If the members of Vaux -- bassist Ryder Robison, vocalist Quentin Smith, guitarist/keyboardist Greg Daniels, guitarists Chris Sorensen and Adam Tymn, and drummer Joe McChan -- aren't somewhere partying like rock stars right now, by God, they should be. Since they recently finalized a deal with Atlantic Records, fame, fortune and endless nights of bacchanalian indulgence surely await them.
Okay, maybe not all of those things await. Still, bassman Robison says he and the rest of the band are more than fulfilled. "We're able to do this for a living. I'm living my dream to the fullest extent," he says. "It's crazy. It's absolutely insane. I've got the best life in the world. I can't even believe it sometimes."
Although he opts to leave specific details of the deal to the imagination, he does says the group's "standard of living is not going to be raised, by any stretch of the imagination." But aligning with a major isn't all about the Benjamins. At least, not for these guys. It's about getting the music in the hands of more kids. And once it's out there, it needs to be supported, which means essentially living on the road for a while -- something the band is completely comfortable with. "There's three of us in the band without a home," Robison says. "All of our stuff is in storage places, and we just sleep on friends' couches or our parents' houses over the holidays, and things like that."
The couch tour shall continue for another month or so. Vaux is now in Europe supporting Thrice and Poison the Well, and will take a jaunt along the East Coast before the band's members finally settle down in the Queen City early next month. When they return, Robison says, the plan is to shack up together in a rental house and begin writing songs for the next record, with hopes of hitting the studio this summer. Then it's back on the road.
"The deal that we're getting is not a lot of money," Robison offers. "But it's a smart deal." He speaks from experience. This is not Vaux's first record deal, or, technically, even its first brush with the majors. The act formed in 1997 under the name Eiffel and in 1998 self-released a debut seven-inch, To Write a Symphony, followed by Audible Narcotic, a full-length it licensed to Undecided Records in 2000. Two subsequent efforts -- 2002's four-song EP On Life; Living (initially self-released) and last year's scorching full-length There Must Be Some Way to Stop Them -- were picked up by the Volcom Entertainment imprint, at that time distributed by MCA. When the band signed to Volcom, Undecided tried to file suit.
"They called my attorney -- it was ridiculous," says Robison. "It was a crazy scenario. Undecided is based out of Florida. They have a lawyer based in Georgia who's not licensed to practice law in Florida -- so he can't even do anything, really. So he's calling my lawyer trying to get my personal information, because they want to file a complaint against me personally. It's like, you can't do that. It just doesn't work like that. If you really want to sue me, you have to go through some process. You can't just get my name and go, ŒYo, send me a check.' It ended so bad -- I have the biggest, most deep-rooted hatred for those two guys that run that label."
While Vaux has parted ways with Volcom to join Atlantic, Robison is far less vitriolic when he talks about the SoCal-based label founded by theLine singer/guitarist Ryan Immegart and Volcom clothing founder Richard Woolcott.
"Obviously we don't regret anything, because we wouldn't be where we are now without their assistance," says Robison. "But things did go pretty awry towards the end of our relationship." That was around the time the group was forced to change its moniker; EMI had signed an act in France that already had the name trademarked.
"That was the start of the weird kind of downfall of the relationship," Robison explains. "We were told, 'Oh, you've changed the name to Vaux. Okay. Good. That's solid. We got it; we'll take care of everything. We'll get it trademarked,' and all this shit. And the week before the album is supposed to come out, I get a call saying, 'We might have to change the name. We fucked everything up.' It was like, 'Ohh, God.' So I just ended up hanging up on the label and calling my lawyer and saying, 'Look, this hasn't been done. Can you take care of this?' And it got taken care of that day."
From the beginning, Robison and company have taken matters into their own hands, which helps explain their success thus far. In 2002, Vaux was only scheduled to play Denver on the Vans Warped Tour. But on the advice of Bad Religion's Jay Bentley, who caught Vaux's set that night, the band made itself available by driving to other dates across the country.
"We would get there early enough, and I would just show up in the office and shake everybody's hand and be like, 'Hey, how's it going?'" Robison remembers. "And they would just put us on at random times, like way, way late at night or early in the morning." After a week and a half of piggybacking on Warped, Vaux was due at a festival on the East Coast and dropped off the tour, but the members kept in touch. Then, while in New Jersey, they were tipped off that another band was leaving; that created an open slot, and Vaux gladly helped itself. "The next Warped Tour show was in North Dakota. We're like, 'Let's just go. Screw it, let's just go. I'll pay for the gas, I don't care," recalls Robison. "And bam! We got four more weeks of the tour." That pertinacity paid off: In 2003, Vaux was invited to join the entire tour.
So is it possible for an artist to become successful even within the confines of land-locked Cowtown? Robison thinks it is. "You have to have that commitment. You have to want it, and you have to tour -- you have to tour," he declares emphatically. "There's no way around it. I lost my girlfriend. I lost my apartment."
Right now, you can bet Robison is having the time of his life and not taking anything for granted. "This is exactly what I live to do. It's the greatest and worst thing, all at the same time," he says. "And it kills me that our band has fans now. There's people where we're like 'that band' to them. We've just got that much more, and we're going to make everybody proud."
Upbeats and Beatdowns: On Friday, February 13, Eight Bucks Experiment tests out its newest member, bassist Audrey Harper, at the Bluebird, with P-Nuckle, D.O.R.K. and My Friend Betrayal. Also on Friday, the Crispy Family Carnival amuses folks at the Oriental Theatre. And on Sunday, February 15, Crazy Ms. Daisy -- perhaps spurred by VH-1's Bands Reunited -- breaks out the leather and lace at Eck's Saloon with Shards of Seven and Sanctum AZ.