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Real and Simple and True 

An old John Lee Hooker record provided the inspiration for The Record Company

When inspiration struck the Record Company, it came from an old vinyl record. Naturally.

The bluesy, roots-rock trio of Chris Vos (guitar, harmonica), Alex Stiff (bass) and Marc Cazorla (drums) formed two years ago in Los Angeles, taking their cues from the direct and timeless music they'd always loved.

Vos, from Wisconsin, and East Coast-transplants Stiff and Cazorla had each wound up in LA, becoming friends before they started playing music together.

"One evening we were listening to an old John Lee Hooker record and we'd had a few beers and just decided to do something raw like that. It inspired us to play something that's a little closer to the roots of where it all came from," Vos says.

"One of the biggest things about when we started the band was just deciding we were going to do it because we loved this kind of music and wanted to play. We'd all been in a bunch of bands and we're just trying to keep it real and simple and as true as possible."

They started playing some living room jams, working out songs together and once the project got to be real, they started brainstorming for a band name.

"Getting a name is one of the hardest things in the world for a band to do nowadays," Vos says. "Alex texted me one night saying he'd figured out the name: The Record Company. I thought 'Oh, it's gotta be taken,' but it wasn't. So we got the URL and the Facebook and all that right away.

"There are so many things about that name that fit us. The thing that we all do whenever we're not on the road is sit around listening to old vinyl records. We've been doing that ever since the first day we met each other. It just completely fits us."

The concept from day one was never attempting to emulate the greats, but taking their own path with the same musical tools and goals: making music that's simple, honest and raw.

"We all write together. It's easy for us to write together and we all enjoy the sound of the band together, so it makes it a lot easier to draw in some real emotion. We just write what we feel and if it's relatable it's because we write from the same frustrations and happinesses that we all go through," Vos says.

That emotional connection is what Vos always connected with in music. Growing up on a diary farm in southeastern Wisconsin, he picked up the guitar at 12, and since high school, Vos has always been playing in some band or another.

"There was always music on, everything from Motown to Hendrix to CCR to Muddy Waters to Hank Williams. I've loved all those kinds of music, since I was a little kid," he says.

With that foundation set, Vos just needed a push in the right direction.

"I went to see Buddy Guy when I was about 19 and it was transformative," he says. "At that point, I was living in Milwaukee and I was addicted to live shows, but there were three shows that really were extremely important to me: Ray Charles, Buddy Guy and B.B. King. I was fortunate to see all those guys right around that time and it flipped a switch inside me."

So last fall when The Record Company opened for Buddy Guy at Tucson's Rialto Theatre, Vos got to realize a lifelong dream.

"I don't think any of us went into playing the kind of music we're playing with any expectations. We've been fortunate to get with a couple good club owners and promoters who believe us and we've been lucky enough to find an audience that enjoys what we're doing. LA can be a tough nut to crack, but we knew what we wanted to sound like from day one, so that made it easy a bit," he says.

The band has enough material to release two full-length records, but is concentrating on playing out now, as openers for artists like Guy, B.B. King, Charles Bradley, Social Distortion and Robert Randolph, at big shows like the Quebec International Music Festival, Summerfest, Montreal International Jazz Festival, and Ottawa Bluesfest, and as headliners in their own right. With two self-recorded and self-released EPs, The Record Company has also found some success licensing songs to films and TV shows, like "CSI."

"We have all this material recorded and we're always working on more and it gives us an opportunity to continue to stockpile ideas," he says. "We're just tying to book another tour, write another song, play another show."

More by Eric Swedlund

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