Grammy-nominated outfit The Record Company recently made their eagerly anticipated return to the UK as special guests to Rival Sons. Having previously opened for Blackberry Smoke several years prior, and more recently Trombone Shorty, their reputation certainly proceeded them.

The LA-based trio are currently getting ready to turn back the clocks with the release of Early Songs and Rarities. This album, which is being released in the US in time for Record Store Day, features recordings from when the band were first cutting their teeth. Several of the tracks aren’t available on any other recording. And if that’s not enough there is also room for the group’s blues rock takes on the likes of The Stooges and The Beastie Boys.

National Rock Review recently caught up with the band’s frontman Chris Vos before their show with Rival Sons in Liverpool to talk about their new rarities album, touring with Bob Seger and Blackberry Smoke, along with their fondness for the UK.

I know that you have been out on tour with Blackberry Smoke again in the US quite recently. Do you feel that they are a good match for The Record Company stylistically?

Absolutely, yeah. They’re a great match. You know, they’ve got a lot of blues in their sound, a lot of Southern rock and we have. Our roots are in the blues and early rock and roll. Our favourite bands that we were kind of listening to when we started out was a lot of Chicago and Detroit blues such as John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf. And getting obsessed with early Stones records like Stones Now! and stuff like that and The Kinks.

But, we also liked The Stooges – it’s like one of the biggest influences on me personally. When we were forming the band, I saw The Stooges at The Palladium in LA with Mike Watt on bass. So that kind of gave us the idea or especially where I was coming from – like they can be a bit cantankerous and put a lot of energy into the live show. Do you know what I mean? So that’s kind of where we’re coming from there. But it’s a good fit – Blackberry smoke is a great fit, Rival Sons is a great fit. We are good with the rock and roll bands. We can also play with like Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats or St Paul and the Broken Bones, we can do those kinds of things too.

I know that you have also just finished touring with Bob Seger on his final tour as well. What was that experience like?

It was amazing. Like we’re from Los Angeles and we played The Forum, you know what I mean? So, one of the things that was cool about playing with Bob was he was very approachable and super friendly. The way they would soundcheck, I don’t know if it was just an old school thing or not, but they played in their soundcheck like they were playing to a full room of people. And it was just kind of watching how he commanded the stage, his band and everything. It was a great lesson in how to always give it your all, no matter what, at every minute.

So it was funny because he’d come in and he’d soundcheck and they would soundcheck at like full blast. He was singing his ass off and that was an eye-opener. I’m not saying that when we soundcheck, I’ve tried to mail it in, but it just kind of made you realize that he only had two speeds either it was he wasn’t doing it or he was doing it 100%. So he hits the stage and it’s just a hundred per cent and it just kind of was a great lesson in that. And then just being on stage, looking down and his setlist would be laying there and you’d see 25 timeless classics. You just think, wow, that all came out of one person. And just being around that every night you, if you’re watching the show.

Springsteen had a thing that he said a long time ago that always stuck with me – it’s like the greats have left lessons for us to learn, if you care to watch and learn. And if you’re around a performer like that, just even seeing how they handle their business on a day to day basis, it really can teach you a lot. Like we did The Forum, he came out and he watched our whole soundcheck and he was the only audience member and he was like in the 10th row. And at that point, we had built a rapport and he was like, sounds great. And I said from the stage, it was hilarious I’m like, we played a song. So Bob, you just want to hear the whole set? He goes, play it.

I know you have toured the UK a few times now. Do you feel that the UK audiences get what you are all about?

Yeah, man, it’s awesome here. Yeah, I love it here. I mean we’re trying. Our influences are drawn from the roots of it all – of rock and roll and blues and punk and all that. I mean the most famous bands from here be it The Stones, The Beatles, The Kinks to The Clash, you know, on and on and on. It’s like they all are the forefathers and foremothers – like they all were drawn from that same well. So I think it feels very natural to me whenever we play the UK – it really does. Like you said when we came over here the first time, nobody knew who we were. We hadn’t even had a record out yet, there was no possibility for anyone to have heard anything we had done really for those shows.

I understand that you’re getting ready to release your Early Songs and Rarities album on the 29th November. Can you tell us a little bit about that album and how the whole project came together?

Yeah, when we formed the band, and even the Give It Back To You record – our first record, with that record, we recorded it and mixed that album ourselves. And we had a lot of sessions from the earliest days of the band that had just kinda been laying around. And we’re all big fans of vinyl records, hence, the name of the band’s The Record Company – no coincidence. There was an opportunity to do something for Record Store Day in the States. We got an opportunity to do it.

They said, do you have an idea? And we said, Hey, we’ve got all these tracks laying around from the first four years of us being a band. You know, we put out a couple of EP’s, but they kind of have gone out of circulation. You can’t get these songs anywhere else right now unless you own one of those original disks. And even a few of these tracks have never been on anything. So I think like four of them have never been released anywhere. So there’s some good stuff on that.

We’ve got a Stooges cover on there – we’re going to be putting out a version of I Want To Be Your Dog, that’s like way different. There’s a Beastie Boys cover on there – So What Cha Want, and it’s done just kind of in our own way. And then there’s a bunch of original stuff on there that just has never appeared on a record.

And we’re going into our third record now and we’re writing it. And it it just felt like a good time to kind of get the rest of that material out there. There were people that kind of wanted it, had asked about it, because there was some leaking of it. People would be like, where can I get this? And we’re just like finally like, well let’s just put it out then. So it’s all like the right time, you know?

You put out your sophomore album last year, which is All of This Life. I mean it went into quite a few of the Billboard Charts in the top five. Were you kind of overwhelmed by the response to that record?

The first record Give Back To You, we got nominated for a Grammy on that and some other stuff and it was like, I can tell you honestly that I remember a lady that was working on our label who’s become a good friend of mine and has since retired from the label now – she had been around,  she was 35 years in the business. One of those great spirits that you can tell loves bands. And the first day I met her, she goes to me – Off The Ground, that was on our first record, she goes – that songs got legs, which I couldn’t believe somebody used that phrase. And she said, songs got legs baby, and it’s going to chart. And all three of us laughed when she said chart because, I was like, bands like us don’t chart.

So, you know, when it did happen, it was an unexpected thing. So, but you know, it’s cool man – if we get on some radio, that’s great. It wasn’t what we had intended when we started, but it’s like, well, you know, we were just trying to do whatever that we dug. But one thing that we have tried to do, which I think is also a big thing about UK bands is, and probably because of where you all start, when you think of like Stones and Beatles and stuff, it’s songs – you’ve gotta have them. Like, you’ve gotta sit down and write some songs. Like jamming and playing is cool. It’s like, but why is the Grateful Dead the biggest jam band of all time? Why do they still have relevance today? Yes, people like the extended part of the show, but the fucking songs are so good. Do you know what I mean? Why are we talking about the Stooges? Their songs are so good. The Clash, there are songs. Kinks, there’s songs. And you go to the blues guys, like my favourite blues guy is Jimmy Reed, he had Bright Lights Big City, you know, it’s gotta be the song.

So even though we weren’t thinking about the radio, we were right trying to write the best songs we could write. So it wasn’t our aim. But I think the reason is that we put a lot of energy into the writing of songs. And we still do. Like we don’t believe in, I’ll write two songs and then do whatever we want on the rest of the album. It’s like no, we’re going to put together 10 songs that fit together on a record. There might be songs that we felt were good enough to be on the record that don’t make it on the record because it doesn’t sit in the flow of the record the right way.

There’s one thing that sticks in the back of my mind from that last time I saw you playing with Blackberry Smoke and I remember you saying something along the lines of you chose the name The Record Company because you never thought you’d get a deal. Is that right?

Yeah, that was part of it. We were in Los Angeles and we were looking at what was happening around us at the time. And we’re like, yeah, right, we’re never going to get a record deal. So we were like, fuck it, we’ll be The Record Company and cut out the middleman, you know? And then when we got a deal, it was hilarious. I’ll never forget the guy who was working out the deal. And he’s like, do you know how insanely difficult it is to sign The Record Company to a record company in a contract? So, we always say it, we can joke around with the label. We all say, well, you guys be the label, we’ll be the company.

I thought it also makes it quite difficult to Google as well, I guess.

Yeah, well that was another thing that people said at the beginning. They’re like well, you know, it’s going to be tough to Google. It’s like, well, we’ll just hang around long enough till it starts showing up.

Early Songs and Rarities by The Record Company will be on the 29th November.

Words and Photos by Adam Kennedy

About The Author

Adam Kennedy is an experienced music photographer based in northeast England. He has been shooting concerts for several years, predominantly with the band Vintage Trouble. In 2013, he was one of their tour photographers, covering the UK and Ireland tour including the headline shows and as opening act for The Who. As an accomplished concert photographer, Adam's work has been featured in print such as, Classic Rock Blues Magazine, Guitarist Magazine, Blues in Britain magazine, broadcast on the MDA Telethon on ABC Television in the US, used in billboard advertising for Renaissance Hotels in the US, and featured online via music blogs such as Uber Rock and Guitar Planet. He is also the official photographer at Newcastle Rock and Blues Club.