For decades the soils of Northern California, the Bay Area in particular, have facilitated the growth of the deepest of musical roots and inspired the evolution of some of the most radiant musical souls. Far from the insatiable cries of Hollywood and the smoggy horizon of Southern California, bands that call Nor Cal their home seem to have a different air about them. Vinyl is one of the many emerging acts from this northern creation station, and they embody a unique home-grown blend of spicy grooves, slithering melodies and beats that seem to command the blood in your veins. The seven layers supply a distinctive sound, utilizing every musical genre from reggae, to Latin jazz, and everything in between, and crafting the innovative multi-textured fusion that is their signature jam.
The ground floor houses the big three, guitarist (Billy), bassist (Geoff), and drummer (Alexis), while the higher stories make room for the addition of funk and flare to the foundation. The second story consists of Danny on trumpet, Doug on saxophone, Jonathan on keyboards, and the latest edition, Johnny, presiding over the percussion section. The guest house is left fully stocked for the extended family and appearances by vocalists, a variety of other musicians and producers, and even the occasional celebrity. Whether you are among the enduring fans, the cast of back up stars, or even a Vinyl first-timer, you will feel right at home with the welcoming grooves and affable ambience their live performance provides.
I was fortunate enough to experience them the night before Thanksgiving on their fifth annual Black Wednesday performance. Within the wooden walls of Sweetwater, in their stomping grounds of Mill Valley, I sat down with a few of the guys before the show to tap a little further into the source of their flow. At the moment their average day consists of touring and preparing for the upcoming release of their new album recorded at The Great American Music Hall in San Francisco entitled, “All the Way Live”. They recently added a new percussionist to the gamut, Johnny Durkin, who brings a hint of East Coast flavor into the West Coast zest.
Among the many guest appearances on the new album, one in particular that is quite unique is the accompaniment of Huey Lewis, who plays the harp on one of the songs. For a band that has worked with everyone from Les Claypool to Phil Lesh, and Huey Lewis to Pancho Sanchez, the possibilities are endless for where their collaborative future will lead. Having a song produced by Stuart Copeland, formerly of the Police, or playing with Santana, are a few of the collaborations that dance on the edge of their hopes.
Though they are hesitant to narrow the possibilities of this vast future down to any specific goal, they are open to take their sound to the next level and explore the vocal avenue further. The backbone of Vinyl has been primarily instrumental for so many years, and taking more of a vocal focus would certainly forge a new path for the band. One of their most stunning qualities as an instrumental band is that the listener can create their own interpretation and plant themselves at the heart of the music. However, adding a vocal layer to the mix, aids in expanding the sound and offers a new approach for those music fans that find a solely instrumental group difficult to open up to. One thing is for sure, any vocalist to join the likes of these talented few would have to be as varied and multi-faceted as the musicians, and that may be hard to come by. The imminent future is clear despite the uncertainties of the more distant horizon, and for Vinyl, the focus at the moment is writing new songs, keeping the sound fresh, and most importantly putting themselves out there on stage to the delight of their loyal fans.
By: Kristina Ensminger article originally appeared on PhreshWater.com 12/03