The Record Company had to answer a tricky question on their second full-length album: How do you follow up a debut that became an unlikely hit, thanks to feeling fresh, raw and off the cuff? The Los Angeles trio moved from drummer Alex Stiff ’s L.A. living room, where they cut Give It Back to You and two previous indie EPs, into an iconic Hollywood studio, Boulevard Recording. But they followed the same basic template: just play.
“We never want to polish all the edges off,” says guitarist/singer Chris Vos. “You have to be what you are. I embrace the looseness as a guitar player and as a band.”
The resulting album, All of This Life, continues with the same template the band has followed since they got together to jam in 2011, as exemplified by the hard-charging lead single “Life to Fix,” fueled by Stiff’s hooky slide bass riff and Vos’ grungy blues guitar and lap steel chops.
“We knew what kind of band we wanted to be before we actually formed,” Vos says. “We just started jamming and knew it sounded like a band. It was the first time in my life where the band immediately sounded like it was supposed to. We all knew we had something cool going.”
The band’s approach may not have shifted much, but their sound has matured and deepened after supporting their debut album with some 250 shows over 18 months. Starting in clubs, they moved to theaters with Buddy Guy before finding themselves at Madison Square Garden opening for John Mayer.
“You learn a lot about your sound playing all those shows and moving up the venue ladder,” Vos says. “You naturally open up, maybe playing harder or turning the amp up and filling the space.”
The same principles held true in the studio, as Vos turned from the beat-up Teisco Del Rey a friend fished out of a Dumpster to a custom-made Rueben Cox Thinline. “The Thinline is really open on the top end so it’s not a tight, ‘under-control’ sound,” Vos explains. “I’m using a Vox AC15 and a Fender Deluxe and turning them up enough to get that breakup. That said, recording in the living room, there are things like neighbors to consider.”