By Harriet Kaplan
Vaudeville Etiquette is known for their “dynamic sound that pushes the boundaries of psych-folk with grit, passion, and come-hither wit.” The Seattle quintet offers up “timeless melodies with modern lyrics, heady harmonies, and a potent country-meets-classic-rock chemistry.” The band’s live performances have been described as “magnetic and provocative.” Vaudeville Etiquette has created both “energetic anthems to wistful ballads and back again with psychedelia.” With one album under their collective belt, “Debutantes & Dealers,” Vaudeville Etiquette is set release their sophomore LP, “Aura Vista Motel,” on May 6. Founder and vocalist Tayler Lynn recently spoke to BoC about the origin of the band’s unique name, how they came together as unit, their musical influences, how “Debutantes & Dealers” differs from “Aura Vista Motel” and more. What follows is a great, insightful, thoughtful and sometimes funny interview with Lynn. This wide-ranging interview gives one a deeper understanding and sensitivity of the creative elements that have come into play to bring Vaudeville Etiquette to life.
How did the band come up with name Vaudeville Etiquette?
Tayler: We found it on an old film slide from the silent film era tucked away in a magical corner of a storied bar in Los Angeles.
How did the band come together? Are you all from Seattle?
Tayler: Bradley and I met in music school in Seattle, then moved down to LA for a few years where we officially started Vaudeville Etiquette as a duo. L.A. rattled us a bit and gobbled up all our money, so we returned to Seattle where we had left behind a thriving scene and a tight knit community of musicians. From there we built up VE to the five-piece it is today.
When did the band form?
Tayler: We were doing the duo thing in LA in 2009, we’ve been full-fledged VE since about 2012.
Would you say you all share similar musical influences and what are they? What drew the band to those influences and would you say it’s reflected in your sound and style?
Tayler: We don’t share many musical influences, no. One of our biggest strengths, to my mind, is that we all grew up loving different music, but we’re able to bring them all together in a unique way.
I grew up listening to a lot of Carole King, Loretta Lynn, Elvis, and Gershwin. Bradley was into Pink Floyd, Zeppelin, Grateful Dead, etc. Matt Teske, our pedal steel player, leans more toward Phish and Ween. Bryce Gourley, our drummer, loves classic rock like The Eagles, but is also a diehard fan of anything made in the 90’s. And Robin was classically trained on the bass but also grew up playing a lot of bluegrass.
This hodgepodge definitely helps when we’re building songs together because if one of us doesn’t really get what the other is going for, someone else can pick up the vibe and sort of coach everyone else along. I definitely think that we’ve all really expanded our musical knowledge just by know each other and playing together.
The only time our different influences don’t serve us is when we’re trying to choose someone else’s song to cover for a show. None of us can ever agree and we feel so strongly about our own personal choices, that we’ve gotten into shouting matches about it. It sounds so silly in hindsight, but one time Supertramp versus Beastie Boys almost broke up the band.
How do you feel Debutantes & Dealers differs from Aura Vista Motel? Would you say Aura Vista Motel has a thematic thread or concept?
Tayler: Debutantes & Dealers was our first full-length album and we absolutely could not have made it happen without Barrett Martin, our producer. There’s a very true-to-life, honest sound on that album because we wanted to be as authentic as we possibly could our first time around. We tracked a lot of it live and did very few takes and that contributed to the freshness and vibrant feel.
We wanted to expand on that for the second time out on Aura Vista Motel, but also employ the things that we had learned from playing together, touring and recording in the two years since Debutantes & Dealers. In a way, Aura Vista feels like the more weathered version of Vaudeville Etiquette. We wanted to take more risks, to get a little electric and crunchy with this one. We brought on Shawn Simmons to produce and he was into the same idea. Early on, he suggested this album sound like “Vaudeville Etiquette with the lights off” and we ran with that.
As far as thematic thread, it’s absolutely about the motel. There’s such a dichotomy there, with a motel being safe shelter, but also a breeding ground for trouble. This appealed to the dynamic nature of the band, our taste, and our style. There’s a line in “Empty Hands” that sings “when we tire of the pictures, we’ll just move to a different room.” And that’s exactly what the umbrella of the motel allowed us to do; we could tell different stories in different rooms, and move throughout, but unite them under one sordid little roof.
What’s it like doing everything creatively around your music in a former motel especially one that’s “haunted?” Is that kind of creepy for band or does it inspire the band in ways that working in a traditional studio may not especially that history and legacy around the motel?
Tayler: I don’t think it was ever creepy for anyone. There’s definitely some weird things that happen with the lights from time to time, or strange things appearing and disappearing in the halls, but it’s never felt scary. I think whatever sort of energy thats left over at the motel is benevolent. And I think they like how much noise we make, and fun we have, and how much we party.
It’s been really nice to have our own headquarters to freely explore, take our time, and have a safe space to take risks with our music. A lot of bands don’t get that privilege when they have to share a space or rent it out. We’re really lucky to be able to continue to build things in our own sacred space…with cool ghosts.
Will be band being touring in support of the new album and have you toured before?
Tayler: We’ll be touring around the Pacific Northwest in support of the album this spring, heading down the west coast in the late summer/fall, then over to Europe this winter. Touring is one of the best parts of being in a band because it’s such a huge departure from normal life. It’s always a new adventure and it always make you feel like you’re living on a different plane of time from everyone else. It’s like being in a different version of The Goonies every time we get on the road.
What is the process for collaborating on the arrangements and songs?
Tayler: A lot of it really depends on the circumstance, but usually a song will start from either Brad or myself writing lyrics and basic chord changes on our own, then we’ll bring it together and take it to the full band. At that point, things really start changing and evolving and it gets really democratic and collaborative. Everyone in the band always contributes something valuable at that point.
A great example is a song on Aura Vista Motel called “Till The Wheels Unwind.” This song has probably had more versions than any other song we’ve ever written. It was originally called “Brush It Off” but it never quite felt right. We worked and molded that song in so many different ways until we finally settled on its current arrangement. We even went so far as to write out about 10 different arrangements on a white board and just ran them all ad nauseum until it felt right. That was a very late night. In then end, it’s one of our favorite songs on the new album.
What is the biggest compliment you received as a band and are proud of and why?
Tayler: We’ve met legendary and influential people that dig our sound and like our album, and that’s bucket-list level awesome. But honestly, the coolest thing has been talking to people that come up to us after a show, hand over their heart, and earnestly tell us how much our music has meant to them and enhanced their lives. As a die-hard fan of music myself, I’ve felt the same way about certain artists I’ve admired, but to see that coming back at you with the music you’ve created, is a goose-bump inducing big deal. And ultimately, that’s the biggest reason why we continue to work so hard and make our music; to make people feel connected and alive.