Their name may prompt assumptions that their sound is obsolete, but Vinyl boasts as spirited a vibe as its members’ culturally complex home base of San Francisco.
Proving there truly is strength in numbers, this eight-man instrumental band — born in 1995 in Mill Valley, Calif. — smoothly and assertively blends funk, Latin, reggae and R&B. But given the ever-swelling number of instrumental jam bands touring the country, what gives Vinyl a voice in the midst of all the other voiceless bands? Bassist Geoff Vaughan spoke his mind in a recent e-mail chat with Xpress.
Mountain Xpress: What separates your band from other instrumental groups touring these days?
Geoff Vaughan: We feel like our music is a little more song-oriented than some other bands touring our circuit. We don’t totally rely on prolonged improvisation but instead have our soloists flavor the tune, passing the ball around between the instruments, and accentuating the groove with stops and breaks. We bring a positive energy to our music, as do many of the bands out there right now. The biggest difference between some other instrumental bands and us is our meandering between musical cultures and styles.
We love funk, but we don’t want to play it all night, and that goes for reggae and Latin as well. Our mixture of these things is our signature.
MX: Where does your music come from?
GV: We are influenced by roots reggae, older Latin music, blues, funk. Artists that come to mind are James Brown, [the] Meters, [the] Crusaders, Santana and Mongo Santamaria. Our songs are a product of each player in the band’s taste, which means that any of these influences can show up at any time. We write as a group for the most part.
MX: Has your music changed as the band has gotten older and gained popularity?
GV: We feel like we are much tighter as a band than we used to be. We play with more confidence, which unifies the music. We have a great understanding of each other musically, and that leads to more musical exploration.
MX: How do West Coast audiences differ from those on the East Coast?
GV: Audiences are much more similar than different. There are people that appreciate a good groove all over the country — we plan to find all of them.
MX: What music do you all love?
GV: We love all the styles I mentioned above — and Tenacious D, of course.
MX: Does your music have a beginning and an end? My experience at shows and on the albums has been that the music seems to form a circle.
GV: We try for both. We like achieving flow and continuity, and we want a show to feel like a complete package. We don’t, however, play one song for 45 minutes. We like to keep the audience on their toes by switching it around.
MX: What’s at the core of Vinyl?
GV: Friendship and respect, love of music, laughter, hard work.
MX: Do you guys need a roadie? If so, what are the qualifications?
GV: We lug all our own gear around because there’s no room in the van for anyone else. We’ll keep your name on file.