Rick Barrio Dill: Theory of Devolution

August 27, 2013
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“IN LOS ANGELES IT’S BEST TO HAVE A BROAD skill set in order to pay the bills,” says Rick Barrio Dill. He applied every aspect of his expansive multi-instrumental, vocal, songwriting, and recording know-how to his modern rock outfit 2nd Day Crush until time turned around in 2010. “When Vintage Trouble came together, it was about completely letting go and allowing the music to come from inside,” Dill continues. “We refer to it as ‘devolving.’” Dill, singer Ty Taylor, guitarist Nalle Colt, and drummer Richard Danielson cut bare-bones demos in the style of myriad ’50s and ’60s rock and R&B heroes. Vintage Trouble’s raw soul sound resonated, and soon the group was opening for the Who and doing major festival dates on its own, astounding audiences with an in-the- moment, no-set-list highwire act. We interviewed Dill at Napa Valley’s innaugural BottleRock festival after a second-to- none performance.

Please elaborate on what “devolving” means to you.

It means stripping everything down, other than dressing up, which we do out of respect. Having no effect pedals challenges me to manipulate my bass tone to achieve various sounds. I dig P-Basses because you can’t get any simpler than two knobs—volume and tone. I even wire my Jazz Basses like that. I’ll roll back the tone control just enough to cop an oldschool feel on a 6/8 ballad like “Gracefully,” and run it wide open for maximum bite on a rocker like “Blues Hand Me Down.”

How does playing in such a lean soul band affect your mentality on bass?

I often think like a rhythm guitarist or a string player. “Nancy Lee” is a standard dirty blues, and a lot of what makes it pop is how I dance along with, and in-between with, Richard’s drum rhythm. I play with the kick for the important parts, and then play against it like a rhythm guitar player on the upbeats during other parts, to create a push-and-pull volatility.

The crescendo that sets up the guitar solo on “Run Outta You” is a good example where there could be strings, so I play like a cello player with a big, legato vibrato. When we were in the studio writing “Not Alright by Me,” I put a lot of thought into playing like a cello player for the part that goes high up on the neck, figuring that would be a beautiful way to make it speak against Nalle’s beautiful guitar.

Vintage Trouble really comes alive as a group onstage.

We had been a band for only three months when we cut the record. I used a P-Bass, and a Fender Marcus Miller Jazz Bass wired like a P-Bass and loaded with Aguilar pickups, through an old Ampeg B-15 fliptop. We literally stood around in a circle and did all full takes, with no click track, in just two-and-a-half days. So when I talk about “devolving,” I really mean it. Vintage Trouble is as stripped down and simplified as it can be.

INFO

LISTEN

Vintage Trouble, The Bomb Shelter Sessions [Vintage Trouble, 2011]

EQUIP

Basses Fender American Vintage ’64 Jazz Bass, Fender American Vintage ’57 Precision Bass (with Aguilar pickups)
Strings D’Addario Chromes flatwounds (.045–.105)
Rig Aguilar DB 751 head with Aguilar DB 410 & DB 115 cabinets
Approach “Smaller is bigger on club shows. I shave the 40Hz– 60Hz frequencies for a snotty tone that sits on top of Rich’s huge bass drum sound. I kick more low end on arena gigs because I need to feel those frequencies onstage.”

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