Sitting inside Lenox Square Mall with these two is sort of funny, being that one of my first encounters with Vintage Nation was waiting inside a MARTA train station. The word initially spread about Vintage Nation through their performances in Atlanta streets. With their debut EP on the way, and their emergence present, SoulTrain.com sat down with their core duo Ink (guitar, singer/songwriter) and Jow (singer/songwriter, bass, keys, percussion) to talk street performing and their upcoming work.
SoulTrain.com: What made you guys start a band?
Ink: I’ve wanted to for years. The right time came as I was writing for other artists. I was at Five Points at the Underground, and he (Jow) was playing by himself. I came over and introduced myself, and I asked him to play for me. He played that thing! I invited him to a show I had, and the audience thought we had been playing together for awhile and it was our first night. From there I had to create this band because of the chemistry.
SoulTrain.com: What was that like for you when she invited you to play with her?
Jow: I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but after a while I knew. You know how you meet somebody and you start to wonder why this person is in my existence? At the same time, I love the fact that she had her own infatuation with music, and the same kind of passion I had. I still was kinda skeptical at first because of how I am as a musician. People really open my eyes to what they can do these days, from promoting to creating on your own. She did that.
SoulTrain.com: When I first met you guys, it was at the Inman Park Festival where you were “street performers,” and I’m wondering why you weren’t on the stage. Then I saw you at a MARTA stop playing there. What drives this band to play on the streets like that?
Ink: To be honest, when I first started out as a musician I always wanted to bring that culture to the heart of Atlanta like it is in New Orleans, Chicago and New York, where you see musicians putting that energy into the streets and into the city as a whole. It’s a big goal and dream of mine because in Atlanta I only saw one saxophone player named Michael, and he was an older guy. That made me wonder what happened to our generation getting involved in the community and inspiring each other while inspiring ourselves. So I started out playing in the streets by doing other people’s songs, and I saw how it impacted their day. People don’t really talk anymore. With this so-called “social” media, it kinda takes away from people having a regular conversation, especially with day-to-day strangers. Through playing, I realized there’s a lot of love in the city but only when you actually put yourself in the position to experience that. Being a street performer is not just something we’re doing for money. It’s about the culture of experience and being at the mercy of the community, all while keeping the culture alive. We wanna take the old route of blowing up as a band. Everybody is connecting through social media, which is awesome, but let’s do it the grassroots way by being in the streets plus having a strong internet presence. Now, I see more and more young people out there. I don’t care how big I may get, I’m gonna dedicate some time to play in the streets because for me it’s not about getting to the next levels and forgetting all the other ones. It’s about combining those steps.
Jow: A lot of people out here need people our age to be role models to continue our movements. You see a lot of older people out here still doing it, but they can only do so much after a certain age. We’re supposed to be carrying this whole revolution. This needs to be done because we’re slowly losing something important to us every day when we don’t have this. You don’t see a lot of activists like back in the segregation days, but the antagonizers are still here.
SoulTrain.com: You bring up the grassroots element of street performing, and you look at how young activists were–for example, the Freedom Fighters–and you can’t help but wonder where our generation is.
Ink: And that’s because people don’t speak out like they used to. Back then, our parents and our parents’ parents had to speak out. Now, we got to a point where we’re comfortable and in our own secluded thing. But when you go outside of your bubble and start to interact with people you don’t normally talk to, you start to see how everything relates to everyone in the world. We’re like a soundtrack to the revolution.
SoulTrain.com: You really are, especially thinking about it now. How often do the police stop you?
Ink: The MARTA Police would chase us–they tried to take us to jail. One time we had to go to court, and the judge said to us, “What y’all do is not a crime. I can’t believe they got y’all in here.” Still, when we play on MARTA we have to duck and dodge police. Luckily, we’ve been doing it so long that most of them now know us. They give us a ride home sometimes.
SoulTrain.com: How have you developed since getting the recognition from performing at One MusicFest last year?
Ink: Anytime you get a bunch of musicians and music lovers in one place–like performing with Marsha Ambrosius and Big KRIT, and then meeting Erykah Badu and Cee-lo this year, it’s magical. We didn’t know what we were gonna sound like.
Jow: It was like brainstorming, and onstage it just clicked.
Ink: And sonically, we’ve grown a lot because my bread-and-butter will always be songwriting. And when Jow plays it’s very old school, but he’s still into this time. I’m very modern, but really we’re both old heads. That automatically makes us sound like we’ll never forget where we came from, but also like we’re leaping forward. Our music is a mixture of folk, jazz, blues, soul, rock. You can’t exactly classify it, but our fans always say our music comes from the heart. We got that gumbo pot kind of music!
SoulTrain.com: That’s true, and it’s an old-school dish, too. So tell me about your EP. Is there a concept to it or will it be like a compilation of your sounds?
Ink: We’re starting to put everything in layers, and this EP is our first layer. We’re gonna keep it contained because we want people to know it’s us but at the same time the sound will mainly have folk and blues, and also spiritual elements to it. Like how slaves had hymns, it’ll be like hymns for 2013 because it speaks the truth and it’ll speak to people.
SoulTrain.com: Will it be structured like hymns, or culturally like hymns?
Ink: No, it’s culturally like that.
Jow: It’s something you can jam to!
Ink: We have a lot of guitar, bass, heavy toms, kick drums, a lot of hip-hop elements blended with jazz and folk. It’s just in its own lane.
SoulTrain.com: As far as songwriting goes, what is this EP going be about?
Jow: It’s the music that completes the puzzle of us because the people have been asking and been waiting for a long time. And we haven’t necessarily stopped but we wanted to experience other things so we can go back and record those experiences. It’s also gonna bring us city life people together, helping us learn to pitch in without even caring. It’s gonna teach everybody to not be afraid to lend a helping hand no matter how hard times are. We have songs that are also about people taking advantage, but also dealing with that, too.
Ink: When it comes down to it it’s all about love, a real positive and loving EP. You got your broke love–the love that didn’t quite make it. Then there’s the love that’ll always be there. At the end of the day, that’s Vintage Nation, love is. It comes from deep down. Your grandma can rock to it, and the baby in the highchair can, too.
Follow Vintage Nation on Twitter and Instagram under the same moniker, @Vintage_Nation.
Starletta Watson is a freelance writer exploring music scenes from all corners. She has been writing for five years, contributing to VICE, Frank 151, and more. Catch her on-air every Thursday on Verses with Sonny Cheeba at 7pm EST on iAmClassicHipHop’s online radio station Raw Radio. Follow her on Twitter @_starburst88 or on Instagram @starpowiiir.