The rock/roots trio of Chris Vos (guitar, lead vocals, harmonica), Alex Stiff (bass, guitar, vocals) and Marc Cazorla (drums, piano, vocals) has already been hailed by LA Weekly for “making bluesy music that would sound more at home in a sweaty, backwoods Mississippi juke joint,” while Time Out Los Angeles has described their sound as “reminiscent of some of the best acts of the ’50s and ’60s—like if John Lee Hooker and the Stooges had a well-behaved love child.”
The comparisons are apt.
“We have been influenced by early electric blues, so some of that influence certainly shows,” acknowledges Vos. “But we’re just as influenced by bands like the Stones and The Stooges as we are by blues legends like Hooker, Muddy Waters and Jimmy Reed.”
Wherever it comes from, Vos, Stiff and Cazorla have clearly come up with a fresh take on classic rock ‘n’ roll that has proven appeal: Their music, well ahead of a record deal, has been featured in over 30 commercial, film, and television placements including the theatrical trailer for Last Vegas and ads for Coors Light, Subaru, Showtime’s Shameless, ABC’s Nashville, CBS’s CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and a current ad for Miller Lite.
Meanwhile, The Record Company has developed a reputation as a live act worthy of sharing the stage with such top attractions as B.B. King, Grace Potter, Trombone Shorty, Buddy Guy, Charles Bradley, Robert Randolph, The Wood Brothers, Social Distortion, and Blackberry Smoke—with whom they toured the U.K. and Europe. On the strength of two EPs (Superdead, released in 2012, and Feels So Good, in 2013), the band received strong college and Triple A radio format airplay and performed at the Montreal Jazz Festival, Milwaukee’s Summerfest, NAPA Valley’s Bottlerock, Ottawa Folkfest, the Quebec City International Summer Festival and the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival.
“Our sound has a lot of early rock n’ roll but with a greater emphasis on the drums and bass,” says Vos. “We aim to make the speakers move with our recordings.”
The group writes, rehearses, records and mixes all of its music in the same living room in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Los Feliz where it originated.
“It all comes from our desire to write the best songs we can–and the most honest music that we can,” says Vos. “We try to mix in different elements to keep it fresh. For example, our song ‘On the Move’ has just harmonica, bass, and drums with no guitar. ‘Don’t Let Me Get Lonely’ has all acoustic instruments–including acoustic bass–to capture more of the rockabilly vibe that we dig, that is in so much of the stuff we listen to.”
The themes and stories in the lyrics of the songs are all draw from the threesome’s collective experiences.
“They are just stories we wanted to tell,” Vos continues. ”They can be simple or complex, depending on what the music is calling for. Music and melody usually precede the lyric for us.”
He notes, too, that each of The Record Company members play several instruments both live and on record.
“We work hard to incorporate them into the music as creatively as possible,” he says. “So besides the typical guitar, bass and drums, we also mix in harmonica, dobro slide, lap slide, pedal steel, piano, etc. It’s about making the right choices for the songs and keeping things as engaging as possible throughout the album–without compromising the integrity of the song.”
“Off the Ground” is the first single from Give It Back to You.
“It was one of the last songs we wrote for it,” continues Vos. “The opening riff is Alex playing slide on a bass with a little delay on it, then Marc comes in with the drums, and I come in with my old junky lap steel guitar that I love so much. I was trying to capture a Hound Dog Taylor-esque sound on the slide guitar. We wanted to give the bass a fresh approach so Alex started playing the riff with a slide and we loved the way it sounded.”
The song is already making noise, thanks to a music video and its usage in the Miller Lite commercial.
“It’s cool to have a song in a commercial for my dad’s favorite beer!” says Vos, who like Miller beer, hails from Wisconsin.
“I grew up on a working dairy farm in Wisconsin that my family still owns and runs. It is something I am very proud of: I grew up milking cows, driving tractors, and bailing hay. Then I moved out to L.A. in 2010 to chase the dream of writing and playing music full-time.”
Not knowing anyone in his new hometown, Vos started jamming around.
“I was jamming with some good people but I wanted a full-time thing, and ended up getting in touch with Alex. We hit it off as friends and he invited me to his pad to listen to some old vinyl records and hang out. It was there that I met Marc.”
They immediately recognized that they shared the same music tastes, and enjoyed jamming together. One night they listened to the classic John Lee Hooker-Canned Heat album Hooker N’ Heat, and were galvanized.
“Later that week I came back to Alex’s with an amp,” Vos recalls. “The three of us set up some microphones in the living room and recorded ourselves running through some songs. We were listening to the playback and decided right then and there that we had to be a band.”
After recording a few tunes, “we hunted down every email address we could and started mailing stuff out to everybody basically saying, ‘Hey! We just formed this band in our living room. Listen to this for five seconds.’ Out of those first recordings we got booked into the Montreal Jazz Festival and Harvest Festival in Canada, and got on our first tours.”
They settled on the band’s name after discovering that The Record Company was somehow available.
“We all agreed right away that it had to be the name,” says Vos. “Given the way we started, where we are from, and what we love to play, it makes perfect sense.”
But making records notwithstanding, it’s playing live that sets this Record Company apart.
“I always think of a performance as one less time on stage–not one more,” Vos concludes. “Nobody can say how many shows you get to play in your life. So we try to play our guts out, leave it all on the table, and have fun doing it.”