Don’t let Ronnie Vaughn’s gruff voice, muscles, short hair and stubble fool you. This frontman delivers words like a charming bear. A born storyteller, Vaughn kicks back in his coffeeshop chair, relaxing like he’s beside a campfire, shooting the shit. He shoots, “When we started playing, we were against the cover thing. We’d play for hours, all original music, at places where they usually didn’t have original music. Live is where we shine the most. We jam out a lot more, extending the songs.”
In 2006, they punched out Wrong Tree, their first album. With influences from The Grateful Dead (obvious) to Rap (not so obvious), the band’s latest, Coming Home, will hit the streets this week.
Here’s Vaughn’s deal: “My Dad used to travel across the Midwest in the ’70s and ’80s — Southern Rock, Country — I was always around, singing and rapping.” For years, Vaughn worked at Cincinnati Microwave: “I started singing to these old ladies on the assembly line, and they actually loved it. It was a joke, but I guess it sounded good.”
He shrugs and says, “I always surrounded myself with great musicians, which made it easier for me.”
In 2001, drummer Lee Mahaney took his deep-set dark eyes to study the nuts and bolts at the L.A. Music Academy. Straight-faced, he says, “I became a die-hard practice guy.
I was a fan of Ronnie immediately, just the vibe these guys had. No stupid stuff. Just hanging out and playing good music. Pretty much a no-brainer for me.”
Newbie Craig Acree (lead guitar) also went to L.A. Music Academy. Lean with short hair and longish sideburns, tricky Acree often switches from serious, big words to witty lines. Here’s an example: “I was pretty much enamored of the guitar ever since I can remember. My first instinct was to listen to the recording and extract the essential part.” Then he morphs into a quick, flirtatious machine.
Big eyes, shaved head — that’s John Hurd (bass, vocals). A bright soul, Hurd comments on Acree’s style, a hot product on the shelves: “It’s been fun to hear different interpretations to different solos. The approach, tone and color that Craig brings freshens things up for the rest of us.”
Brandon Glanton (percussion) is the long-haired one. Playfully intense. To try out for V&C, he says, “I showed up with my one djembe, and I actually bought a stand that day,” he chuckles, “and they slowly worked me in.”
Then the members all get weird on me, asking about my story. When I busted it out, they leaned in close, commenting, genuinely listening. Suddenly, similar to their musical vibe, V&C made me feel like we’d been hanging out since high school, working dead-end jobs, listening to Radiohead at some friend’s house, bonding (getting shitfaced) while the parents were bye-bye. Then I came back to Planet Earth Interview.
V&C took the “live approach” for Coming Home. They performed the songs at shows first, deciding what worked, later adding the winners to the CD. Coming Home was recorded by former Recording Workshop teacher, Brian Stritenberger. A beast, this album holds 15 songs chockfull of Rock, Pop, Blues, Funk and Reggae, styles switching off within songs. The recording is absolutely professional and consistent, with a “working man gone loose” feel. It’s straight-up, sweat-jamming Rock.
Acree says, “Moods and atmospheres of the crowd, and the mixtures of drugs and alcohol that we’re on will influence the way specific songs come out, but I think this is the way we envision them. The songwriting is more sophisticated and it seems like the band’s come a long way.”
A release from the 9-to-5 factory, there’s nothing hateful here. Vaughn says, “Everybody brings something different to the table. I just let them all do their own thing, start restructuring things, stick with it and try to build on it.”
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