Oakland singer-songwriter, multi–instrumentalist, and sole member of the band boy scouts Taylor Vick took time out of touring to talk about creating her latest album Free Company. Originally, a solo performer, Vick is now backed by a full band. The result of this new direction for the artist is a carefully constructed empathetic album that still maintains the core of her folksy, DIY sound. Her music is characterized by short, simple lines layered over instrumentals that come together to form dreamy, comforting songs. Before she performs in Philadelphia at the Foundry on Tuesday, Oct. 29 opening for Jay Som, I had the opportunity to talk to Vick:
34th Street: Tell me about boy scouts. How long have you been working on this project and what inspired you to form it?
Taylor Vick: I guess I’ve been making music under that name since I was 15 or 16. But it was always a solo endeavor and I played shows by myself. Sometimes I would have one or two people with me, but it wasn’t until two years ago that I started playing with a band.
Street: Who are your other band members?
TV: My friend Nikolas Soelter, who plays drums, my friend, Rose Droll who does keyboard and will sing and play guitar and my brother Travis who plays bass and sings.
Street: Where does the band name come from by the way?
TV: I don’t remember choosing it. It was during MySpace times, and I didn’t want to release my music under my “name name” so I think I just chose “boy scouts” to be silly. I don’t really remember, but I do remember making a MySpace, choosing that name and just never changing it. I couldn’t think of anything better, so it just stayed forever.
Street: That’s funny, nice. So, I’ve been listening to Free Company and just really I've been enjoying it. The overall sound and feel that I got from it was that it was very warm and honest, kind of like Big Thief or Frankie Cosmos, and I was wondering how you would describe your sound to new listeners, and who are some of the artists or genres that you draw inspiration from?
TV: I like those two words you use as descriptors, warm and honest. I would agree with that. It’s really hard for me to answer that question. I feel like it’s pretty personal. I like Big Thief a lot, they’re really great. I like Andy Shauf a lot, his music is really great, he’s one of my favorite songwriters and Elliott Smith!
Street: Yeah, I definitely see the personal element to it. When you were creating Free Company was the album supposed to be a form of self–reflection or did that just come about naturally as you were creating it?
TV: That wasn’t a thing I intentionally sought out. I’m often writing songs, and I’ll take a break and then not be writing for awhile. And those just happened to be the collection of songs that I had written over the past year or 6 months or so. So they all are kind of the same song written over and over again because they come from that specific period in my life and what I was going through then. It wasn’t so much like I’m going to write all these songs about the same thing, but it was like looking back…yep, that’s what I was feeling during that time and these are the songs that came out of it and the ones I chose to put together as an album.
Street: Got it. What was it like creating the album? What was the process of writing and recording it like?
TV: I had written all the songs just at home on my acoustic guitar and recorded them at home on my computer. It was a small set up, just as demos. Then my friend Steven asked if I had any plans for recording new music and if I would be interested in trying to record with him because he had a cool set up in Oakland. So that’s how it just happened, I just had the songs written and I had recorded some home versions. We didn’t say “Let’s make an album!” We just said let’s try to record together, see what happens. We did one song one day, and then it just kept happening. We came back two weeks later, added to that song, recorded another song. Then at a certain point we had five or six songs completely recorded, and then we were like, "Let’s just make an album!"
Street: That’s really cool. Sounds pretty spontaneous.
TV: Yeah, it just happened in this nice, organic way.
Street: Nice, and is that how you tended to record your other albums? Or was this a new process for you?
TV: This was new. All of the other stuff I have released is just stuff that I recorded at home, on my own. Similar to the home versions I had of these songs, but now they sound way better because I recorded them with Steven. There’s more stuff going on.
Street: So I was listening to one of the songs off the album, “Hate Ya 2,” and it really stuck out to me. I thought it was interesting how you were able to temper feelings of hatred with more warm and supportive feelings. Is that something that’s natural to you in your songwriting and music writing or did you really have to think about a way to soften these emotions?
TV: I think it’s more of a natural thing. That’s just how I deal with feelings of anger and resentment. It’s a really unfamiliar thing for me because I don’t get angry all that much. So it’s like if I fear anger or resentment, I also feel sad about it. So that’s the approach.
Street: I also took a look at your music videos, and I thought they were just so cute and different. I was wondering if you had a lot of control over the artistic vision of your music videos? If so, what inspired you with those.
TV: I actually don't. I lucked out and had friends of friends who do music videos and make really cool stuff that suits well with my stuff. But yeah I really didn’t have visual ideas at all, that’s not my strong suit. Except for a few notes here and there, that was really all everybody else who made those music videos.
Street: Nice, well I think they did a really good job capturing your music in a visual way.
TV: I feel the same! I feel very lucky about how they turned out. Music videos are scary.
Street: Well yours aren't, which is good. So, what have you been up to lately? You're on tour with Jay Som. Do you want to tell me more about that?
TV: Yeah, that’s true! We did two weeks with them about a week and a half ago. Mostly on the West Coast and then tomorrow we start our next two weeks with them. We start in Kansas and make our way to the East Coast and then Canada.
Street: Nice, and what has that been like so far?
TV: It’s been great. It’s been really fun, I’m super happy to be touring with them. The shows have been really fun. It’s been super, super awesome.
Street: What do future plans look like? I know you have the tour continuing, but what’s beyond that if anything?
TV: We get to go out and play a show in London which is really exciting. I’ve never done anything like that before. It will be my first overseas experience. It will be in November. Besides that I’m doing a few shows with my friend Steven on his tour with Frankie Cosmos. I’ll be singing his music. And then for my own stuff, I want to record more stuff this winter and just keep writing. My plan if I have time at home is just to keep writing and recording more, because that’s my favorite part really.
Street: Nice that sounds great! Do you have a favorite song to perform off your album?
TV: I really like performing “Expiration Date” live, I guess that’s one of my favorites. It’s one of my more louder one which is really fun. My brother and Rose will sing harmonies with me, and three-part harmony to a song, it’s one of my favorite things. I just love vocal harmonies. To have that happen live, it’s very satisfying.
Street: Do you have a favorite lyric you’ve written? It doesn’t even have to be from this album, but is there any that have just stuck with you?
TV: Any lyrics? That’s interesting. I guess there’s a line in “In Ya Too” that I like the visual of it. The line is: “think of the desert sprawl, empty but still forceful.” I don’t remember writing that, but I remember afterwards thinking that’s a helpful little tip. When I’m feeling low, I just think there’s still some power you can harness.
Street: That’s cool. I like that. Do you have a favorite place you’ve visited on tour so far?
TV: I like being in Seattle a lot. I liked playing there a lot. We played at Neumos which is in a really cool area: Capitol Hill, Seattle. I’m really looking forward to going to Montreal and Burlington, Vt. I don’t why, I’ve never been to either of those places, but I feel like I’m going to like them a lot.
Street: Any guilty pleasure music?
TV: I love pop music! I’m not even guilty about it! I’ve been into Carly Rae Jepsen a lot lately and I used to have a really big Demi Lovato phase. I just think she’s an amazing singer, it’s not just even her songs, she just has great vocals.
Street: Do you have any non–musical sources of inspiration?
TV: You know, yeah. I was asked this recently, and it really made me think about it. I think I’m more inspired for writing music on a walk or a hike or somewhere out beautiful in nature. I feel like typically people would say books or movies that they love, but those are such separate things in my mind for me. I think watching a good movie or reading a good book doesn’t inspire me to do music stuff, but I love them separately. I draw inspiration more from being somewhere new or hiking somewhere beautiful, going to the ocean.
Street: Sounds really reflective.
TV: Yeah, it clears my head, too, which is really nice.
Taylor Vick is on tour with Jay Som as boy scouts, and will be stopping at The Foundry on Oct 29. More info and tickets are available at https://boyscouts.bandcamp.com/
Interview has been edited for content and clarity.