The Vegabonds sat down with Atwood Magazine at Hangout Festival to tell us about how they’ve expanded their music over the years while keeping their roots in southern rock. We talk about Tom Petty, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the rock n’ roll life, and look back at the band’s beginnings.
‘Tom Petty and The Braves’ – The Vegabonds
We’ve been a rock band, another day we’re an indie band. We jam a lot. We’ve had a lot of sides.
Playing in their home state of Alabama, the energy surrounding the early morning set was palpable. The weather was perfect, the crowd was forming, and The Vegabonds were very excited.
They bring a bona fide country flair to classic rock, and it was exactly the wakeup call that we all desperately needed in the morning. The energy was high, and the tunes were blaring.
After their set, Atwood Magazine had the opportunity to sit down with the band to chat. The Vegabonds consists of Daniel Allen (lead vocals, songwriter), Richard Forehand (lead guitar, vocals), Paul Bruens (bass), Beau Cooper (songwriter, keyboard, vocals), and Bryan Harris (drums).
The first question I asked them (and every artist, usually) is what kind of music they listen to outside of their own, and who gets to aux when on the road?
“We listen to a lot of Tom Petty, that’s probably the default. A lot of sports talk radio too. ESPN Radio is always on also.”
“Yeah, pretty much Tom Petty and ESPN. Whenever Richard drives it’s going to be Grateful Dead Radio too, also some podcasts for sure.”
The guys clearly take some lessons from the Grateful Dead, with on stage jam sessions during their performances.
I wanted to take the guys back in time, to their college days. We chatted a bit about the hustle and dedication it takes to dive head-first into music, instead of a more secure paycheck. The guys told me about those pivotal first days as musicians.
“When I graduated it was in the middle of 2008, right during the recession, so I’m thinking like I can make money playing music, and I can’t find a job, so it looks like I’m doing music for a while. Yeah, 2009 is when we started, and I was going through my senior year, all my hardest classes. We started to tour midway through all that. On my graduation night, we played our first show in Birmingham. I got in the car and drove literally straight after graduating. We started touring so much, I never looked back.”
I followed up by asking how life on the road has changed since then, and especially if they miss the simple days of sleeping in the tour van.
“Yeah, we can stay in nicer hotel rooms now, and not one hotel room for six people,” chuckled Richard. “Now everyone has their own room, everyone has their own bed. It’s just a lot more comfortable, especially since we travel a lot at night. I got my fill of living in the van life; I don’t need anymore. I snore really bad, so I know these guys are glad to be done with the van life too.”
The guys were bursting out in laughter, as they reminisced on those early days.
“We really want to thank our fans who come to our shows, so now we can afford to get multiple hotel rooms. We actually sleep now. The first time we got three rooms, I was like, ‘We made it! This is it!’”
The band has been on the road a long time, opening for legendary artists, and playing for massive festival crowds. I had to know what it was like opening for two specific legends, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Greg Allman.
“Oh yeah, that was awesome. Greg Allman is really cool. I think Starling Daniels was the coolest, though.”
“I don’t know, Skynyrd was cool because, I think it was Gary Rossington, and at the time he looked over, and we were playing on stage, it was me and a couple of us, and he goes ‘you guys are good’ and then goes back to playing his guitar. That was so sick. And you’re like thinking, ‘this is a legendary moment’. That was so cool, and it’s fantastic to be able to play with legends you grew up with. These are like the rock legends to us; it really doesn’t get bigger. That’s why it was so cool to us.”
The Vegabonds are a southern rock band, through and through. But they aren’t afraid to step out of comfortability and play with some new genres. They covered the hit song, “Kids” by MGMT in a cool genre-blend. They also have experimented as a jam band, with their EP, Jam in The Van – The Vegabonds.
I asked them if they have any interest in experimenting with more new genres. The guys were chuckling a lot as they thought back about all the directions they’ve tried in the past.
“Honestly, we’ve been a rock band, another day we’re an indie band. We jam a lot. We’ve had a lot of sides of us. We’re a new south rock band, like modern day rock. Southern Rock is the whole base, and it can go anywhere from there. We play what we think sounds good, we’re not really trying to cater to a genre, necessarily. I mean, we’re all southern dudes, we sound southern, but our band listens to probably every genre. I was front row at a Backstreet Boys concert like two months ago, and it was fantastic.”
“That tells you everything you need to know. I started in high school playing in pop punk bands, hardcore bands, and then I also played blues music. It’s where it all comes from.”
We finished up by chatting about who they were excited to see live at Hangout Festival after their set.
“Chili Peppers for sure. I’ve never seen them live, so I definitely want to see that. Paramore too, definitely. I’m also excited for Highly Suspect! Thundercat is today too, right? Yeah, them too. I mean, when Chili Peppers play “Scar Tissue” tonight, I’m going to be screaming for sure!
The Vegabonds are truly keeping southern rock and roll alive, but they’re not afraid to step outside of the established and partake in the experiential.
They’re cool guys, and they rock hard. Check out their new single, “Interstate Cowboy,” and catch them on tour all summer long.
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