“We learned early on that we loved the stripped-down approach to R&B, without a Hammond B-3 organ, a bunch of background singers, percussion, or a second guitar player,” says Rick Barrio Dill of Vintage Trouble. “And that puts pressure on us, in a good way.” It also gets results: How many bands, after all, get to open for the Who, the Rolling Stones, and AC/DC before releasing their second album?
The L.A.-based four-piece, which specializes in ’60s-style groove workouts and soulful ballads, spent three years on the road honing its tight sound after the release of 2011’s The Bomb Shelter Sessions. Eventually, Vintage Trouble hunkered down under the baton of producer/bassist Don Was to complete 1 Hopeful Rd., a 12-track tour de force that boasts a nuanced approach and shows the band’s theory of “devolving” in full effect.
Dill, whose lean, purposeful bass lines have nary a superfluous note, says this approach allowed the band to get to the heart of the new songs; creating a piece of work that had emotional impact became the album’s goal. “We wanted to make people feel something. It’s an intangible concept that can’t necessarily be taught. The more I think about it, though, I suppose we teach part of it to ourselves along the way.”
How do you interact with drummer Richard Danielson in Vintage Trouble’s lean-and-mean format?
Sometimes, where I feel the push is different from where Richard feels the push, and that creates this beautiful accident. Richard and I can lock in, no problem—but instinctively, I hear parts or short phrases that imply a rhythm guitar, phrases that dance in between what he’s doing. I love the interplay within the band. We definitely create a lot of noise for four dudes.
What’s the main lesson you’ve learned from so much touring?
The simpler, the better! Streamlining our approach to music and getting back to playing a song that moves somebody is where it’s at. Gear is cool, especially when it makes you feel better, but it’s not everything. So much of it is the intention that you put in and what you do with your hands.
How simple is “simple”?
For the early Vintage Trouble shows, I would show up to the gig with just my bass and a tuner. And I was mad that I had to put the tuner on the floor! I wanted it to be that simple. Even on my Fender Jazz Bass, I wire it with just a volume and tone knob; I have the pickups wired both all the way on, and I make adjustments using the tone knob.
What was it like to work with Don Was?
Horrible! [Laughs.] No, it was incredible. For a second, I paid attention to the fact that he was a bass player—one of the baddest bass players on the planet, actually—but that quickly went away. He’s such a disarming, cool guy, a real kindred spirit musically. If there was something that had to do with bass, sure, he’d say it. But he really listened to the entire band without necessarily focusing on one instrument. For him, as well as us, it’s less about a single instrument and more about the effect of the whole group playing together.
Vintage Trouble, 1 Hopeful Rd. [2015, Blue Note], The Bomb Shelter Sessions [2011, self-released]
Basess Fender American Vintage ’64 Jazz Bass, Fender American Vintage ’57 Precision Bass (with Aguilar AG 4P-60 pickups), Fender American Design Experience Vintage Precision Bass (with Aguilar AG 4P-60 pickups)
Rig Aguilar DB 750 head, Aguilar DB 412 4x12 cabinet
Strings D’Addario Chromes flatwounds (.050–.105)