with your fans?
CV: I’d just say that if you are already a fan of the band, thank you so much for the support. If you have never heard of us then come on down to a show and have some fun with us. We play rock n’ roll and aim to get you moving. We live to play live. Thanks everybody!