Dead Covers Project Profiles: The Record Company
Los Angeles-based trio The Record Company may all hail from different places, but as the story goes it was the Grateful Dead (specifically Pigpen and Jerry's Old and In The Way) that brought them together. We snagged 5 minutes with these blues brothers just before they embarked on their summer tour.
Visit The Record Company's official website at therecordcompany.net/.
Tell us a little bit about how you formed The Record Company.
Chris Vos (Lead vocals, guitar, lap steel, harmonica): I moved to Los Angeles about 3 years ago and I was making music with a bunch of different people. I happened to meet Alex when I posted a list of influences online. He noticed it and gave me a holler. We ended up hanging out. At that time, I was looking for some good buddies. L.A. is a very beautiful city but it's also a challenging place to get in and start making new friends, especially musical friends who have the same interest. Alex had a real passion for vinyl records and old school music. We had a proper hang, just spinning records and then Marc happened over. Those two guys were friends from way back when they were in college. After about a year of hanging out, one evening we were listening to Hooker and Canned Heat's record Hooker'n Heat and we just really wanted to do something that was inspired by that kind of vibe. We got together a couple of days after that and we ended up recording some songs right then and there. We've been recording and playing ever since. We played our first show on January 2012 and I think we started jamming sometime in October of 2011. The first show was in this very living room but the first actual show was at a place called Harvard & Stone right here in LA.
What have you guys been up to musically?
Chris: We released a record called Superdead. It's a little ironic because it doesn't have anything to do with the Grateful Dead. It's a 6-song EP that we put out around mid-summer last year. We have a whole pile of new tracks that we are looking to put out over the coming year. We have a tour this summer. We should have all our tour dates up by the time the profile goes live.
Give us some insight into your connections with the Grateful Dead, first exposure, favorite experiences...
Alex Stiff (Bass, Guitar, Vocals): I'm probably the biggest Dead Head of the group. I got into them in high school. I used to listen to David Gans's Grateful Dead Hour. I would tape it on a little tape recorder. I was fortunate enough to go to about 10 Grateful Dead shows - mostly at Giants Stadium or the Spectrum in Philadelphia. Those were the 2 venues where a lot of people from Philadelphia would go to see shows.
I think what I love about the Grateful Dead is, there is such a wide array of experiences you can have at one particular show. You could love the songs. You could love the music. There is an out-of-body experience. You could meet new friends there. Musically - they would drift in and out of styles. That's really interesting for a lot of people. That's something that I really liked about them. I liked the spontaneity of the sets too - how you would never get same show twice.
Musically - what did you gravitate toward?
Alex: The stuff that you could dance to - your "Scarlet>Fire" medleys. Or when they would cover one of Dylan's songs, I always liked that. "Drums>Space." Some people go for the "high" of "Drums" and "Space." I love a lot of the early 70's songwriting but I also love Terrapin Station. I have quite a vinyl collection of Dead records and bootlegs. I think I have every imaginable Dead-related record on vinyl. It's quite a passion of mine.
What about the rest of you?
Marc Cazorla (Drums, Piano, Vocals): I only got to see them once. It was at Three Rivers Stadium in '95. It was that last tour. The area where I grew up, everyone was more into metal. That was sort of the standard of what you would listen to in high school. It was right around that time when bands like Phish and the jam scene started coming out of Vermont and making its way to Ithaca. I think it was the Phish album Junta, that we would listen to over and over. The musicality of it all kind of leads you ultimately back to the Grateful Dead. I really liked Workingman's Dead and American Beauty. I remember Reckoning - the acoustic side - we would just play that over and over again too. My friend went to the Highgate show that year. I think Dylan was with them. He came back and said you just have to go see this. The only real option left was Three Rivers in Pittsburgh so we trucked it down there. It was a big turning point for me musically. I was just starting to play the piano a little bit - stuff that you wouldn't really find on a Slayer album I guess [laughs]. I still love those bands too but like I said, it was a turning point, where there is this whole other world.
I remember in college too when I met Alex and he was way into it. We'd listen to the Pigpen era of the Dead - the more gritty blues and harp stuff. Our band in college would get hired to play 4-hour sets and we knew 3 songs so we'd run a tape of us doing an hour and half long "Shakedown Street." Oh and we'd do "Mr. Charlie." That was a big one. All that existed and I didn't really know about it until my high school period. It opened me up to more bluegrass. Old and in the Way - I loved that album. That was mind-blowing. My sister gave it to me. She said check this out - Jerry's playing banjo on it. It was incredible.
Chris: I've always loved blues - John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Junior Wells. You can tell from the Grateful Dead's early music, that they really loved blues and bluegrass as well. I also really love old country. I was raised on a farm and my grandpa, he played a lot of Hank Williams - a lot of the old stuff that you just can't reproduce. The first Dead I ever heard was Old and in the Way - which isn't really Dead at all but it was my first exposure. I heard it in college and I loved it. Workingman's Dead, as I'm sure most people can relate to, was always on. We listened to it constantly. American Beauty was actually one of the only vinyl records I bought before my whole house burnt down and all my vinyl with it. [laughs] That's another story entirely.
For me, I just love Jerry Garcia's entire deal. I think he had an amazing voice. There are a couple "Stella Blue"s that just bring you to your knees. I loved the fact that he could play loads of instruments. There is a video on YouTube of him warming up with the New Riders of The Purple Sage, sometime in the 70s. It might have been at the Fillmore and I could just sit there and listen to him play that pedal steel for hours and hours. It was all about the melody, when he was playing the melody, when he was singing the melody.
Based on what you've just told us, it sounds like "New Speedway Boogie" was a good fit for your Dead Cover.
Chris: When we decided to cover "New Speedway Boogie" - that came together because I knew coming into this friendship that Alex and Marc had had for a long time, how important the Dead was to them. We listened to a lot of the Dead when we first got together, kind of exposing each other to our influences. There was just a moment where we said, why don't we do a Dead cover? So we did it and we were really pleased with the way everything turned out and of course, we are honored to be on Dead.net.
There aren't a lot of places in the world where you can go, where people intend the best for you and where people mean well and are encouraging. I think the community of people around the Dead - we just played with Melvin Seals a little while ago - the crowd was so amazing and most of them had probably never heard of us! That's what I think I love the most about it.
Alex: The "New Speedway" cover was really a sacred thing to take on. We wanted to put our stamp on it. We wanted to do a good job. So I think if we were to take on other Dead cover, we'd treat it the same way, take care with it. We'd really want to do a great job. The music is so important to us.
Chris: Just like with Muddy Waters - we take a lot of time to play that kind of stuff too because there is such respect for certain bands. Playing them in your living room and hanging out is one thing, but bringing them to a crowd of people.
Alex: That said we might try to do "Easy Wind" [Laughs]. We'd like to try some of the early Pigpen stuff. Chris is very good at the harmonica and he's getting better on a daily basis.
Seems like everyone has a good Grateful Dead story in their arsenal. What are yours?
Marc: Alex and I were playing at a festival in a previous band up in Minnesota. Chris, we learned, was also there with a different band. When you play these kinds of shows, they give you passes so Alex and I thought, let's see how far this will take us. We ended up on the side of the stage when Bobby was playing with Ratdog. They did "Terrapin." We were right up there during the inspiration/light-up the crowd thing and I remember just thinking that was pretty awesome. I think we got thrown off the stage right after that [laughs].
Chris: My buddy runs a little guitar shop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Bobby Weir walked in. I believe he was playing the Marcus Amphitheater that night with Ratdog. I wasn't there but this is a tremendous story. Bobby walks in and he needs to buy a tuner. My friend who runs the shop - he's a huge Dead fan, but he's on the phone with a customer and for whatever reason, can't get off this call. The other guy who works at the shop starts telling Bobby about these tuners. He has absolutely no idea who he is talking to. He starts going over what a tuner is and how it works. Bobby buys the tuner and leaves. My friend gets off his call and says "dude you were just talking to Bob Weir! That guy has probably played in front of like 500 million people combined. I think he probably knows what a tuner is." It's funny, just imagining this icon, politely suffering through an explanation about how tuner works.
The Record Company is headed out on tour this summer. Catch them in a city near you.
6.22 The Satellite – Los Angeles, CA
6.26 Sunset Concert Series – Telluride, CO
6.28 The Green Room - Sheboygan, WI
6.29 Summerfest - Milwaukee, WI
7.2 Horseshoe Tavern – Toronto, ON
7.4 Quebec City Summer Festival – QC, QB
7.5 Quebec City Summer Festival – QC, QB
7.6 Montreal Jazz Festival
7.7 Montreal Jazz Festival
7.10 RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest – Ottawa, ON
7.12 Big Rib Festival – Rochester, NY
7.13 Piano’s – NYC
7.18 - Santa Monica Pier Twilight Concert Series (w/ Meshell Ndegeocello) - Santa Monica, CA
9.12 Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival – Fredericton, NB
9.14 Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival – Fredericton, NB