Vintage Pistol is a band that started in the small town of Fayetteville, Arkansas. Last week I sat down with members of the band Taylor Smith (vocals/guitar), Garret Augustus (keys), and Walt Blythe (guitar) to discuss their brand of jam band rock and how they’ve been able to attract such a loyal following.
As a musical group, they’ve been together for eight years, and they’ve been touring around the country playing their unique sound of blues, roots rock, and jam-type rock music. When I asked how the band came together, Garret shared an interesting story that started with him and Smith playing music when they were younger. Smith was a drummer in a band, and Augustus was playing guitar in solo acoustic shows.
“We were in our 20s at this time, but we were just playing music,” said Augustus. “[Smith] was playing drums and he didn’t want to play drums anymore for that band. He wanted to step out front and start playing guitar because he also did that. And so we got together and started playing some songs. We realized we couldn’t have two rhythm guitar players, so I had played keys in the fifth grade for four or five months, and I started reteaching myself. We wrote a song that day and we’ve been doing it ever since.”
Guitarist Blythe joined the band later on after they had started touring around the country. He was in another band from Oklahoma City, which they used to tour around with. When the opportunity arose, they convinced him to join them.
“They stole me,” blurted Blythe. “I remember Taylor one night at the bar saying ‘Do you want to play your fucking guitar or not’, and I said ‘Yeah! Let’s do it!’”
Over the last eight years, Vintage Pistol’s sound has evolved from bluesy roots rock band to a jam-type rock band. When I asked how they’ve balanced their influences, Blythe said that he constructs a lot of the music for the live show, and they get really spacey when they play live, which results in improvisation jams. Smith’s songs are very different from the improvisation jams, but as a band, they’ve learned what works and how to play to their strengths. By using all of their varying influences and methods, Vintage Pistol has found a way to create a sound that is unique to them.
“I had family members that were musicians and played in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, like Texas country, Americana songwriter-type stuff,“ said Smith, “so there’s always a hint of that in everything I write, I think because I was so heavily influenced from a young age and then Walt’s been a big [jam band Umphrey’s McGee] fan forever and Garrett’s a hip-hop head. It comes from everywhere.”
However, the band has built a reputation on its live performances. Known for playing till the wee hours of the morning, the band has gained a cult following among fans. The band members spoke about their connection with their fans and community, and why their late-night live shows are so legendary.
“I think you got nothing else to lose in those hours,” said Augustus. “My oldest brother always told me nothing good happens after 2 a.m., but it depends on the night. Some nights it’s two and you feel like it’s five and some nights it’s five and it feels early. We just became kind of the ‘late-night, shut-it-down’ type band. We’d come off stage and they’d be like, ‘You don’t have to come off yet’. We’re just going to keep playing it as long as people kind of want it.”
“In Kentucky, we were at a festival called Moonshiners Ball that we’ve played twice. They always put us in the slot closing down the festival on the side stage. From like 1 a.m. to question mark is what it always says,” stated Blythe. “One year we played till about 5:30 a.m. The crowd wouldn’t stop, and we wouldn’t either. Our drummer was about to have a heart attack or aneurysm!”
“It was 35 degrees as well,” added Augustus.
“Being the Moonshiner’s Ball, they literally have famous moonshiners out there with their stills making moonshine and so they just kept bringing up different flavored moonshine. It kept us warm and so the music probably got shittier but the vibes were impeccable,” laughed Blythe.
The band has always been close to its fans, and that spills over to their fan interactions offstage as well.
“It’s all we got,” said Blythe.
“We’re 100% grassroots. So that’s the most important thing: We try to interact with everybody that we can that’s listened to our music before,” said Smith. “When we were starting out as a band, there was a lot of sleeping on couches and we’d meet people at shows and ask ‘Can we crash on your couch?’, and we’d make lifelong friends.”
For them, every person who comes to their shows is a friend or family, and that’s how they view it. They truly enjoy hanging out and being with their fans, offstage and on.
The band has also recognized the importance of social media in connecting with their fans, especially during the COVID pandemic. With most things moving online, Vintage Pistol worked hard to stay as active and engaged as possible. The band has even started an official VIP fan group page that has almost 1,000 people. According to Blythe, “It’s a place where they can interact with each other. And then we can post things ahead of time, or put little snippets of new music or things that”. The band is also studying how different posts and videos work and how they can use these to engage with their fans even better.
On Wednesday night, the band plans to play a lot of new music they’re working on, including a new single they’ll be releasing soon called “Dancing Again,” about Smith’s sobriety. It’s about learning to live life without a crutch and is very personal to him. The rest of their set will consist of their brand of storytelling as well as the musical improvisation that is their lifeblood. Come join them Wednesday night at The Canopy Club and take advantage of the opportunity to be a part of the Vintage Pistol family.
The Canopy Club
708 S. Goodwin Ave.
W Apr 12th, Doors 8 p.m., Show 9 p.m.
$5 at the door