The reason it's so hard to find adjectives to accurately describe Rochester's Vinyl Orange Ottoman is simple: the band itself is an adjective. The timing is just out of whack. If bands like The Black Crowes or Stone Temple Pilots or Pearl Jam hadn't come first, chances are hack scribes like Frank De Blase would be spitting out phrases like "Vinyl Orange Ottoman-esque" or "kicks back and puts its feet up on a Vinyl Orange Ottoman" in describing those bands.
But alas, Vinyl Orange Ottoman — vocalist Pete Griffith, bassist Gopi Joaquim, drummer Ray Cordello, keyboardist JJ Stasiw, and guitarists Noah Swartele and Brady Hoover — came together in 2009, leaving me and Griffith to search for unique observations, comparisons, and descriptions.
VOO is a dynamic band with a big kick of bluesy soul in its tone, mood, and groove. The band comes off cool in its delivery. It doesn't try too hard. There's no flash, there are no pyrotechnics. It is simple, direct, and to the point. That's not to say the band isn't made of excellent musicians. They just don't try that hard. They let it be.
Griffith sat down to answer a few questions and raise a few of his own. An edited transcript of the conversation follows.
CITY: How did Vinyl Orange Ottoman get its start?
PETE GRIFFITH: I had played with Noah and Brady for years and years and years, starting when they were 17, 18 years old and I was like 21. I was a late bloomer in music. This had to be right around 2000, and I was playing drums at the time. They kept hounding me to come out and jam in their little studio in Gorham. We were called King's Jealousy.
Flash forward: today, Vinyl Orange Ottoman.
I had stuff going on with the Dirty Bourbon Blues Band and these guys were still stuck in Canandaigua with zero scene. So I said, "Let's get a band together." So we did and we just started writing stuff.
What did you set out to do with your music, what was the plan?
We just play. We're not going to be those guys and that get up there and wow you with these face-melters and jump around. Everything we do has taste, a purpose to it. Sometimes you've just got to hunker down, get your feet shoulder-width apart, and give them a spoonful of taste. "Take some of this."
Your newer material seems more dynamic, yet relaxed and controlled. Has the music matured with the band?
The stuff we're working on now, for this second record, is more focused, less our influences, and more of our identity. Before we were pulling off of everything, but now we have a renewed sense of focus.
But it's still compelling. It still sounds fun.
That's because the vibe is so relaxed. We're not a band that sits around and dissects stuff. It just comes from the heart. None of us is going to wow you with technicality.
So it's more in your blood and guts — not so much thinking, but doing?
Once the guts and blood are put out on the table, then we have to figure out what we're going to do with it. So there is some thinking going on.
How important is the blues to your sound?
I always listened to the blues growing up. And that was the first thing I ever did musically. But we're not a blues band, we're more of a rock 'n' roll band.
But aren't the blues is the gateway drug to rock 'n' roll?
Yeah. If you take a rock 'n' roll song and slow it down, what have you got? You've got the blues. You're still singing about heartache, you're singing about girls, falling in love, falling out of love. Some of us have been though a lot; hard times in the last year. The new stuff is very honest.
So you're pointing fingers and naming names?
I leave a little to the imagination. I'm not just going to come out and say, "Hey, I miss this chick," or, "My heart hurts because of this."
What else colors the Vinyl Orange Ottoman sound?
I don't listen to music that much. I spend a lot of my time listening to what I'm doing in my own projects.
Isn't that a bit arrogant?
I study it to get better at it. I always want to better myself musically because I love it so much. I — we — want you to feel what we feel.