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Interview: Vinyl Thief talk debut album, dream bands to tour with

Vinyl Thief played a show at Mercury Lounge in New York on July 23, 2014 celebrating the release of their new album, 'Fathoms.'
Vinyl Thief played a show at Mercury Lounge in New York on July 23, 2014 celebrating the release of their new album, 'Fathoms.'
Elise Yablon

Vinyl Thief has been enjoying a lot of success over the last year or so. The band has had the opportunity to play with top acts such as the Joy Formidable and Youngblood Hawke, as well as big festivals like CMJ and South By Southwest. Now, with the release of their debut full length, the band is set to make waves with their highly danceable indie-rock sound.

Having known each other for years before officially forming Vinyl Thief, the band naturally came together as they practiced. According to their bio, “We turned an old church sanctuary into our own base camp, and we would play together almost every day and learn how to play, perform, and write. There was a while where we were at the sanctuary more than we were our own homes.”

In 2012 the band released their first EP, Rebel Hill. Their second EP, Stop Motion, came out in March 2014, previewing their debut album, Fathoms, which was released on July 22. Featuring the singles “Smooth,” “Slowdown,” and “Middle of the Night,” the album has been described in their bio (in a quote by New York Minute) as being “snapshots of a tumultuous year.”

The band incorporates elements of indie-rock and synth-pop into a sound that is contagiously danceable and completely enjoyable. Songs like “Smooth” and “Slowdown” use 80s-style keys as the jumping off point for their soaring melodies and infectious grooves. Other songs, like “Middle of the Night,” find their groove in fuzzed out guitars or hard hitting rhythm and synth sections, like on “Compact.”

Even more impressive than their music is their energetic live shows. Led by singer Grayson Proctor’s outstanding stage presence, the band’s music really comes alive as they play through their catalogue. They really know how to get an audience on their side and get them to start moving to their music.

Vinyl Thief is singer Grayson Proctor, guitarist Logan Purdom, keyboardist Sam English, and drummer Andrew Broadway.

I had the opportunity to speak with Vinyl Thief prior to their album release show at Mercury Lounge on July 23 to discuss the band’s origins, inspiration, Fathoms, their recent success, and dream bands to tour with.

How did the band form?

Grayson: It started a long time ago together because we grew up together. So, that’s all we would do is get together and play music and learn other people’s songs and eventually we started writing our own and it just kind of formed, kind of kept learning since then.

Logan: Yeah, we were in high school and we were just hanging out, playing music and it wasn’t really serious at all.

Grayson: It’s what we did instead of sports or video games or whatever, so…

How did you guys decide that you wanted to play music?

Andrew: We all kind of sucked at everything else. I mean, we sucked at music too, but we all liked it. That was a good connecter.

Grayson: I think it was just a mix of… Some of us knew we always wanted to do that. I grew up with it in my family. It was just always around. Others just kind of started doing it and realized ‘wow, this would be really fun to do for forever.’

Sam: Yeah, there are a lot of hobbies you can have, a lot of pastimes you can have and you can’t make a career out of it. You can be really interested in rocks and you can’t make a career out of it…

(Everyone corrects him)

Sam: Well, if you just collect rocks off the sidewalk, that’s the hobby I was talking about… But maybe in music you can make a career. So, that’s what I want.

Who has influenced you guys, either to start playing or what you play…

Grayson: Early influences… (asks bandmates) what are some of yours?

Andrew: Elton John

Grayson: I had Celine Dion.

Andrew: Yeah, Elton John, a lot of Top 40, Billy Joel, and Prince.

Grayson: Yeah, Prince, White Stripes,

Logan: Yeah, I really liked the White Stripes when I was learning how to play guitar and stuff. They were really inspirational.

Grayson: and then Sam brings a lot of funk.

Sam: Earth, Wind, and Fire, Parliament Funkadelic, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, all those great guys.

Your debut album just came out, Congratulations. What was the songwriting process like for the album?

Grayson: Long. It took us a long time. We never really sat down and said ‘okay, let’s make a record.’ We just kind of always are writing, trying to always write and… We eventually got 15 songs we felt were really strong and they could make a good project. And so we whittled it down to our favorite, what we thought were the best 10, and then kind of went from then. We developed them the best we could and put it out. It’s been a long time. Some of the songs were written two or three years ago, and then some were written two months ago. So, it’s a huge gap, but so excited to finally have it out. Really excited, and we’ve been getting a lot of great responses. Seems like people like it, which is a plus to putting out a record, when people like it.

I particularly liked “Smooth.”

Grayson: That’s one of our favorites to play live too.

What’s the story behind that one?

Grayson: That one was kind of just… A lot of the record has this kind of escapism feeling, like getting away from things you don’t want to deal with, stuff like that. That one was just about when you have a lot of stuff going on and you need to just go out and, I guess, take a drive, you know. That’s kind of how I cope with things sometimes, just go out and… Maybe not in New York City you don’t do that, but in Nashville you do. Go hop in your car and just drive around.

Andrew: It was weird because we started it, we basically had this singular kind of melody I believe, wasn’t it? We had made a loop and so, we basically made a puzzle out of it and just played different parts and then piecing it all together into the song that it is now. And it was just a lot of chop and screw stuff essentially.

In your bio on your website it says that a lot of the songs were “a snapshot of a tumultuous year.” How so?

Grayson: Well, there were just a lot of things going on in life that were just normal things that everyday people go through, and some really hard things. When I was writing the lyrics, I didn’t realize until later that it was all coming out in the lyrics. That’s why I say it’s about how to deal with things, and cope, and all that stuff.

Sam: Yeah, I think the difference between this record and… we’ve released music in the past, you know, like being a band for five years, but we’ve been just recording a lot… But the difference with these songs is we kind of figured out how to say a message or what we feel. You know, kind of a little deeper meaning, and get it across in a musical way.

You guys released an EP a couple of months ago with some of the songs from Fathoms on it. Why did you feel like you had to do that?

Grayson: That was just… We were really ready to put music out and the rest of the record wasn’t quite done yet. So, we had four that we really loved and, just… We wanted to put a preview for the album, really. So, it’s just kind of a preview piece basically.

You funded the album through Kickstarter. What was that experience like for you guys?

Logan: Stressful.

(The others mock him)

Logan: No, it was fine. We knew when we started recording and looking at how to do the album, we knew that we were going to do it on our own. So we looked into different ways of funding it and how basically to have the most control over everything. So, it was really, almost empowering, I guess…

Grayson: Yeah, some of us were wary at first if we wanted to do it or not because it’s kind of weird to come out and ask people to give you money for something that doesn’t exist yet.

Andrew: And the opportunity of failure… Because it’s hard, if you don’t reach your goal, you essentially don’t get anything. It was humbling too though.

Grayson: Yeah, I mean the fans, they gave us a lot of money, and it was like they were trusting us to give them something great.

Sam: And we also did that very early on in [the] process, when we first started recording/writing. So it was almost like anyone that supported us in the Kickstarter. They jumped in and we had their support the whole time. We knew that people had faith in us before it was even done.

You guys have had the opportunity to play with some really well known bands like Joy Formidable and Youngblood Hawke, and have played festivals like CMJ and South By Southwest. You’re still kind of a young band. How has it been playing with these big band and these big festivals so early on in your career?

Grayson: It’s just been a motivator really, I think. Yeah, when we were out with The Joy Formidable and playing some huge shows with them, I mean, it was a big motivator for us, I think, because it showed us, gave us a glimpse into that, you know, into the bigger arenas, stuff like that. And it was just a new thing and we hadn’t done it before, but it showed us that we want to do that. So it was a lot of fun… And then the festivals like South By and all that are just always fun. I’ll always go back to those if we can.

Are there any bands that you would dream of playing with?

Andrew: So many! Lately we love this new band, Haerts. We all seem to love bands that we all… We saw them and we just thought that they would be a really good band. I think it would be really fun to play with The Flaming Lips. I think they have a really interesting fanbase and they’re always playing with other bands and doing collaborations. From Tame Impala to Miley Cyrus, that’s a big range. So they’d be fun to play with.

Sam: U2 probably. I mean, why would you not want to open for the biggest band in the world?

Grayson: Exactly. Why not? Okay, we can do that Sam. We can work on that for you.

Is there anything else you think people need to know about you guys?

Grayson: Just, thanks for listening to the record if you have.

Sam: Share it with everybody you know.

Grayson: Tell everyone, yeah.

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