Critically acclaimed as ‘one of the most intense new musical experiences out there’, with two of their three songs topping the Top-10 of Billboard’s AAA radio charts from their 2016 GRAMMY Award-nominated album, “Give It Back to You”, The Record Company is on the move.
Santa Cruz was the last show of their current tour. Not having been home in 3 months, Chicago Music Magazine definitely *got* them on the move. They do things their own way. Lead singer Chris Vos, expressed his love for The Stooges, John Lee Hooker, early rock & roll, early punk, country music from the legendary men who comprised the country supergroup The Highwaymen, Otis Redding, Nat King Cole, Patsy Cline, Beastie Boys, music of all eras from Hendrix to Hank…THESE guys…this SHOW is a big deal!! Chris Vos dives to the deepest level of music history, can easily rattle off his roots knowledge, and deserves to claim blues as part of his style. He’s done his due diligence.
If you are fortunate enough to catch one of The Record Company’s shows this summer, get ready to be roots-educated and revived.
The trio arrived from Chicago, after playing Thalia Hall just three days prior. Vos gushes over Chicago-great Jimmy Reed and tips his hat to him, providing credit were due; they were ‘listening to nothing but Jimmy Reed’ when they wrote “4 Days 3 Nights”. Jimmy’s impactful electric blues influence was evident.
Chris Vos, a genuine guy from Wisconsin, provided well-deserved props to opening band Baskery, the hard-working sound engineers, a great guy they look up to: JJ Grey, the amazing musicians playing this day, and of course their fans… He is a guy all about positivity and raw talent.
Super catchy, feel-good “Rita Mae Young” is the album’s second consecutive Triple A smash that cracked into the Top-10 the week after playing Santa Cruz’s American Music Festival. These guys are doing everything right, including being an unbelievable act to witness live. Chris swirls dizzyingly fast as he jams on the guitar or harmonica or an old-school vintage static mic. He’s in his own world on that stage.
Maybe not always so perfect, they play “Feels So Good”, ‘a song about feeling good, even if you did something a little bad….it’s not so bad.’
Before playing “Turn Me Loose”, Vos takes a moment to tune the guitar stating ‘the old guitar still thinks it’s in Chicago’, then proceeds to RIP it loose. So many guitar jams initiate uncontrollable mid-song crowd cheer. While security tames the crowd to sitting, Vos jams with a satisfying grimace. We’re enamored and they know it. Chris Vos is having a good time giving us dirty feelings. His guitar skills are special. He acknowledges his love of – and acceptance by – the roots community as he sits over his 1957 Fender Champ lap steel, Fullerton, California (more Vos props), which he has beat to shit since he got a hold of it 10-12 years ago.
He exhibits no shame in fanfare for his hero Steve Cropper, or geeking-out over his shared van ride from the airport with legendary drummer Chris Layton (Stevie Ray Vaughan and The Double Trouble) who’s with The Rides later in the day. The only thing he wanted to tell Chris in that van was ‘Dude, the first record I bought with my own money was one you played on’. Totally down to earth, yet with a cool untouchable vibe, this guy holds his own and is very approachable. I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions after the show.
They recorded their first album in a living room and didn’t think they would play festivals, or headlining a show at The Fillmore in San Francisco, Chris Vos exclaims, ‘it’s something we never saw ourselves doing.’
On the GRAMMY Award-nomination in the Best Contemporary Blues Album category with “Give It Back To You“:
Chris Vos: Talk about somewhere we thought we’d never be…
On his love for Steve Cropper:
Chris Vos: Like I was saying (during the show), if I ever met Steve Cropper, I’d pass out. I’d be stunned silent. It’s just those people that do music that touch you in a deeper place, in your heart. When you’re young, 11-14 and you hear Otis Redding for the first time, it didn’t matter to me that it was music that had been made long before I was born. It just meant that I’d never heard a singer like that.
Elizabeth Lauer: How did you get into music?
Chris Vos: I never remember not being into music. My Dad bought me a whiffle ball bat when I was a little kid, I think with the intention that I would use it like a normal person and play baseball, but they’ve got footage of me holding onto the couch, ‘cause I can’t walk yet, completely buck naked, except for diaper and whiffle ball bat pretending I’m singing. I didn’t know they had this, my ma showed me a couple years ago, she’s like “Look what I found”. I just told her I was doomed from day 1. She’s like, yes, you were, you would just sit in your diaper and cry and cry until I’d put on music and then you’d be quiet as a mouse until the record was over.
* Chris and I share the same roots of Wisconsin. His native accent is apparent; together we place stake in the common small farming community values we were both raised.
Liz: So you just got back from playing in Chicago, ya?
Chris: Hell yeah man, Chicago has been unbelievable to us because XRT (WXRT, Chicago’s finest rock radio station) has been really great to us, they put on the shows. That was the first time we ever soldout 2 nights anywhere, so that was really special and we got to record some stuff for XRT. I grew up with XRT because we are far south enough to get the station, especially if I just drove a couple miles up the road…so when I was 16, trying to go to concerts, I’d always tune in to XRT when I got up towards I-94. Chicago has been one of the best cities for us. It’s been an amazing place. So much music that’s been made there is a big influence on us. 2120 South Michigan Avenue, Chess Records, is a place I will just go and touch the side of the building whenever I can, just because I want that vibe. Muddy Waters, “Hard Again” was a seminal record – that’s how I learned to play the slide was listening to Johnny Winter, and I know that’s post Chess, but we all know that Muddy got his start there; Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf, Chuck Berry, and Etta James. I love ‘em all. It’s really important I point this out because Chicago Music has had a huge influence on our lives.
Liz: Are you traveling by bus?
Chris: We are traveling by bus this tour. It wasn’t that long ago we were in a mini-van. When we put out the record, we were doing it all by ourselves. And then, as things got bigger, venues got bigger, there was too much work to do by ourselves, then you got too many guys to fit in a van. You know you’re out on the road for 3 months at a time, you can’t physically keep up with the schedule if you don’t get some decent sleep. The best part of the bus is you can fall asleep in Detroit and wake up in Chicago, as opposed to sleeping 3 hours, then driving to a show, performing, and doing it again and again, because you play 6 days a week and take 1 day off…that’s how it works.
Liz: So what’s next for you?
Chris: Well, we’re going home for 8 days, taking a little break. Then we play The Fillmore, The Fonda, and Belly Up. We’re going to be opening for My Morning Jacket in Cleveland & Cincinnati, and then going up to Madison’s Shake the Lake Festival. So staying busy through the summer, then rolling on to do our second record.
On mastering music knowledge:
Chris Vos: I wanted to know who my heroes hero’s were. So that chased me all the way back to the Alan Lomax recordings, from him doing Appalachia stuff to field hollers to gospel church stuff, Mavis Staples.
On Mavis Staples:
Chris Vos: We are on the same label. Pops Staples, Mavis Staples, is one of my favorite singers of all time. When I met Mavis for the first time, she was so warm and friendly, she gave me this big hug and I said to her, Mavis, your father was one of my favorite, if not my favorite singer of all times…and she just looked at me and said ‘Say it again’. So sweet. She gives so much positivity that it will literally carry you for weeks.
The Record Company Setlist:
“On the Move”
“Baby I’m Broken”
“Hard Day Coming Down”
“4 Days 3 Nights”
“Rita Mae Young”
“Feels So Good”
“Turn Me Loose”
“In The Mood For You”
“Off The Ground”
The Record Company Concert Review by Elizabeth Lauer – Santa Cruz American Music Festival 2017 at Aptos Village Park in Aptos, California
The Record Company photo credit Elizabeth Lauer