Artist Spotlight: Vinyl Thief
Vinyl Thief at Mercury Lounge 2014 by Laura Baker-Finch
Grayson Proctor, Logan Purdom, Sam English, and Andrew Broadway are Vinyl Thief, the Nashville quartet that'll entice you with their recorded sound and engross you with their live performance. After growing up together while teaching each other to play music, they gained traction with 2012's Rebel Hill EP, which came to fruition this week with the release of their debut LP Fathoms.
Despite never specifically writing for the LP format or length, Fathoms embodies an escapism theme with 10 radio-ready tracks that are at once cohesive yet individually unique. To celebrate the release, Vinyl Thief teamed up with Isadora at New York City's Mercury Lounge for a performance we've already gushed about. But before they took the stage (and our hearts), Vinyl Thief took the time to chat with us amongst the busy streets of the Lower East Side.
Read on to find out the process behind Fathoms, their live performance influencers, what festivals they hope to play in 2015 (and beyond!), and how their hometown of Nashville has stemmed away from Country - and stream their LP while you do!
You guys launched a Kickstarter campaign back in 2012 to fund Fathoms. How does it feel now that it has finally been released?
Grayson Proctor: Finally. After 2 Years! It feels great.
Logan Purdom: [Laughs] Yesterday was funny though. We released it and we were like, "oh well we need to get back to the apartment and post something about it." And then we were justing sitting there, standing with Grayson's sister and she was like, "what are ya'll doing? This is your release date!" And we were like, "you know, you're right." This is a celebration.
Grayson: We had to remind ourselves to celebrate because it had been so long, it had been done for a while but it feels great. It's been out for a day and we've had a lot of good responses and stuff so we're really excited, really excited.
What is the overall message or concept of the album? What do you want listeners to take from it?
Grayson: I think musically we tried to not pinpoint ourselves into one area because it's our first record, we had a lot of different things we wanted to explore...
Logan: ... We just wanted it to be a good listening experience. You know, it's hard to make a record that people will sit through for 40 minutes and we have the tendency to kind of be all over the place musically so we kind of used that to our advantage. It's sort of like a journey with ups and downs musically, different styles.
Grayson: Yeah, and lyrically it's just kind of about like getting away from things you don’t want to deal with and how you deal with it all that stuff and just getting away - it's like an escape. So that's kind of the theme.
I read "Middle of the Night" was a very last minute addition to Fathoms, only being written once the record was almost complete. How did it fit in since you already had the concept in place?
Grayson: Very last minute. Well, that was more of just, yeah, that one came literally in the middle of the night and it just fit in because the whole record, like I said, is kind of about escapism and just getting away. For me that song came lyrically because I was awake at night by myself and it was an escape from everything. So we wrote it really quickly and it just kind of happened to end up that it fit pretty well in the context of all the other songs and it's also just a really fun song to do.
Logan: I think that the fun was probably from the aspect that we had the record done, it was mastered probably at the end of last year and we were just getting things ready and so there wasn't any pressure of having to make another song or...
Grayson: ... Because we were thinking it was going to go on our next project, honestly. And then our manager and a few of our friends that we played the track for said that we really should push to get that on the record….
Andrew Broadway: … So we did.
Grayson: So we got it mixed and mastered within a week and then that was honestly like a month ago. And now it's done.
Logan: It's kind of like if you have a big project for work and you're working on it for a long time, you finish it and you're like, "ah that's done," and you're stress free and that kind of opens up your mind for other things. That's kind of how it came about.
A few songs on Fathoms had been previously released, like on 2012's Rebel Hill EP, how do these compare with the tracks written specifically for the LP?
Grayson: None of the songs were actually specifically written - we never sat down and said, “we’re going to write our album now.” We just kinda were learning to play music together and going through writing and we finally got a good 15 songs that we thought, “okay, we can make an album out of this.” Then we whittled it down to what we thought were the best 10.
Logan: Yeah so when the Rebel Hill EP came out in 2012, we probably had a good idea of what the album was going to be two years later. We didn’t know how the songs were going to sound, but we kind of knew what songs were going to be on there.
Grayson: And it just so happened, kind of like “Middle of the Night,” it just so happened that those kind of fit thematically in with all the others too.
Andrew: And they were probably the best songs. Like the most fun out of all those ones, writing style-wise too.
What is your favorite song to play live?
Andrew: It’s probably different for all of us.
Grayson: [To Sam] What’s your favorite song to play live?
Sam English: Probably “Slow Down.”
Grayson: “Slow Down?” The slower ones.
Sam: The slow one.
Grayson: Yeah, that’s a good one…
Andrew: …That’s a fun one.
Grayson: I enjoy, I think “Stop Motion” is my favorite to play. It’s got a lot going on and I get to do a drum duel with Andrew…
Andrew: … It’s not really a duel [Laughs].
Logan: “Stop Motion” is the one too we were really surprised when we figured out how to play it live.
Grayson: That one took us a while. We were nervous to play that one live because it took us a while just because of all the sounds and everything going on…
Logan: … The way it was written too it was probably just mainly in the studio, it was all written in the studio in different parts. The last half was maybe finished one year then later on we finished the first half.
Andrew: I like “Compact.” I never got to say mine. “Compact.”
You guys have great stage presence, especially as relative newcomers. Are there any artists you look up to in terms of the live performance?
Grayson: [Laughs] Prince. All of us Prince. James Brown…
Andrew: … A lot of soul guys honestly. Modern people though, umm, we did grow up with this kind of camaraderie based around this band called Mutemath. We loved them, that was a big inspiration as far as when we were younger and learning to play. Then I would also say…
Logan: … I like the White Stripes. I think they’re one of the best rock bands that have come out because their live show is just really raw, really loose.
Andrew: Just Jack White in general. Grayson and I saw The Dead Weather and it was still an amazing dynamic and the guy’s sitting behind the drum set for 95% of the show and he’s still kind of the star. It’s amazing.
Grayson: Yeah. And then I’ve always been a fan of just any frontman or front person that you watch and they just kind of have this like, some of my favorites they all have this quirkiness about them. You just watch them and you don’t understand why they’re doing the things they do and all that stuff. Like David Byrne, you watch him and you’re just, “what the hell is he doing up there?” He’s crazy…
Sam: … Like Thom Yorke.
Grayson: Yeah Thom Yorke, that guy, yeah, who knows.
Andrew: I think Bono even.
Grayson: So anyone that kind of keeps you interested and you watch them and ask, “what are they doing,” that’s who I’ve always looked up to. I think it is really entertaining.
Most lineups have already been announced for 2014's festival season, but which festivals would you like to play next year?
Grayson: Next year? We would love to…
Andrew: … Any of them.
Logan: Play ‘em all!
Grayson: Hit ‘em all, yeah! I mean, Bonnaroo is right down the road so that would be great.
Logan: That’s in our backyard basically, in Nashville.
Grayson: It is. Forecastle just happened, didn’t it? That had a great lineup this year I thought, that’s a good one.
Andrew: We always talk about Glastonbury. I mean, that one’s like a pinnacle. But I mean that’s kind of like The Oscars of festivals.
Logan: For some reason we’ve always had an infatuation with British bands and that whole culture. I think there’s been a lot of bands, even in recent years, like Wild Beasts and Glass Animals even this year, and Glastonbury is a representation of all that culture.
Grayson: I just feel like when we watched videos of Glastonbury growing up and stuff like that, all the flags and everything and people for miles and it’s just such a movement. A lot of it feels like a spiritual experience.
Logan: It has so much history.
Grayson: All this community together, so Glastonbury is an ultimate we gotta get there one day.
Andrew: I had a friend play it this year so…
Grayson: … So we’re closer. Because Andrew’s friend played.
6 Degrees of separation and all that.
Andrew: [Laughs] Yeah, that’s right.
Are there any you feel are a good fit for your sound and live performance style?
Grayson: Oh man.
Andrew: I would say… I don’t know.
Maybe ones you’ve attended before as fans?
Andrew: We’re broke. We’re cheap [Laughs].
Grayson: Anything with a stage big enough to move around on.
Andrew: Yeah. All of them are really adapting a lot, you have different ones like Firefly and Burning Man that are still kind of eccentric but in general I feel that a lot of the festivals have become big but not overwhelmingly big so…
Grayson: … They’ve diversified…
Andrew: … Yeah! Because Bonnaroo, when it started, it was jam bands like moe. and Phish and Umphrey’s McGee and that was the bands that played it and now it’s everybody ranging from Elton John to this little-bitty who-knows-what Jamaica band from Kingsport. Stuff like that, it’s just crazy.
Can you talk a bit about the current music scene in Nashville? It seems like the city is moving away from strictly country music connotations.
Grayson: Absolutely. I don’t know when it started, there’s always been music there, always. But it’s kind of just turned around into, it’s way more welcoming to other genres now and open arms. I feel like it used to be harder but we’re pretty young, but I feel like it used to be pretty hard for bands of our genres to do what we do in Nashville. But I think with all the types of people that are there now, it’s such a melting pot culturally.
Logan: It almost feels like there’s a point in a lot of artists careers when they move to Nashville. Jack White, you know, 10 years into his career. Ben Folds…
Andrew: … The Black Keys.
Logan: Yeah, it almost seems like the Florida retirement for old people, you know? Nashville is becoming the cool place to go. I don’t know.
Andrew: Yeah it’s that place.
Grayson: I think a lot of it has to do with Nashville as a city growing and diversifying so much that it reflects on the music scene. It’s moving along really well with it.
Stay up to date with Vinyl Thief on Facebook, Twitter, and their website. Fathoms is available on iTunes.
Follow @laurajbf on Twitter