Truth & Salvage Co., a country-tingued indie-rock band from Los Angeles got its start — well, at least in the case of vocalist/drummer Bill “Smitty” Smith, vocalist/guitarist Scott Kinnebrew, vocalist/keys player Walker Young and bassist Joe Edel — in Asheville as the retro hokum group Scrappy Hamilton. Vocalist/guitarist Tim Jones comes from Indiana where he fronted Americana band Old Pike; keys player Adam Grace is from Mississippi and has both acted on broadway and performed with the likes of Gary Jules. The six musicians all met in LA, became fans of each other work, and eventually came together to form T&S Co.
A couple years ago, singer/songwriter Chris Robinson, front man for rock band Black Crowes, tapped T&S Co. to be on his Silver Arrow record label. Robinson produced T&S Co.‘s debut album, which is set to release on Tuesday, May 25, the same day the band play The Grey Eagle in Asheville. (Read the story from this week’s Xpress here.)
Now, eight months since their last Asheville stop, Smith, Kinnebrew and Walker talk about what’s new for T&S Co., what’s next, why they’re celebrating their CD release in Asheville and how they got to film a video for GAP‘s 1969 jeans.
Smith: So, we’re in Kansas City, Missouri. It’s good, we had a huge show last night. It was massive.
Kinnebrew: Yeah, massive.
Young: Lightly attended, but we had fun.
Xpress: Did you say lightly attended or massive?
Smith: We’re being facetious.
Xpress: Did any of your dates get rescheduled due to the flooding in Tennessee or did everything go as planned?
Smith: Everything went as planned. We though we were going to get bumped in Memphis, but we went on about the time we were scheduled to play. It ended up being a beautiful day in Memphis.
Kinnebrew: The day before they had to cancel all sort of shows, but then the weather system moved over and I guess Nashville got it bad.
Smith: We found the pocket and we got in tat one day that Memphis didn’t have any rain.
Xpress: Smart. Very good tour planning.
Smith: We’re proud of ourselves on that one.
(Left to right: Kinnebrew, Smith and Young.)
Xpress: Since it’s been eight months since you came through Asheville, what’s happened and what’s changed?
Young: We’ve grown incredibly as a band, being on tour withe the Black Crowes. We did like 92 shows in 110 days. Playing that much and having… that tipping point mentality where you do something so many times it becomes second nature. Just honing in on our live performances. Then getting the chance to play n front of massive audiences helps you, too, by figuring out what works, what doesn’t work. So we kind of got thrown into that very quickly and had to hone out live performance. And just doing these shows with The Avett Brothers the last ten days has been a lot of the same. It’s been an awesome experience. It’s helped us grow as a band and the live performance and our improvisational skills and the way that we react to audiences.
Smith: I think we’ve grown a lot as a band just learning how to travel together. That’s been one of the biggest things for me, learning how to interact with each other and deal with each other on the road has been a really mind opening experience and I think we’ve done a really good job at it. Of really, truly coming to the table and being brothers and not sweating the small stuff. Really learning how to travel really well together.
Xpress: How is touring as T&S Co. different from when you were touring as Scrappy Hamilton?
Kinnebrew: I kind of want to say with the change part — and I can also answer that question about the difference between touring with the two bands — one of the biggest changes with coming back to Asheville now is that we have this album that’s officially about to be released. We have the power behind that at the moment where people are taking interest and we have a little work horse that’s opening the awareness of our record. We have that to offer to Asheville and it’s really exciting to have that.
The difference between the two touring acts is exactly the same thing. We have a whole team working with us, not to sound like we’re privileged, but Scrappy, back in the day, we took care of absolutely everything. We were accountable for booking ourselves, showing up, everything we did on our own. [Now] we have somebody booking our shows. We can show up and not have to worry about that part of it. Not have to worry about publicity on the shows as well. We have a team that helps us put this whole thing together.
Smith: Won’t you agree, too, Scotty, in the Scrappy days not everybody was necessarily on the same page? With T&S Co., all six guys are definitely on the same page and in it for the same reasons.
Kinnebrew: I’d say we’ve all grown every much and life has been a very positive and humbling experience and all of us are just at a place where we want to have a good time and make good music and share it everybody.
Young: Absolutely. I would second that, too, Smitty. That’s probably the number one factor is that everyone is there on the same page.
Smith: That’s huge in a group like this. That’s the biggest difference in a successful band and a band that might struggle and have inner turmoil.
Xpress: You’ve put in so much work and gotten to this point in your career, but is there ever a time when it feels really tentative due to the current state of the music industry and factors beyond your control?
Kinnebrew: I say yes, completely. Everything is very tentative and we’ve been putting everything on the line. Our eggs, literally, are in one basket. And they’ve been in one basket forever for all of us. We’re all in our mid-30s here and we’ve been following this path for a long time and believing in it and there’s no promise of tomorrow. But we’re having a good time right now doing this and we’re really, really blessed with some help with it. Team work can help us do this and maybe now we can actually share with the masses, you know?
Smith: To add to that, we have sacrificed everything to be in this position. It’s like, we’re giving everything we have. I can’t honestly say I’ve ever done that. that’s the big difference for me, personally. I have sacrificed everything in my life, from relationships to credit reports to whatever — to be in this band.
Xpress: Is that the thing with being an artist — that you have to let everything else go and dedicate yourself?
Smith: I don’t know. There seem to be people out there… It’s a big sacrifice and if you try to do both, you’re taking away from the other. To be truly and artist and give this life style your all, you either have to A)have a really great support team at home, being wives, girlfriends, mom, dad, friends, whatever, or just … or not. That’s what makes it hard. The support we have from our loved ones is what keeps us going and keeps our heads above water. If we didn’t have that it would make it a lot harder, for sure.
Xpress: Do you bring your significant others on the road?
Kinnebrew: Yeah, they’ll come… You just asked about giving your all to be an artist. I was in Asheville a while back and hanging out with Tyler Ramsey. This was before his success on Echo Mountain Records and with the Band of Horses. I think he was living in a van in the parking lot of Echo Mountain and saying, pretty much, “I’m at this point where I have to dedicate every moment of my time as a musician. That’s what I’m going to do and anything that’s going to distract me from that is going to distract me from my goal.” Within a year he had this incredible thing going for him and I think his work ethic, saying, “I’m an artist, I’m sacrificing all this for my identity,” helped him do that. I think it was crucial for him.
I got back to LA, we were all working our butts off trying to pay the bills. I still had to keep on working to be there but I always thought about [Tyler] doing what he was doing and I tried to somehow incorporate that, put myself back on the path and put my all into being a musician. I think, to answer your question, you can do both but I think it’s better just to do it and be an artist.
Young: And it’s the positive affirmation of saying, “I’m a musician. That’s what I’m doing.” I think we’ve all grown to the point where we’ve realized that’s what we want to do and we’re going to make it happen in whatever capacity that holds.
Smith: I think I can safely say we were all born to do this. We feel we were born to do this. We don’t really have a choice in the matter. We are artists, we were born as artists. For me, it’s taken years to accept that because I’ve always struggled with the blue collar working a normal job to make a living or whatever and it took me years to really accept that I’m an artist. Thank god that I’ve accepted that. Wouldn’t have it any other way.
(Smith, Jones and Kinnebrew)
Xpress: Th album is officially released on May 25, but you’ve been playing these songs for the last eight months on tour. How have they changed or evolved for you?
Kinnebrew: Our live show very well represents our studio effort and vice versa. Maybe at the live show we have more energy. But I think we definitely honor the format of the songs. We haven’t changed them. Maybe there are a couple on there that we rerecorded to make a little shorter, to make radio-friendly, and in the live show we extend them. That’s a natural state. But all in all we want to stay true to our sound on the record as well.
Smith: What has evolved — the songs have basically stayed the same but our stage presence and our energy and our transition song to son, that has evolved and has become a lot tighter.
(A T&S Co. fan tattoo.)
Xpress: Why did you decide to do the release in Asheville and not LA?
Kinnebrew: We want to bring it home. We want to be there. We started out there in our beginnings and to bring it back there and to celebrate with friends who we haven’t seen in half a decade and still love to keep up with and have an affinity with — we’re going to bring it back home and do it there. Strategically it’s really good to be on the East coast because we spent a lot of time over there with the Crowes. It was time to return. We’ll make our way back West, but it seems like a better place to start.
Young: The reality is that we do consider Asheville our home. We spent the majority of our lives there and it’s the foundation to a lot of what we do musically. What’s been really cool for me is there’s been so much growth that’s come from Asheville. Two days ago we were in memphis and we shared the stage with the Band of Horses. We know Bill Reynolds and Tyler Ramsey from [Asheville]. We just did 10 days with the Avett Brothers who we played with a bunch times six years ago before we moved to LA. To see the progression of all these band and to be a part of that is amazing. Asheville is the building blocks of all of that, so it makes sense to being it back there.
Xpress: It’s been a little while since you recorded the album. Are you working on songs for a next album?
Smith: It’s too soon. We were just in the studio this past January finishing up the album, adding a couple more songs, rerecording. It’s been a literally a year and a half process recording this album. We’re really excited about this coming out. We’re gnawing at the bit.
Kinnebrew: We definitely have enough songs for another record and we’re definitely writing and playing those songs at shows. You’re gonna get all sorts of stuff from us.
Xpress: How did the GAP video happen?
Young: We had a friend who knew somebody in the… it’s kind of random. She knew the cousin of the CEO of GAP. We were playing a goofy song that we were playing called “Them Jeans” because before we were T&S Co. we were called The Denim Family Band and we wrote goofy songs about jeans and denim and such.
She heard this song and she loved it and she recorded it on her, like, flip camera. She told this gentleman about the song and he said, “Okay, well, where can I see them” and she said “They’re going to be playing in San Francisco opening up for the Crowes” and he’s like. “I already have tickets.” And so we played “Them Jeans” for him after the concert and them we ended up meeting him and recording the song and he gave it to his cousin and voila.
His cousin passed it down through the ranks to this wonderful woman Julie Alonso who we remained in contact with and she is, like, the head of alternative marketing I think for GAP [Alonso is the senior director of partnerships]. She wanted to record the video and in the course of about four days they pulled it all together. We filmed this video, which is available on the GAP application for iPad.
It was a random occurrence but it was very cool because somehow — and it always amazes me — people are like, “I just love the idea of what you guys do. I love the essence of the band.” I don’t know how people grasp a hold of that just through songs, but somehow there’s some other energy that we’re giving off, which is very retro and very denim and very cowboy and somewhat Americana. You know, it’s cool because it’s not something that we see but other people see it. She saw it and wanted to try to capture it.
Xpress: Do you feel like the video is a good representation or did you feel goofy?
Kinnebrew: Both. They had an idea of what we wanted to shoot and we were just having fun with it. The songs it self is kind of goofy. To put a somewhat serious commercial with it was somewhat fitting.
Smith: We’ll get the last laugh on that one.
Xpress: But why were there hay bails in the video? It was shot in the desert.
Kinnebrew: They really were there!
Smith: It’s a real live ranch in the valley in California. That wasn’t a prop.
Kinnebrew: And also that bus, that’s our bus and we travel all around in it. It’s a 60s original bus and we have a driver and a road guy.
Smith: The driver has one eye. No, we’re joking.
Xpress: You should totally have that bus.
Smith: We’re trying to get GAP to buy it for us, but that kind of fell through.
Watch a video for “Call Back,” below: