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| 6 March 2018 | Reply

According to a recent press release: “VISTA KICKS released their debut 15-track full-length BOOTY SHAKERS BALL album in September of 2017, catching the ear of BUZZBANDS LA’s Kevin Bronson who noted the album “…certainly lives up to the promise of its title,” adding: “the album finds Vista Kicks covering plenty of musical turf, much of which can be traced to the British Invasion. Unfettered power-pop, bad-boy glam, brash rock ’n’ soul, boot-stomping bar rock—Ball spins around all of them without languishing in one place too long. More than many twentysomethings who’ve turned to classic rock, there’s craftsmanship in what they’ve made, from tasty but not overplayed guitar leads to Thomas’ just-right rocker snarl-cum-falsetto. Commence shaking.””  We got frontman Derek Thomas on the phone to discuss the release, touring, bad showers, and much more…

Toddstar: Derek, thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to chat. I appreciate it.

Derek: No problem. I’m not doing anything else. We’re in Philly right now.

Toddstar: You mentioned you’re in Philly – you guys are out on the Booty Shakers Ball tour. How is the tour going so far since you guys left L.A.?

Derek: The tour’s been great. We’ve hit some major cities that we’ve not hit in a while, and we’ve gotten double, triple our size in most audiences. Not only that, but people respond better. Even if it’s a similar size or a smaller crowd, people are really getting down this tour. I think the material lends itself to that a little more. The Chasing Waves tour, which we were out on last time is a little more surf rocky. You could dance, but it’s not on the nose as much as Booty Shakers Ball. You don’t get more on the nose than that. It’s almost like you feel bad if you’re not dancing.

Toddstar: You guys were in Detroit a week ago. We all joked about Detroit Rock City and things like that. What’s it like for you guys to come from L.A. and to play a city like Detroit, where you know there’s just so much music history and what-have-not?

Derek: It’s amazing to go and tour, especially Detroit. We’d never been to Detroit. We met up with one of our equipment guys and he hooked us up with some pedals. He had won a Grammy with Eminem. He showed us the studio. I guess Greta Van Fleet been playing there. It was cool. It was cool that a city that we knew nothing about had so much going on.

Toddstar: You mention Greta Van Fleet – and nothing against what they do – but I like what you guys do and you’ve kind of crafted your own sounds.

Derek: Yeah. I think so. We’ve just been sort of doing our own thing. I mean, we’re heavily influenced by the classic rock and we get lumped into that a little bit. But there’s a lot more funk and soul and hip hop influences that we draw from that I think the throwback bands don’t. And that’s what’s kind of created our own thing. That and we’re mainly concerned about songwriting. We’ve always just been students of songwriting. Like no matter what the genre, it like is it a great song? You learn from Hank Williams to Cole Porter to Ira Gershwin. Like we study a lot of the great song writing. We started in jazz. So we started learning song from the greatest songwriters in the world, I think. Like “Fly Me To the Moon” and “All of Me” and “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” and Sam Cooke, stuff like that. That’s what influences us in the songwriting process and then we just sort of play to the song. So wherever that’s coming from, whether is Beatles or Eagles or whatever. Even as new as Anderson Pack and Kendrick Lamar and maybe in the 2000’s Dr. Dre. We’re kind of all of the place so that’s kind of why we call it the Booty Shakers Ball because we didn’t know what to call it. It was kind of just a jambalaya.

Toddstar: Can you share with us the origin of the term Booty Shakers Ball?

Derek: So, yeah, my brother had been preaching at me for years because we’d been doing the jazz and soul. And we were a crooner band. And he was like, “Nah dude, you need to be playing booty shaking rock and roll.” And finally when we started making songs that were a little more rock and roll, a little more booty shaking, he’s like, “Dude. This is what you should have been doing for years. I’ve been telling you, man, booty shaking rock and roll.” And then so, we started calling it that, and then Sam came up with Booty Shakers Ball. And then immediately it was like alright, this is going to be an event. The Booty Shakers Ball is not only going to be what it’s called, but it’s also going to be, a double entendre. It’s going to be something you dress up formal to, you dress up nice and you get yourself out to the Booty Shakers Ball, and you have a good time. And it was kind of like an old-school kind of thing. So the cover for the show, which was going to be the cover for the album, is sort of like this Marvin Gaye, I Want You kind of throwback album cover. It was a really, really great cover. The same guy who did Chasing Waves did that poster for us. I don’t know if you could find it on Instagram. But basically, we wanted it to look and feel like that, and when we did actually have The Booty Shakers Ball October 7th, 2017 at the Echo in L.A., it looked like that, it felt like that. It was amazing. Everybody came all dressed up formal. We haven’t really had another once since. We had one in Sacramento and that was awesome, but we haven’t had another Booty Shakers Ball where we dressed up formal in L.A. I think that in the future we might revisit, like three years from now, do the Booty Shakers Ball album again, and have everybody dress up, just for like the super fans.

Toddstar: Well, another cool thing – maybe it was planned, and you hopefully can elaborate if it was – but when you guys hit the stage you kind of had that Motown feel before you guys sang a note. You had the matching jackets, that Motown groove you guys brought to the table. And it was kind of weird watching west coast guys have that. Was that kind of planned?

Derek: It’s all part of the ingredients. We love Motown. We love Smokey Robinson and Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. Motown and Philly Soul as well. I’m really into The O’Jays, The Delphonics. Soul kind of stuff – 70’s, like Soul Train, that kind of era. We’ve been getting into that kind of stuff. The jackets were… I think that was Trevor and Sam’s idea to have something like that. We knew were going to be matching outfits because that makes it easier for people to recognize our faces quite simply. That’s why we do that. I think that’s why they did that. I think that’s why that used to be a thing. But yeah so, the smoking jackets are… they were just a good deal and they looked cool, they looked nice, they fit the Booty Shakers Ball kind of name and vibe and that’s all I can really say about that. We wear them everywhere so. We can’t afford like big costume so, we’ve got those jackets. They’re starting to smell pretty good now.

Toddstar: Another part of the conversation we had, was we talked about how did you guys know that you made it, that you guys were talking that turn from being… at what point did you guys say, and again, I’ll let you make the joke, but, “You’re all in?” At what point did you guys decide that this is going to be the push – that one way or another you guys were in it for good?

Derek: So after our first tour, we got back and our landlord, who had been so cool, was not cool enough to let us live there for free, which I don’t blame him. The city boy’s got to get out. So, we went and moved into the studio – the studio where we made Booty Shakers Ball. And we lived there. There was no shower. There was not really a proper anything. There was no kitchen. We were cooking with a propane burner. Cooking with an induction burner as well and grill. And just living on top of each other. And the year prior was like no different. We’d been living in a one-bedroom, all four of us. So this was just a little bit tighter of a squeeze. It was just like just pull it in just a little more. And so we were living there and the hose we bought was this squiggly, little thin hose. And it would just squirt the highest pressure of water. And we bought a gym membership, but the gym membership is like… you had to go all the way downtown to go take a shower. So that, eventually turned into just taking a shower with the hose. And I think the moment we realized we were all in was when Trevor’s squirting me with the hose and it’s just hurting, it’s stinging my skin, as we’re showering each other off with the cold water in the middle of the night showering. And the neighbors – we don’t live in the nicest neighborhood in the world, but even the neighbors were like, “Oh my gosh, you guys are rough.”

Toddstar: We talked about the album and how everything came together so easily for you. It was odd to me, in that, it wasn’t your first release … and then they always talk about the sophomore slump, and how you’ve got your whole life to write your first record but not your second. Yet you guys are already pulling stuff together for your next release.

Derek: Yep. It’s already done. It’s already tracked, and it’s harder. Guaranteed. The last release is so good. I’m just happy with the way it came out because obviously we made it ourselves, so you never know what you’re going to get. It was the first time we’ve done that. But Booty Shakers Ball it was like… Since Chasing Waves, we’d written about 40 songs, and we weren’t supposed to do a full album. And then they were telling us to do a six song EP and get in the studio, and pay 20 grand and we were just like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, no.” We’ve great songs, we’ve great music, and we’re going to get past it. It’s emotional. It’s emotionally created, and derived and you have to capture that while you have it. So we took the best 17, is what we tracked for Booty Shakers Ball, 15 made the record. And so this time around since then, we dropped all the other songs that were remaining from the 40 that we started with. We haven’t even revisited yet. We just kept writing and we ended up with 17 songs for this next record called Twenty-Something Nightmare, which will be out in the summer. And we don’t really have a problem writing and making stuff I think. Every artist is different, but what I think what I’ve found to be a little bit universal is when an artist sits on the material for too long, they kind of ruin it. It’s like capturing lightning in a bottle and if you don’t let the lightning out of the bottle – you capture it in the bottle, you record it, and then you let it back out, or else it’s going to break the bottle. That’s the kind of analogy I see it as. It’s creative work. You don’t always have a say in what goes into it, even though you are making it. Basically, you don’t have a complete autonomy over every lyric and every song. There’s a little bit of magic involved. So with respect to the magic, you have to just make as much as you can and put it out there. And it’s kind of time-stamping our lives as we make these records. It’s sort of like ah that’s kind of where we were emotionally, and mentally, and philosophically.

Toddstar: I know you’re busy, and like you said you’re in Philly getting your stuff done. But I want to know, before we let you go, what’s next? You’ve got the album ready to go, obviously you guys will hit the road, you’ve get some new merch out there, get some tour dates, get some people listening to you guys. In your mind, what’s the next pinnacle moment for Vista Kicks?

Derek: A lot of what we’re doing is just the cycle of making records and touring the records, and making records and touring the records. I think there’s a couple of things that we’re doing that are special that I think will make Vista Kicks be its own thing. One thing that’s going to happen is we’re going to become financially independent as a band. We’re an independent band, so that’s huge. We’re going to get off the ground, which is going to mean a lot. Not worrying about rent and investors who have put money into us. So that’s going to happen. That’s going to be a big point of success and achievement. The other thing that’s going to happen is that we have this Kick Back Club that’s going to grow. Right now we’ve got over 200 submissions. And they’re 300-word applications that these people apply to be part of the Kick Back Club, and we sent them things in the mail when we have extra merch and when we have just stuff to give them. And we make these little coins out of brass, and we hand stamp them with a metal stamp that says Vista Kicks. So we can tell the difference between somebody who’s just a fan and somebody who’s a part of the Kick Back Club. And the Kick Back Club is great because it’s got its own personal Instagram that’s private, so we just only interact with them. And so it’s kind of like this behind-the-scenes, it’s like VIP access to the band, but you don’t have to pay for it. You pay for it in effort and merit and work ethic, but you don’t pay for it financially. It’s not about money. It’s just about time. We’re not from money. We don’t come from money, so we don’t expect everybody to have money. It’s about people who love the band can get more involved with the band, and we reward them with things that are exclusive to them. And I think what’s cool is that’s going to start having its own chapters in each city. Right now we just do it at our studio. But we can’t bring everybody to our studio. It only fits 50, 60 people. We have enough friends who want to come every time. So what we want to do, is have our own Kick Backs hosted by the Kick Back Clubs in each city. And have Kick Back tours and have stuff like that going on. Where we’re kind of running our own thing. I think that’ll be a great step in our process. Also getting some music videos out there. Like that’s something we need to be doing. We’ve made four. While we made the record, we made four music videos and we shipped out all of our merch orders. I think when we start making some money, we’ll get some time to sleep. I think that’ll be a good, good point of success.

Toddstar: You heard it here. The band that’s of the people, by the people, for the people.

Derek: Yeah that’s kind of our thing.

Toddstar: That’s cool. Well listen Derek, I appreciate you taking time out again. Hopefully your greenroom tonight will be a little better than the one that you had in Detroit.

Derek: No complaints. We’ve had no greenroom, so that’s… and that’s not even bad.

Toddstar: Okay. Well, there you go. Well listen man, we wish you well with the rest of the tour, and we can’t wait for the next album to drop, and for you guys to come back through Detroit.

Derek: Thank you. Thank you so much for calling and yeah. I called I guess, but yes, thanks for having the interview.  Alright, man. Take care.





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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