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Published: 2010/08/12
by Randy Ray

Truth & Salvage Co.: The Lost Boys of Never Never Land

Cut from some ramshackle cloth from yesteryear’s closet, Truth & Salvage Co. has carved out its own modern niche the old fashioned way—they write really kick ass songs. And truth be told, the Los Angeles band has four strong songwriters in a group dynamic that is as much a throwback to The Band as it is a modern version of alternative country played through a rock ‘n’ harmonize template. To put an exclamation point on the heart-on-the-sleeve matter, along with a double shot of barrelhouse good times, T&S Co. delivers a vigorous live set, which is what initially caught this writer’s attention as the sextet opened up for another passionate band of troubadours, the Avett Brothers, in a show that featured ample soul and a hell of lot of good tunes with strong harmonies.

Truth & Salvage Co. consists of vocalist/guitarist Scott Kinnebrew, vocalist/guitarist Tim Jones, vocalist/drummer Bill “Smitty” Smith, vocalist/keyboardist Walker Young, bassist Joe Edel and keyboardist Adam Grace. They embark on the second leg of their U.S. tour in early September with a series of slots not only headlining, but supporting the Black Crowes, Gov’t Mule, The Avett Brothers, and Jackie Greene. Indeed, Crowes’ frontman Chris Robinson produced the band’s self-titled debut album, which is an excellent statement of where the band is at today, and what its glance back at yesterday has done to its rather unique four-part songcraftsmanship. sat down with Kinnebrew for a look at that creative process, while the singer/guitarist also stands astride the soap box to discuss his craft and scene, observations on his band mates and their formidable abilities, the contributions of other artists, including Katy Perry, and the long road ahead through mysterious lands of what is to come for a band which includes members from the south and Midwest sections of an American nation, which bred such a colorful band.

RR: The band has an interesting back story. How did the group form, and what did you find to be the thread that pulled through all of your varied backgrounds?

SK: Well a few of us in the band, Smitty and Joe and Walker and I had been playing for a good long time together in a band called Scrappy Hamilton. We lived in Asheville, North Carolina and toured the East Coast a bunch. We had a blast, but after burning through two vans and various band members, we started wondering if something needed to change. We decided on a change of scenery and chose Los Angeles. Walker’s brother worked in the entertainment industry and we knew we could get some work there. So we moved into this notorious party pad on Gower St in Beachwood Canyon and promptly got our minds blown by the beast that is Los Angeles.

In a parallel universe in Indianapolis, our future friend Tim Jones and his crew had a band called Old Pike. They put out a record on Epic Records and toured and toured and ultimately crashed and burned much like ourselves down the way in Asheville. Timmy had made connections in Los Angeles while recording out there and beat tracks for the West Coast. The rest of Old Pike went on to do good things for themselves, one now works for Epic Records, one went on to play lead guitar in My Morning Jacket, and one is the greatest artist in Chicago.

And in yet another world there was Adam Grace who on top of studying piano since childhood mastered the art of magic and made a very fine name for himself. He toured the Southeast a bunch with a rock band and later moved to LA because his magic career was taking off. I like to call both Adam and Timmy the glue that binds.

A couple of things about the music scene in LA is most musicians don’t get paid for playing, at least not what I have seen. And because they don’t get paid they need to seek work and be local and not ever tour. We moved into a great community that supported our thing and we got gigs, but despite bringing a crowd we never got paid, so we found a little dive called Cranes and started a weekly night of free music we called The Beachwood Rockers Society. We would invite friends to come play, and they would invite friends and it turned into a really cool organic scene. It started turning into us backing up all sorts of people, and what was once a focused band with a mission turned into a loose network of a bunch of songwriters and players having a good time.

Down the road (this is all in Hollywood), at the Hotel Cafe, Tim Jones had a similar thing going on. He would book Sundays filling the night with good and true music. He stumbled upon our gig at Cranes and liked the heaving mass of Hollywood freaks sweating it out with the band playing and liked what he saw, and we became fast friends. Pretty soon after we were invited to come play with a friend in Vegas, we being Scrappy, but I had a nutty job that I couldn’t get out of, so Walker invited Timmy to come sing some songs. I always wish I could have been there really but then if I were there then this new beautiful band might have never happened. They had a blast, came back inspired. They had written this hysterical song called “Them Jeans”: Its them jeans baby, red, white and blue baby, its them jeans baby that make you want to comb your hair.

We started a new band. Decided to call ourselves the Denim Family Band. It had a revolving cast of characters including Adam Grace, and we loved playing with Adam so much we made him quit magic (not really). But we had such a good time, and all the songs were silly, and we rarely rehearsed but we would just crack ourselves up. We realized this was something that we had lost through the battering pursuit of music. We realized there was chemistry, we realized it was special and we decided to start delving deeper into our individual song catalogs to sing the best of the best. We started practicing all the time, worked on harmonies all the time. Still keeping it fun we got serious about it. The thread that binds us is love and humor. We are really good friends. We’ve lived long enough to understand the benefits of humility. And we’ve been at it long enough to know when we have something good. Through this we realized that the denim name didn’t quite suit us anymore and we decided on Truth & Salvage Company.

RR: The band is comprised of four excellent songwriters, which definitely is evident on the debut album and on the stage. How does the band find that one common element amongst each other to form such a unified voice song after song? What musical influences do all of you share? Any that are vastly different?

SK: I appreciate you saying that. We have been at the songwriting thing for most of our lives. But we also have been playing in bands for a long time, and we love the thickness in sound that comes with a band. You can’t do that by yourself. Alone we are good, together we are great. Love and humility, it’s the only way I’ve found it to work. And I’ve got to work at it all the time. On top of that, four of us are singing almost throughout every song so the song never gets too timbre-y with one voice, it’s filled out with harmony, multiple souls breathing in unison. We like all sorts of music, and we have influenced each others tastes. A couple of these boys were raised on a lot of country. And at one time, where it pretty much annoyed me, now I find myself craving it. A couple of us were dirty road traveling hippies following The Dead and going to Rainbow Gatherings so that influence has left its mark. All in all I’d say we are musical sponges and appreciate anything that bleeds soul.

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