Greg Daniels – guitar/keyboards
Joe McChan – drums
Ryder Robison – bass
Quentin Smith – lead vocals
Chris Sorenson – guitar
Adam Tymn – guitar
Unless you caught them at last year’s Van’s Warped Tour or at one of their local, sparsely attended shows here in town, you may not have heard of Vaux.
The boys just can’t seem to get no respect from their hometown. That was until; the recent release of their Volcom label debut, There Must Be Some Way To Stop Them, a fitting album title to describe Vaux’s unending drive.
Bassist Ryder Robison thinks the whole bandwagon fan is funny, “This kid comes up to me and says, ‘Yea man, I’ve been to all your shows.’
I thought, ‘No you haven’t. I’VE been to everyone of my shows and I don’t remember you!”
Vaux was back in Denver for one night to play at the BlueBird, and being recognized for the first time in his old stomping grounds didn’t seem real to Ryder. “I was walking down on Colfax and these kids yelled at me, ‘You’re the bass player for Vaux!’ It was weird. I’ve been here forever. I live like eight blocks from here. But the CD just came out and they seem to really like it. So that’s pretty cool.”
Flying by the seat of their torn up jeans, Vaux has been determined to stay out on the road – outside of Colorado – to make a name for themselves in cities across the country.
What really helped launch the band was getting onto that 2002 Warped Tour. Running into legalities with their previous band name, Eiffel, they didn’t have a new band name yet or even any merchandise to sell. But that didn’t stop them from turning their one-day gig here in Denver into a five-week stint.
After that first gig, Ryder was packing up his stuff to leave, and “this dude comes walking up to me in this kilt.” And I’m like, ‘Ah…hey, how’s it going?” It turned out to be Jay Bentley, bass player from Bad Religion. After realizing who he was, Ryder turned from fellow musician to fan, exclaiming, “Holy Shit! Don’t shake my hand, give me hug!”
From there, Ryder and the other members had their plan – to show up every morning ready to play, and talk to every one they could about staying on the tour. An introduction from Jay to the Bad Religion’s tour manager, who was also one of the tour managers for Warped, was the ticket. “Jay was pulling strings…everyone was trying to work for us. We just showed up and said that we would fill in where ever they wanted us,” he explains.
Vaux did take a few weeks off from following the tour to write new music and make previously committed dates on the east coast, meeting up with the Warped caravan again in Sioux Falls. Their timing was perfect.
“The Line ended up dropping off the tour, so they gave us their position. There were a ton of other bands that should have been in there,” says Ryder. “But because of what we did…every time the door started to shut we shoved our foot in there. We’re pretty relentless with that kind of stuff.”
Granted, tenacity can turn some people off. But if you have the talent to back it up on stage, most promoters can’t turn away. “Usually the way we start off with promoters is, they get really pissed off at us. Then they watch us play and they say, ‘Come Back! Come Back!”
To Vaux, they truly believe in their live performances. “A show will make it or break it for a band. We put everything we have into it,” Ryder says emphatically.
Having been on the road for so long, all the members of Vaux lost their resistance to the effects of our higher altitude, and they could really feel it when they performed back in their hometown. Even with of a lack of oxygen, Vaux still pummeled the audience with a massive wave of rock tornado, each of them jumping and ripping about in a frenzied unit of guitars, drums, sweat and hair.
Their brazen tenacity on stage and off led them to a number of accomplishments over the past year, from those “one week turned into five week” tours to a signing with Volcom. This is always a pinnacle point for any band, and when entering any long-term relationship, all factors have to be taken into consideration.
If you’ve done your homework like these guys have, you know what to look for. “It was a combination of things,” which, according to Ryder, sealed the deal. “Everything from the distribution they have, which is fantastic with MCA. The people who work there…it’s a really small, tight team. And we don’t have to deal with a bunch of suits, people that don’t give a shit about us.”
Although Vaux realizes that with an indie label, there isn’t the budget to support, “a million dollars to buy our way onto radio,” comments lead vocalist, Quentin Smith, “but if our van breaks down and we need a new transmission or something, it’s no problem. We don’t have to worry about it.”
“That actually happened last week,” Ryder adds. “We had no passing gear, and we were getting to every show very, very slowly. That was pretty stressful.”
The stress of the road already exists when you’re around your band buddies 24/7. “There’s six of us,” Ryder explains. “We’re sitting in a tin can traveling around, and we’re around each other all the time.”
But over the years they’ve learned what it takes to keep things rolling. “You have to be an asshole sometimes and you just get used to it. Everything just becomes funny. And when things stop becoming funny and get under your skin, you blow it up and talk about it. That’s about it.”
Beyond auto repairs, Volcom’s biggest impact on the band has been their support to release their new album. Now, they don’t have to pay for everything themselves by taking out student loans that were a bit more than what was really needed.
Their method for songwriting has evolved throughout the years, as the four boys grew into six men with thick skin and strong opinions. And all, “six people critique everything. So a lot of stuff goes out the window. It might make people mad, but what can you do. You get used to that,” Quentin comments, matter of factly.
Beginning with a foundation of guitars, songs build from there. “You start with one idea, then that turns into someone else’s rendition of it,” Ryder adds. “But if it doesn’t make the cut,” he snaps his fingers, “it’s out.”
Most of the band members have prior critiquing experience from their days in art and architecture school. That mix of abstract flair and precise sensibilities is vividly apparent in every track on There Must Be Some Way To Stop Them. After you throw in and get a listen to the first track, “Set It To Blow”, you’ll know that this is the stuff that can cause car stereo speakers to erupt and gets the neighbors call the cops.
One can say their sound is heavy. But that would only scratch the surface on the many style layers – from agro rock to modern rock, and even a hint of electronics placed strategically throughout. When Greg Daniels lends a keyboard hand over his guitar strap, he gives songs like “On Love and Cars” and “Paint It Red” a quirky, tweaked electric effect and slight brit-pop feel.
“We didn’t really want too much synth-y keyboards and distorted bass shit,” says Quentin.
“Yea, that would put me out of a job,” adds Ryder, with a grin.
“Actually, we’re going to replace him with a sequencer…put a little hair on there and a beard,” Quentin deadpans. “But seriously, we plan to do a lot more piano in the future,” thus setting them further apart from any specific genre pack. And without crossing any electro clash barriers, vapors of modern rock pour over “Broke The Brakes” long enough for Vaux’s blast of heavy guitars to boil to the surface.
During most of the album, Quentin’s vocals rip and spit at your face. But when he saunters back in an ethereal, “come hither” fashion on “At Your Will” and “Four Cornered Lives”, you can’t help but make the Radiohead connection, one that has risen a number of times in various press pieces on the band. But it’s that intense musicianship, that culmination of emotions and sound that really hits you to the core.
The recent success of the album has garnered the attention of the press and new fans countrywide. They’ve even secured a recent sponsorship by Red Bull, “So we already have a caffeine buzz!” smiles Quentin.
You can almost see the light bulb go on above Ryder’s head as he says, “How cool would it be to mainline Red Bull?!”
Red Bull or not, they will once again blow away the Van’s Warped Tour kids and the bands when they come back home for a day to play Invesco Field on June 22. But this time, in addition to the memory of seeing their show, the kids will be able to walk away with something to remember them by – that merch that they didn’t have last year.
As of the time this interview was done, Vaux had tentative plans to take on Europe for the first time. And as far as the future of their music goes, have big plans to spread their creative wings and fly off in new directions. “We’ll be able to start off with any ideas, versus just a guitar or bass,” Ryder comments. “We’ll be able to start with a vocal melody or harmony, or keyboards…piano. So the cool thing for future albums is, the sky’s pretty much the limit.”