By ERIC SCHELKOPF
Chicago band Vintage Blue has shared the stage with the likes of Fitz and The Tantrums and Sister Hazel. The band will likely gain more fans next month when it plays at Taste of Chicago for the first time.
Vintage Blue, www.vintagebluemusic.com, will perform from 1:20 to 2:20 p.m. July 13 on the Bud Light Stage at the Taste of Chicago in Grant Park. Admission is free.
I had the chance to talk to Vintage Blue's Ben Bassett about the band's current activities.
Q - The band will play next month at Taste of Chicago for the first time. Was playing at Taste of Chicago a goal for the band?
I think the main goal of the band is to always be moving forward. Whether that means playing more prestigious venues, or playing better time slots, or playing with bands who are making a name for themselves, we should always be improving, musically and as a brand/band.
The Taste of Chicago has always been one of the hallmarks of Chicago, so playing the festival has always been on our radar, but it has undergone so many changes in the past few years, that we never made it a "focus" of our efforts.
It happened this year that one of the awesome people from the city received our submission and liked our music, and the rest, as they say, is history. We are looking forward to funnel cake and RAWK!
Q - I understand the band is writing songs for a new album. How is that process going? What should people expect from the new album?
Yes! We basically have been writing, working on demos and performing new tunes live since our last record. We learned a lot from recording that first album.
One of the primary things we want to do with this new record is to make a cohesive piece of art. Our first record spanned a lot of genres, a fact that we love, but something that will sound a little out of place on a 6-7 song EP.
So we are writing tunes that we think will create a story, or a better representation of where the band currently stands musically. We have focused on making each song as great as possible, molding them into our live performance, and refining them so that we have a slew of great ideas for when we head into the studio at the end of the summer.
Q - Was it hard making the transition from a cover band to a band performing original music? Was it easier being a cover band?
Our original cover band, called Tanglewood, was fun, but also a very different challenge. When people go out to hear a cover band they have very different expectations.
Some people just want to party, some people want to judge, and you never really know what mood people are in. I can remember one time we learned to do "Livin' on a Prayer" and totally destroyed it for a set at Wise Fools Pub here in Chicago.
When we finished the song, wailing guitar solo, talk box, all of the parts, we were so stoked and felt like we had killed it and the crowd acted like we weren't even there. I think the biggest difference is that, when you are playing original music, you know that people are coming for you, just for you and your music.
For cover bands, they are often just the background to a night of partying or drinking and people only come around when they play a song that they recognize. We all love that people know all of our songs and are into our set from the first note.
Q - You changed your name from Tanglewood at the advice of Rock Ridge Music co-founder Jason Spiewak. What made you want to change the name to Vintage Blue? Do people ever confuse you with being a blues act?
Q - Jason was a pretty awesome guy, who taught us a bunch of things about the music industry, both good and bad. But the single biggest thing he did for us was suggest the name change.
It was on our first phone call and he suggested we change it within a week. Ryan, the other songwriter in the band, and our buddy Adam Napp and I all went out to Pei Wei for dinner after a conference call with Jason.
We started brainstorming some ideas, some of which were just awful, but we liked the idea of the word vintage. Even by definition it represents something of enduring quality, and we fancy ourselves a product of the classic rock that we grew up on.
As we started pairing words with Vintage, we liked the idea of a color, and let's be honest, Vintage Yellow, doesn't sound very cool. We also thought that choosing blue, was a cool way to also pay some homage to the blues history here in Chicago, as well as being a "cool" color.
Q - Vintage Blue has played with the likes of Lifehouse and Fitz and The Tantrums. What did the band learn from those experiences?
For sure, Lifehouse, Fitz & The Tantrums, John Waite, Sister Hazel, Vertical Horizon, 10,000 Maniacs, Cowboy Mouth ... we have been pretty fortunate to have played with such accomplished musicians over the past two years.
I think that each band has taught us a little something different about our music, or our performance, or about being professionals. Perhaps the single biggest influence has been Sister Hazel.
We have played five shows with them now, including four sold out nights at the House of Blues Chicago. The guys in that band have spent 20 years perfecting their craft and they have been very great to us.
It was the first night with them, when all the "Hazlenuts" (their most loyal fans) were coming up to us after the show and asking for CDs and autographs, that we became distinctly aware that we were doing something cool, and that we could hold our own on a stage with a band that has been that successful.
It was a turning point for us, and one that has made us continue to focus on ways to grow and develop into true performing musicians.
Q - The band also has performed in Costa Rica. How was that experience? Do you find it hard to win over an audience that might not know a lot about the band?
Costa Rica was an absolutely amazing experience. We were booked for a private event down there and were treated like kings.
It was a very surreal experience, but we did have a couple friends down there that had built the band up. Our performance down there was just outside of a rain-forest/swampy area in Guanacaste and we rocked a set overlooking a beautiful vista where it was hard to not feel amazing.
We loved every second of the night and even had the kitchen and wait staff asking for our information. The hardest part was that we had no idea how to say "Vintage" in Spanish. Lost in translation I guess; ha ha.
Q - How do you see Vintage Blue fitting into the Chicago music scene? What are the band's short-term and long-term goals?
Part of becoming an original band is learning your music scene. It is important to find other like-minded bands that are willing to work hard to put on excellent shows at great venues.
We have been fortunate to make some good friends in the scene, that even though our music does not necessarily match, we work together to network and bring opportunities to each other when they come up. I think that Vintage Blue absolutely has a great home here in Chicago.
We have a very loyal and dedicated group of fans and friends that support us and we are finding that people are really responsive to our music, as evidenced by that excellent mix of music festivals we have added for this summer.
As for goals, our short-term goal is to create a killer record this summer. Long-term goals include a national late-night TV performance next year, Lollapalooza, and touring with a current national level act.
Watch for all of it next year!