Rick Barrio Dill, Here comes Trouble! – Bass Musician Magazine, September 2015 Issue…
Vintage Trouble is a band that approaches music the hard way – they work hard and play even harder. Following the release of their independent debut, 2011’s The Bomb Shelter Sessions, the group toured incessantly, which as their reputation developed, found them getting the coveted opening slots for The Rolling Stones, The Who and most recently AC/DC. When touring at that level, what musician would want that to stop? And so, the shows kept coming.
Four years later, the band returned to LA to start work on their long-awaited sophomore album 1 Hopeful Rd. [Blue Note Records]. Powered by the aggressive yet still grooving drive of bassist Rick Barrio Dill, the Don Was-produced album – a wicked bassist in his own right – features the band’s unique brand of smooth soul, crackling blues and hell-bent boogies.
Currently doing promotional rounds for the new album, Barrio Dill is enthused for their upcoming US headline tour… but he also reflects on the band’s singular position:
“It’s funny, they say that you have your whole life to write the first record and then 6 months to work on the second but for us, it was the opposite! I don’t think we stopped at all since that first gig which happened three weeks after we all got together and became a band!”
Can we start at the beginning? I know that there was a flurry of activity that led to a wealth of material for you guys even before you recorded the first album.
In LA, we started off playing residency gigs where we would have to cover three one-hour slots and to do that, a ton of material was written right away in those first six months. And ultimately, The Bomb Shelter Sessions was just us getting the first ten songs down on tape! We had the next ten songs ready to go a couple of weeks later!
Did any of that material get performed live?
Yes, some of it was played in LA and then when we started spending more time in the UK, we would play some of those songs in our headline shows there. When we began playing opening slots for The Who, those would be half-hour sets so we naturally focused on songs from The Bomb Shelter Sessions. But we had been carrying a lot of material, a lot of really, really strong material for the last four or five years.
Vintage Trouble toured for a long time solely on the strength of the debut album. Were you itching to get back into the studio to record those new songs?
(Laughs) When it came time to do this record, they almost had to force us to get off the road to go record! I don’t even know if we would have stopped touring if it wasn’t for Don Was and this opportunity with Blue Note. We ended up turning down a lot of stuff and forced ourselves to get off the road. Once that happened, we found we were sitting on a bunch of songs; I wanna say 25-30 songs. While we were working on those songs during pre-production, we went through a bit of a creative spurt that had built up while we were on the road and ended up with another 10 or 12 tunes! So out of those 37 or 40 tunes, we had to, thanks to the help of Don Was, choose to get it down to 25, get it down to 15 and ultimately, the 12 that we chose for this record. There’s a lot of material that’s still not on this record (laughs)!
How much of that new material made the final cut?
I wanna say that a third is brand-new to us and then 2/3’s of it was material we’d been carrying around.
How do you approach being in the studio?
We’re a live band and I look at recording as to how I might look today if I got a haircut. Take a picture and that’s how I would in that moment. But a few days from now, I’d look a little different. So the songs are going to sound different from how we recorded them not three months ago because we’re constantly changing. We don’t play to clicks; we never have a set order for things. Adrenalin plays an important role in what we do… that’s what keeps it fresh.
What role does the bass play in such a stripped-down setting?
Most of the time, I view the bass as rhythm guitar and traditional bass at the same time. We are a big-sounding group – Nalle (Colt) is a brilliant lead guitar player and some of his guitar lines can be like horn parts and Richard (Danielson) is playing percussion and drums at the same time and Ty (Taylor) is such a powerful vocalist and his phrases dance in between what the instruments are playing.
Any challenges to roping in the band’s natural intensity in the studio?
Sometimes, we listen back to a take and think, “Ok we’ve got to strip back”. Ultimately, I think when we do get to that place, that’s when we realize that we’re onto something, where we can relax and let the parts speak. There’s no question that you feel the pressure that you have to cover ground and it took us a little while to understand there are times when you have to do that and times when it’s ok to let things breathe. Of course it is possible to go too far and then you have to back up (laughs) and start stripping away! We’ve always called it “devolving”. That’s why I say sometimes we’ll have a version of a song and you listen to it a year later and we’ve learned things about it that are either less or more than was needed based on repetition or playing it in front of people. That’s the beautiful thing about music, and letting it be organic – it never has to be the same; you should be able to learn from it all the time and change accordingly.
What is something that you have learned from the past five years?
One of the things that we learned early on, and that we constantly get reminded of, is that music is how you affect people. It’s almost as simple as that – can you affect people? You can shoot fire out of the drums (laughs), you can do all kinds of pyrotechnics, you can jump around, you can do all kinds of shit but at the end of the day, nothing beats the power of playing a song and watching it connect with people. Literally, people have cried and fell down in front of us over a song like Nobody Told Me. Or they’ve come to a show and they’ve tattooed the lyrics on their back because a friend of theirs committed suicide and they used a song like that to pull them out of it. Or a song that makes a call to action like Not Alright By Me.
Continuing on this track, is there a song on 1 Hopeful Rd. that holds that appeal?
Absolutely, one of the songs that I love is called Run Like The River and its basically, about the world around you that will tell you what you can and cannot do. And ultimately, if you stay strong to your vision or what you believe on the inside, and don’t listen to a lot of those adversarial voices, in the end, you can triumph.
No pun intended but the message behind that song seems to run deep.
From a self-empowering standpoint, we’re older guys and there are a lot of people that have told us all along the way that “you should have hung it up” or “maybe you should think of doing something else”. And that just never seemed like an option. From a very young age there was never anything else that I felt I was supposed to be doing despite the fact that I could do a lot of other things if I had to. And I think that comes from not listening to anything other than yourself and trying to be as honest with yourself as you can. You know, if you’re Brett Favre and you’re 50 years old and it’s time to hang it up that’s one thing because there are physical limitations, that’s one thing but if you can still compete then who gives a fuck whether you’re 70 years old; if you can still put up your best and you still feel ok and you still wanna do it; fuck everybody else! I think that’s what Run Like The River is for us. So when you asked, “what is one thing that we pulled out of this the most”, that’s it – if you have a message that you can translate, that is so strong and unwavering, music is one of those vehicles that lets you put that across in a way that words really can’t.
There was a quote I read that I think was from Lenny Kravitz – or if paraphrased somebody else – but he said that “certain musical moments make you feel closer to the creator than at any other time in life, so when I’ve felt those, I want to keep chasing those as many times as I can before I die”. And I get that! That was a profound lesson to learn – to learn what the pull is; the draw to do this. There is nothing is stronger than the will to create music.
Current gear list:
I have used Aguilar amps and cabs forever. My rig consists of the DB 750 with the DB 412 cabinet in Boss Tweed. I used the DB 410 and DB115 cabinets for years but recently switched to the 412. Since we play in such close proximity to each other on stage, the 412 allows me to not have to play very hard to get a full, powerful tone. For these large, outdoor stadium shows, the DB 412 turned on its side changed my life a bit! I also have Aguilar’s Tone Hammer 500 head as my backup.
My basses are two reissue Fender P basses. I have a ’57 reissue P with a maple neck and a Fender American Design Experience RBD Custom 62’ reissue. Both basses have Aguilar AG 4P-60 pickups in them and are strung with D’Addario Chromes flatwounds gauged 50-105.
My pedal board consists of the Boss TU-3 tuner and the Aguilar AGRO for overdrive.
For more on Vintage Trouble check out: