Vince Walker of Suburban Legends
Southern California’s own Suburban Legends have been called everything from Ska to Rock to Pop to Soul, they don’t really care what you call them as long as you call. For this six piece band (Vince Walker on vocals, Brian Klemm on guitar, Brian Robertson on Trombone, Derek Lee Rock on drums, Mike Hachey on bass and Luis Beza on trumpet) the true vision of their band comes to life through their live show. With a long island ice tea approach to music (everything goes!) the stage is where they really feel at home and where the energy of the band resides.
Not afraid to admit their love affair with catchy pop tunes, Suburban Legend dishes up song after gloriously catchy song daring you to paint them into a corner soundwise. Their latest album “Let’s Be Friends” scheduled to be released this month, is said to share the diversity of their previous releases while including a few songs dedicated to each sound they’ve embraced.
Currently on tour with Less than Jake and Goldfinger, lead singer (and one time trumpet player) Vince Walker took some time to let me pick his brain about the band, about their dashing good looks and about being a legend, Suburban that is.
Interviewed by: Mary Ouellette | June 2008
Let’s start with a little bit of history…the band has had its share of line-up changes over the years and you actually went from trumpet player to frontman, can you tell us sort of how that transpired?
I was playing trumpet in the group, and I’ve been in the group since the very beginning. I was going in and out of school and we were touring a lot, and I felt like I just had to finish school so I left to finish and came back as the lead singer when I rejoined. That’s the shortened version.
So did you always sing?
I always sang back up in the group and I had other projects that I sang with, but I never seriously thought about the lead singer role until I rejoined as the lead singer. We put on a huge show and we want to have a good time with everybody so the horn section was almost like having a bunch of lead guys and I thought I would apply that and it would be an easy fit but it was very different. I’m still growing into it.
Don’t you play guitar too? Sounds like you could pretty much fill in anywhere in the band..
I don’t know if I could fit anywhere! Certain things fit which is why the group works as well as it does. I do play guitar and sing and play trumpet.. I like music, we’re all big fans of music.
The band first came together while you were all in high school right? Did you think it would turn into a career for you? Was music your ultimate goal?
We came together during my last year of high school. I did really want to do something in music as a career. I was in the school band, I was going to go into college as a music major, I really wanted to make music a big part of my life. When we first started the band we were a ska band and our first show was a talent show. Our very first bass player asked me to play trumpet for the talent show and sure enough, a couple of years later it’s this. It’s pretty wild, I definitely look back on it a lot and think that I don’t know how it happened but it’s a good thing.
With six members there has to be a ton of different influences infused throughout and critics have used every word in the book when describing you to pop, rock, and phunk with a ph…for people that are completely unfamiliar with the band, what would you want them to know about your sound and how you would define it?
You know what, when people first hear us or see us I think the first thing that they think is that “wow you guys have a lot of energy and a lot of personality.” I think that’s what comes through the most. Even with all the genres and influences we have I think what it really comes down to is people hear that energy and they see it when we perform live. Generally, we’re huge fans of pop music. The hookier it is and the more it gets stuck in your head, we’re big fans of that. That and chop it up with a lot of heavy guitars and horns, we like that.
Photo by: Tiffany Warch
It’s been hinted around that the ska sound of the band will be more predominant on your upcoming album Let’s Be Friends, is that true?
Yes, definitely. We’ve got 2-3 songs that are more ska. I think with the last couple of albums we were experimenting and trying to use stuff just for fun to keep it fresh. But this time around we’ve accumulated everything we’ve ever done and it’s definitely a fun album.
Can you tell us how the album (Let’s be Friends) is coming along? Maybe give us some insight into some of the tracks?
My favorite tracks..that’s like picking my favorite child! I would say the lyrics are a lot more fun, we wrote a lot of satirical fun lyrics having to do with bros and hos and having fun. The overall energy is definitely a lot more colorful. The album artwork is very colorful. We’ve got a few disco songs, a few ska songs, a few rock songs….we went all out on this one.
On Infectious, it seems like from track to track you explore different styles of music, do you think with Let’s Be Friends you’ll maintain this diversity or is it going to be more focused on one sound?
It’s still going to have that Suburban Legends diversity. When people listen to it they’re going to go “yeah they did a lot of stuff”. I would say the feel of it is a lot more cohesive. There is going to be a focus to it, we wrote a bunch of songs and it’s always hard to tell until it gets pulled together.
So in talking to you just this short time you seem pretty down to earth but, I have to call you out. Do you know that in your bio the band is referred to as having “dashing good looks” which I think they stole from an old episode of Leave it to Beaver…the band seems to put forth a pretty clean image, is this an important factor?
Yeah, I guess. We have a clean image but we do things that may not be considered so clean because we’re normal people..or we’re not so normal people..I don’t know whichever way you take it. As long as we look good doing it, no I’m just kidding. Our second job would be H&M models. I don’t reall know how to answer that question. I read our bio too and chuckled at it.
So you’re metrosexuals..
Oh definitely. You can put that down on the record. Maybe not all of us but the majority of us are. We’re from Southern California and people can just smell that on is, there’s nothing we can do.
Photo by: Tiffany Warch
Having the added elements of a horn section, how does that get incorporated into the songwriting process? Is it considered from the beginning?
It really depends on the song. Sometimes you’ll come up with something horn based and the vibe just feels right or sometimes you start with something lyrically that’s different. It just depends; it’s a song by song basis. Sometimes we’ll have a song that doesn’t incorporate horns and we’ll add it to bring color to it. It really depends on that creative process and what pops out first.
The band is really active with fans through web episodes, player vids, MySpace, etc…do you consider that an important aspect of the band?
Definitely. It’s our major way to reach out. It’s important to us. We don’t have other avenues that we can explore, we’re not on MTV so that’s our one way right now. They’re fun.
You’re gearing up for a tour with Less Than Jake, are you a fan of the band and how excited are you?
Definitely. I’m excited the first time I saw them was last summer when we played with them in Jersey. I’m very excited about the tour, there will be a lot of people at these shows and I think it’s going to be a fun lineup with Goldfinger on some of the dates too.
Are you planning on playing the new material on your upcoming tour?
We have a couple of new songs that we’re going to throw into the set and we’ll be playing all the hits from the others..okay well maybe not hits..
With six guys in the band, do you ever have to fight for stage space? Any weird accidents attributed to that ratio?
A couple of mouthpieces in the face, a couple of mics to the face, we’ve definitely tripped over each other, there’s always accidents.
Do you still incorporate dance into your live show?
So that must add to the accident ratio on stage as well..
Yeah, broken knees, thrown out backs…we have aches and pains, we have to get massaged after each show. (I wish we did, that would be great!)
Maybe you should add that to your rider for this tour..
Yeah right! A lot of ibuprofen. Only over the counter stuff though! We don’t dabble in anything else!
Vince Walker/Photo by: Travis Hodges
Believe me, I could tell that just by your dashing good looks! Okay I’m going to put you on the spot. Give us a little known fact about each of your bandmates….
Oh man, that’s tough, because I know them so well..I live with Robot. I don’t know if that’s a fun fact.
Brian Klemm knows more about comic books than anyone on the face of the planet. He knows a lot. He collects, I got him Wizard for Christmas and he really liked it. I think that’s the best gift that I ever bought for anyone, at least judging by his reaction.
Let’s see…Derek’s got a really cute dog.
He does? What kind of dog?
He’s got a pug, his name is Teddy.
Mikey works at the Apple store.
Does he get you discounts!
He does. On some things. He knows more about the iphone than anyone else. We’re all big Mac Fans.
Luis rides his bike a lot, he does a lot of bikeriding. He does a lot of stuff and things. He told me the other day that someone on MySpace reached out to him and told him that they were a big fan of his style and wanted to dress like him, so he’s our fashionista. Yeah, so he’s the top of the triangle of our dashing good looks.
Robot works at Jamba Juice, I work at Starbucks…
I already knew that about you, I read it somewhere, so you need to come up with something better about yourself…
That’s a deep question. Help me out.
What’s your guilty pleasure when it comes to music? Although I get the feeling you don’t have any guilty pleasures and you’re pretty proud of them all..
I’m really kind of a shy guy, but yeah, I like a lot of music.
How would you describe your live show to music fans, what can people expect to see when they come to see Suburban Legends?
Well the first thing that people always say is that we have a lot of energy. We just have a good time on stage, we do things that I don’t think a lot of bands do. We work the stage and people seem to recognize that, we give our all every time I play.
Is the whole band involved in the writing process for the songs? How does that work with so many people?
Me, Mikey, Derek and Brian are usually the ones that pump out as much material as we can and bring it to the group to show them ideas and then we start hacking away at it to make is Suburban Legends. We all end up influencing each other. We bring our material to the table and share ideas. Lyrically usually Brian and I come up with the majority of the lyrics, we get together to write. There’s definitely not one dictator that writes an entire song, we’re all involved.
Parting words to music fans?
Look out for Lets Be Friends, it’s going to be a real good album. Come see us on tour. We’re always saying that we’re planning to do the biggest things on the face of the earth…but I think we are finally going to make that happen somehow. We’ll go to a pizza buffet together..can you write that?