London four piece Vambo have just released their self-titled debut album, eleven delicious slices of 70’s inspired hard rock to tickle the fancy of any self-respecting rock fan. We had vocalist/guitarist Jack Stiles fill us in on all things Vambo related, so, does the legendary Sensational Alex Harvey Band classic play a part in the bands name? Over To Jack –
No it actually doesn’t!
No, obviously I know Alex Harvey and the song Vambo, but surprisingly it doesn’t come from that, my father was the bassist with the band Mud in the ‘70’s and they had a track called ‘Vambo Rools’ that we actually cover on the album, and that’s where the band name came from. Everyone always asks about Alex Harvey, but it was Mud!
Your father, Ray Stiles, produced the album I believe?
He did yeah.
Is he still playing with The Hollies at the moment?
Yeah he still plays with The Hollies, he is a long standing member. They still go out on the road two or three times a year, over to Australia and New Zealand last year, America a few years before that, they’re still kind of hobbling along!
The debut album has just been released, in the run-up to the release how were you feeling? Nervous? Relieved that it was out?
Not nervous to be honest, it was more of a case of just getting it out there, so that we can move onto the next one. We had been working on the debut for a long time, we hadn’t been pulling the tracks apart and rejigging them or anything like that, we’ve had the songs for quite a long time, we’ve been playing them live for a long time. We’ve had several different people playing on them, the band has been together for a while, but we’ve had some of these tracks from a previous band and had past members, but Vambo has been Vambo now for the last four years. It’s been a process of getting everyone on and writing new stuff as well, and that’s been quite a big task for us and we are just glad that it’s finally out.
‘Now You See Me’ goes back to 2017 I believe, and ‘Why Why Why’ was 2018?
Yeah there are two or three tracks on the album that go back further, six or seven years back, and we’ve been pottering away with. The long part was getting them in line with what we have been writing more recently.
‘Why Why Why’ is quite an upbeat track, but it has some really dark lyrics?
I guess so yeah, if you’ve had a bad relationship that’s the kind of stuff that comes out of it. There is a bit of tongue-in-cheek value to it, but it was born out of a bad place I suppose.
‘We’re Not The Same’, followed by ‘Dancing With The Devil’, that’s a cracking one-two, what’s the story there?
‘We’re Not The Same’ is actually our favourite track on the album, I had an email from our guitarist Pete Lance, and he just had the intro as a guitar riff, he said this is ‘We’re Not The Same’. I was in the studio and tried to get a melody line for it and ended up putting ten vocal tracks on it?! Octaves and harmonies running through the entire track, we had about 20 seconds of it, and that 20 seconds just sounded dark and mysterious. It was one of those times where you get part of a song, and the rest comes really quickly. It turned out to be what I think is the most unique track on the album, purely because it has so many different aspects to it. To me, it doesn’t sound like a traditional rock track, it’s a little bit off-the-wall compared to the others. But ‘Dancing With The Devil’? I have no idea where that came from!
You’ve mentioned that some of the songs on the debut have been around for some time now, how quickly will you put this album to bed and move onto the next?
We already have enough to put another album out, some of them are old, and some are new, all written by us though, it’s just a case of finding the ones that are correct for it. We’ll keep on writing, maybe for another year, maybe two, but some of the tracks already written even before the debut album might make the next one.
In the current climate, you can’t afford to stand still?
That’s the thing, we’ve waited so long to get the debut album right, and we had quiet periods of time there, so now it’s no more quiet periods, it needs to be album after album, or single after album. We can only do what we do, and hope that it turns heads.
It seems today that in the pursuit of sounding “new”, bands sometimes forget about song craft. It’s almost like having a “classic” sound is considered not quite good enough, Vambo to me at least, have a “classic” sound, does that tag bother you?
You know what, no it doesn’t, everyone has their influences and ours comes from the ‘70’s. That’s where our favourite bands lie, and our favourite tracks lie. We would take that as a compliment, we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, we’re not like…look at us we’re groundbreaking in the genre of rock. We’re writing rock music that is still current, you can see where it comes from, but it still fits now. There are a few tracks in there that potentially someone who might not listen to rock music might prick their ears up at. We’ve found that at more mainstream festivals that we’ve played, like The Isle Of Wight Festival, where we might be the only rock band on. We’re essentially a hard rock band, but we try to keep the hooks & melodies in there.
The all-important hooks and melodies! Very important.
Exactly, I feel that there is a lot of new rock bands out there, extremely good ones at that, all great players, but I feel sometimes that it can be a bit self indulgent. A bit like…look at us, look at what we can do..rather than working for the song. It doesn’t have to be a musical masterpiece, take AC/DC for example, arguably the biggest rock band ever, their songs are masterpieces, but not because they are masterclasses in the playing, they are masterclasses in writing music that is memorable.
What contemporary band out there, still touring, do you feel would be the perfect band for Vambo to open for?
That’s a difficult one that! We’ve always wanted a support slot with The Darkness, we love The Darkness. We’re not one of those rock bands that think we’re living the rockstar lifestyle, too cool for this and that, wearing sunglasses indoors, that kind of thing. I find that a little bit cliched, we are a serious band but we don’t take ourselves too seriously, and I think that’s why we’ve always went with The Darkness. They do what they do and they do it very well, and have a laugh doing it. We’ve not got the same outfits, or the dangly earrings, it’s just the same vibe of having a good time while being a good band.
You must have had a blast playing Download Festival in the Summer?
Oh man that was incredible! We were only on The Dogtooth Stage..
That’s the best stage though for catching new talent..
Yeah it’s great for that. We were offered three sets, on Thursday, Friday and Sunday, Saturday we were playing at The Isle Of Wight Festival. The Sunday was meant to be acoustic, but we don’t really do acoustic. We did Thursday with Wolf Jaw and Those Damn Crows, and it was like a mini-opening of the festival, that was rammed, which we didn’t expect really. On the Friday the show was at 11am and it had been pissing it down so the mud was up to the knees, we were first on and ten minutes before we went on, we looked out and there was no-one there. We went back to the dressing room, got the guitars and whatnot, walked up to the stage, and within that short period of time, there was now 300/400 people in the tent. We played to a near-full tent, which was really surprising for us as it was 11am!
That tent fills really quickly with people migrating between bands, it’s bizarre the way that it just empties then quickly fills up again with a totally different crowd!
Yeah, we saw some people that had caught us the previous day, so that was cool. Rock fans tend to be looking out for new bands, so I think that’s one of the reasons that it was so busy. It ended up being one of our favourite gigs, to say that you have played at Download is amazing, especially at Donington as that’s the one that everyone wants. Some bands would have killed for that slot.
It must have been a buzz seeing the name Vambo on the poster?!
Absolutely, we were in the London underground and saw a Download poster, there was our name right at the bottom in the middle! One day our name might be at the top, who knows! We actually just got the cheque in from Download, I won’t say how much. You don’t get paid a lot as a new band, but we always said that we would keep that pay cheque and maybe one day there would be another cheque with a lot more zeroes on it and the end! We would be further up the bill and have a picture from the first time and the last time. You’ve got to aim big, and if you get halfway there then you’ve done well.
2020 is just around the corner, so what do Vambo have planned?
We’re going to be doing a lot of promotion around the album release, we’ve got the official launch gig in London in November, and off the back of that we’ll hit the road to really push the album. 2020 we’re hoping to have a full UK tour with a few European dates thrown in, we’ll pop over to Hungary, Czech Republic, places like that, surprisingly we have a nice following out there.
So the advice would be, keep an eye on Vambo’s social media accounts for any tour dates?
Absolutely man, the launch gig is at The Monarch in Camden on the 15th of November, we’re celebrating the launch with a good friend of ours, an amazing guitarist by the name of Miguel Montalban. Everyone is welcome!
So there you are, you’ve had the official invite, if you are in London and at a loss on the 15th of November, get to Camden and check Vambo out.
Connect with Vambo online here.
Vambo is Jack Stiles (vocals) Pete Lance (guitar) James Scott (bass) and Steve Price (drums)
Interview – Dave