Originally published in encore magazine, October 26, 2016
“We’re The Record Company and we play rock ‘n’ roll,” lead singer Chris Vos tells prior to his band’s performances. It’s been his signature greeting to crowds at most shows since their inception in 2011. It’s simple, matter-of-fact, and Vos compares the practice to The Man in Black starting his shows with, “Hello, my name is Johnny Cash.”
“Except we’re not as cool as he is and never will be,” Vos quips over the phone in an interview with encore. “I just said it one night and it felt right. That seems to be the switch, like turning a light switch on and that’s when the show starts. . . . I don’t know why it started, I just wanted people to know that we’re a rock ‘n’ roll band and we’re here to play that music, and we don’t care if it’s fashionable or not.”
Vos, who plays guitar and harmonica, is one-third of The Record Company trio, complete with Alex Stiff (bass, guitar, vocals) and Marc Cazorla (drums, piano, vocals). They’re all endeared to rock but find themselves inspired by blues, roots and all the “raw and cool music” that has come since the genre’s inception. While Vos cites the likes of Sturgill Simpson and The Revivalists as some of today’s best on the scene, he thinks of Cash, Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, or John Lennon, as most influential.
“The best concert I ever saw in my life was Ray Charles,” he remembers—a gift from his mother on his 15th birthday. “I actually cried at that show . . . he played ‘That Lucky Old Sun’ and I just lost it. I couldn’t believe it. It was the most beautiful moment I had ever seen. You see guys like that play [and] they teach you that you need to dig deep.”
Folks who regularly listen to 98.3 The Penguin likely know The Record Company’s “Off the Ground” and “Rita Mae Young.” Both are off of “Give it Back to You,” which was just released in February 2016 and quickly exploded on the West Coast music scene before making its way to the Atlantic. It’s not only an exciting time for Vos and company, whose growing fan base continue to buy out their shows, but for people who genuinely want new music in their lives.
“All the people coming to our shows are new music lovers or new music seekers,” he clarifies. “It’s so cool there’s a community of people out there that support new music because that’s what we are and certainly that’s what the bands who are out there supporting us are. . . . Thanks to 98.3 The Penguin for supporting us.”
With almost a dozen sold-out shows on this tour thus far, The Record Company is heading to the Port City on Sunday, Oct. 30. Originally slated for Bourgie Nights, the gig was (not surprisingly) moved to downtown’s larger Throne Theater in an attempt to meet demand.
“It’s a fun problem to have,” Vos says of the move. “It’s exciting and we’re grateful for that. They always say ‘the band sold it out,’ and I always say the band didn’t sell it out; the people sold it out—the people that support the music. That’s something that we’re very grateful for.”
Before forming The Record Company, Vos and his wife moved to Los Angeles from Wisconsin where he grew up on a farm. Vos’ father’s work schedule—seven days a week, waking up before dawn to milk cows only to return at 7 o’clock in the evening—set the foundation for what has become a deep-seated philosophy of working hard at whatever the craft may be.
“I know what ‘real work’ looks like,” he quips. “But you gotta give your all. . . . All the artists we look up to give it their all in their own way . . . . I look up to my dad because he works his butt off every single day, and he doesn’t expect a single word of ‘congratulations.’ He just does it, and I think you can carry that into performance.”
Being fully focused on what’s happening in the moment is also important to Vos—keeping an eye on the horizon while not becoming obsessed with it. Once this tour wraps up, The Record Company will take a much-needed break at the end of November, and then they’ll head back into the studio before closing out 2016. “But the lion’s share of focus is on the people coming to shows now,” he adds.
Vos and company have toured extensively for the last two or three years, and the songwriting process is all-encompassing for the trio. Nevertheless, when they’re on the road they’re continuously “planting seeds and harvesting” ideas.
“I think one of the major adjustments of being a touring group is understanding how to have the process of creating music,” he explains. “It’s different for everybody. . . . Out here you’re on the radio, you’re doing interviews, you’re playing shows, you’re traveling, so you don’t necessarily have the kind of time that you once did. Some bands have one guy that just sits in a hotel room and writes the next record—we don’t have that guy. it takes all three of us to make the sound of this group, and inspiration comes from all over.”
In Wilmington folks can expect a set heavy on “Give it Back to You,” which continues to grow and adapt in ways from stage to stage. Each performance is a special opportunity for them to leave everything on the stage night after night.
“The songs evolve with the experiences, and these are very new experiences on this tour,” he continues. “When it really lines up, there truly is no other experience like it on earth. But that’s true of any great moment. . . . Even if it hurts, it hurts good. . . . It’s all part of it, you gotta play your guts out. There’s no choice, the only decision at that moment is to let it all go.”
The Record Company has been joined by a variety of supporting acts on this tour, all of whom Vos says were handpicked, including this Sunday’s openers The Muddy Magnolias out of Nashville.
Readers can see them live at Throne Theater. Tickets purchased for Bourgie Nights will be honored. For more details, visit thronetheater.com.