Sometimes new and flashy isn’t what is needed. Oftentimes we just want to experience something raw and genuine. The Record Company is a Los Angeles based rock and roll trio who show their appreciation for authentic music by keeping both the instrumentation and recordings of their tracks as simple as possible. Through their stripped down sound the audience is able to experience the artist’s emotions on a personal level as if having a conversation with the music.
Unlike most musicians and people in general, The Record Company is not afraid of exposing their imperfections to preserve their music’s natural state. The tiny flaws of these tracks recorded in their living room provide the perfect amount of relatability for listeners around the world. Receiving praise from top names such as Rolling Stone Magazine and Entertainment Weekly, it is clear the power this soulful trio possesses.
This past week I was privileged to have the opportunity to speak with their lead singer Chris Vos and gain some insight on the band’s creative process.
Jonathan Gerstl: Your band formed by bonding over old records. Do you still continue to collect records and what is your favorite record in your collection?
Chris Vos: Actually, the big record collector in our band is our bass player, Alex. He has been collecting for years and has a lot of great records. I’ve kind of adopted his collection because I’m addicted to buying guitars. So, I can’t have two expensive hobbies in my life. But he’s the record guy. He’s got thousands of them. I’m over there everyday. It’s our studio and where we do all our creative work. If I were going to pick a favorite record of his, it probably would be hard to choose. He has a really great blues collection, and I love Jimmy Reed. So, I love his Jimmy Reed albums. There is this one called “Just Jimmy Reed” that I really like. But then he also has stuff like The Ramones first record in its original pressing, which is all nice and scratchy. That one always sounds great when it goes on. It’s hard to narrow it down to one.
Jonathan Gerstl: What’s your favorite guitar to use on stage?
Chris Vos: Right now I got a handmade Telecaster thin-line, all black, which was made by a guy out here in L.A. His name is Reuben Cox. Without getting too dorky about the guitar, it’s completely hollow and it rings out. I’ve been looking for a guitar like this for a long time. It kind of combines all the chunkiness and awesomeness and personality of some of the older Silvertones and stuff that I like to play. At the same time it also plays like a Telecaster so it can handle the road and it doesn’t go out of tune all the time. Overall, it’s just a really great instrument.
Jonathan Gerstl: The Record Company has recently been praised by big names such as Rolling Stone Magazine for the raw sound of your records. I saw that your recent chart-topping album was recorded in your bass player Alex’s living room. Why did you decide to record in such a non-traditional setting?
Chris Vos: It just sounded right. We didn’t feel like we needed to go anywhere else. We felt like we were capturing the personality of the songs and really they were being represented as they should be. You got to believe your ears man.
When you’re making decisions like that as a band, it is really important to trust your instincts. We just knew that this was just a very accurate and good way to start this whole thing.
This was our first international release and we wanted it to sound raw. We wanted it to sound like it sounds when we are creating things in the living room. What I really like about where we recorded is because it’s in the living room, it’s not like we booked a week in the studio and have to just pound out these songs. That’s a great way to do it too, but the thing that’s kind of cool about the living room is it has a more laid back vibe. If we are on an idea we can get it done in a day. If we aren’t having any ideas, we can put on some records, and try and find some inspiration.
What’s really amazing is you actually record the song a lot of times on the day that it was born. Songs often develop over time, but catching a song on the day that it was born is something I haven’t been able to do with any other group and I’ve really enjoyed that.
Jonathan Gerstl: A lot of modern rock groups and modern bands utilize a lot of effects and layering in their songs. What inspired you to revive that old stripped down rock and roll sound?
Chris Vos: I think we really liked the idea of doing something simple. We are three guys and I think space is the fourth member of our band. Silence. The space between. Sometimes the amount of space you can fit between things will make everything sound bigger. The reason being is there is this silence that you are not recognizing in there and an emptiness that becomes a personality of its own. A lot of old recordings have that because they didn’t have the ability to record infinite tracks. They had four tracks or sometimes less to work with. It was more of a come as you are kind of vibe.
We were just really into that, we loved early punk rock, early rock and roll, electric blues, and of course Rolling Stones recordings always had that feeling. Even Beatle’s recordings had the feeling where it’s just enough in there, it’s perfect. Our music is not perfect, but we don’t want it to be. It can’t be perfect. Sometimes it’s better to let the flaws hang out. There’s a dog walking around in some of the tracks, you can hear its little paws, and we left it in. Why not? It didn’t ruin anything.
Jonathan Gerstl: Coming from a humble small-town upbringing, what would be one piece of advice you have for younger bands looking to take their music from their hometown to a national audience?
Chris Vos: I know this is going to sound extremely frickin old fashioned man, but I think wherever you are the first thing you gotta do is just sit and work on what you are, who you are, what you like, what you dig, and what you feel. Find out who the hell you are. Figure it out. It’s a tough thing to do. We all gotta go through it.
Some people just figure it out right away. Some people take some time. Find the people that flip your switch to be in your band. You gotta work hard. Everyday you wake up, you work, you come home, and you go to sleep if you want to do this full time.
Also, don’t be afraid of the word no because you are going to hear it a lot. Don’t let that word define you.
If you want to reach a national audience the first thing you should do is make sure that you are reaching your local audience. If you feel like the scene is played out and you are not really a part of it, and you think there is somewhere you want to go and try, go do that. You only live once.
But you can do things from anywhere now. For instance I grew up in Wisconsin and I moved to L.A. There are artists that have stayed in Wisconsin, like Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), who is now one of the biggest artists in the world. He did it all out of Eau Claire. He concerned himself with making the best music he could.
That’s the most important thing. Make the best music you can. If you feel like you are not fitting in, change bands, move to a new city, and take risks. That would be my advice. Be very aware of yourself. Nobody just makes everything good. For every one good song there is going to be fifteen terrible ideas, or worse, a hundred terrible ideas. Being able to recognize that within yourself that’s another thing too- as a group that is very important.
Jonathan Gerstl: In your bio I saw a quote of yours that really stuck with me, “I always think of any performance as one less time, not one more time.” Can you explain a little more about what you mean when you say that?
Chris Vos: Let me put it this way. You are gonna go see one of your best friends today and when you go see them you know that in a year they are going to move away to the other side of the world and you probably would never see them again. If you knew that, how much would that change your relationship right now? You would go and see them today and be like, “dude I love you, you are the best. I just want you to know that.” You would engage. But, if you thought that it would just go on forever, you don’t.
And it’s not gonna go on forever. Nothing goes on forever. And if you can wrap your arms around that and own it, it really motivates you. Everybody has a limited number of times they are going to do what they love. Jerry Garcia played thousands and thousands of shows and there was a point where he reached his number and he was gone, there were no more shows. He never knew when that was coming. So I hit the stage, and look at it as it is one less time in my life where I can do what I love. I am going to throw down and I am going to have no regrets when I walk off stage, or as few regrets as I can. Know that I put in the best effort that I can.
We all as a whole group share that philosophy, because that is the way it really is. If you start looking at things as, “Oh we gotta go do this again,” it’s not going to connect with you or anybody else. You gotta go in deep and pull something out of yourself. This is a very busy world. To get people to listen is tough these days. There’s a lot of options out there for how to spend your time. I think for us, it comes down to a very simple philosophy that we gotta hit the stage like it’s one less time and give it all we got, heal up, and do it again the next day.
There is only one thing I truly know and that’s that if you focus on the moment you are living, not what happened behind you or what’s gonna happen in front of you. When you’re playing, when you’re walking down the fucking street it doesn’t matter. If you focus on that moment, the road in front of you is gonna open up a little more because you are going to be making engaged and informed decisions. Now you don’t forget about the past, and you certainly don’t take your eyes off the future. But, you don’t want to live in your own head like you’re still in the past or you’re living for thirty days from now. Take on what you got going on right now and that will open things up and put them in perspective for you. That’s probably one of the biggest lessons I ever learned. If I am not living correct right now, how can I expect the next moment to be any better?
Jonathan Gerstl: I believe that every situation is a give and take. Having the opportunity to play for audiences all around the world, what is one thing that you have learned from your audiences?
Chris Vos: Every night you learn who your audience is. I don’t like it to feel like there is any difference between myself and them. Obviously we are doing different things, but we are all there creating something together. If you are shut off to that, how can you connect to the people? If the people are shut off, the band is going to play worse. You just try to put on the most honest show you can and the audience always teaches you.
Here is something young bands to learn from. You take a song out you really believe in. You take it out night after, night after, night and it just ain’t working. Nobody likes it. I’m not saying you should change it, but you gotta ask yourself some questions at that point. Do we really believe in this? Is this the way we want to keep going? Or maybe the song is not as good as we thought it was, and we should do some work on it. Now you have to be careful with that kind of stuff. You have to learn from the outside but you first have to know who you are on the inside. You can’t let opinions and feelings sway you unless they mean you well and really want you to improve. Even the harshest criticism, if it meant you well, you should probably listen to that. But you gotta know who you are first and what you are trying to accomplish. The audience will tell you if they like something or if they don’t like something. That’s for sure. The audience is the whole reason there’s a show. Without an audience it’s just practice in a bigger room. I think it is really important to love and respect the audience. They are giving you the privilege of having a gig by coming and supporting your band, so give them a good show for Christ’s sake.
Jonathan Gerstl: What is something you want to share with the world through your music?
Chris Vos: I always want to put forth something positive. Even if we are playing a sad song, I want it to have positive intentions. Peace, Love, and Positivity.
We play music that can sound really sad, angry, upset but it’s not saying this is terrible. But at the same time sometimes that’s good, that’s why music is there.
I think we are just trying to be positive. We are trying to put out a plus sign instead of a minus. We are also not going to sit around and pretend everything is all good all the time either. You write what you feel. If you are feeling good you are going to to write about feeling good. If you are feeling like you just got your heart ripped out of your chest you are gonna write about that, but it’s all positive intent.
Written by Jonathan Gerstl