The hills of Laurel Canyon might not be the first place you'd think to look for a gritty soul band like Vintage Trouble. But one thing that gives the band's rollicking, old-school flavor some authenticity is their decision to rehearse at their drummer Richard Danielson's house there, pitted inside a tree-covered, mid-'60s time warp bereft of cell phone reception.
"The first week we came up here, we called this place 'The Time Vacuum,'" says vocalist Ty Taylor, sitting outside the band's secluded rehearsal studio. "We would come up here, there's no phone signal, you think you're only gonna be at practice from 3 to 5:30 and then all the sudden it's 11:15."
Founded in 2010, Vintage Trouble has spent the past two years bouncing back and forth between L.A. and the U.K., performing hundreds of shows in the meantime. Tonight the group hits the El Rey Theater, celebrating the U.S. release of their debut album Bomb Shelter Sessions this week and a performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
Since their first late-night gig at defunct Venice venue the Stronghold two years ago, the group went from thrashing on tiny stages all over L.A. to opening for Bon Jovi and Queen guitarist Brian May and snagging a performance on the British TV show Later...with Jools Holland. They insist, however, that they've paid their dues.
"We got to do all the steps that pretty much every band has to go through," says bassist Rick Barrio Dill. "We just got to do them very close together."
Before hatching songs like "Blues Hand Me Down" and "Running Out of You," all of the members had been in other musical projects. For Taylor, that included a four-year career with soft rock/R&B act Dakota Moon in the mid-'90s and even a stint as a Mohawk-sporting contestant on the 2005 reality show RockStar: INXS. On the other hand, Danielson -- the group's hard-hitting drummer -- had taken a 15 year hiatus from music before picking up music again and auditioning for the group.
"When we first came to Richard's house to practice, all his drums were in his backyard laying out all rusty with ivy all over them," says guitarist Nalle Colt. "He hadn't played in forever."
Despite their various musical backgrounds, their motive since the beginning has been to get back to the basics. Wearing a thick coat of hard-charging soul, tracks like "Strike Your Light" and "Still and Always Will" made a lasting impression at clubs like Harvelle's in Santa Monica, where the band was offered a weekly residency after their first gig there.
Fans at the club watched week after week as the band's retro vests and velvet neckties become sopping with sweat under crimson stage lights. Taylor became known for attacking the stage like a quick-footed reincarnation of James Brown. They soon left for a tour of London.
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But even with plenty of European traveling under their belts, celebrating the official release of their record in front of a hometown crowd is sure to conjure up some sweet nostalgia.
"When I first moved to L.A. I lived on Cochran and Wilshire and I used to go to a Ralphs a little west of that," says Taylor. "And every day I'd walk past the El Rey Theatre and I'd always [say], "I'm gonna play there one day. So the fact that we're getting to celebrate one of our biggest moments there is pretty damn validating."
Vintage Trouble performs with guest DJ Jeremy Sole, Thursday at the El Rey Theater. 5515 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles. (323) 936-4790, www.theelrey.com. Doors at 8 p.m. $15. All ages.