VISTA KICKS and Their Booty Shakin’ Rock N’ Roll

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Four young men who have known each other most of their lives made the decision to pool their talents together and form a band. Those young men- Sam Plecker, Nolan Le Vine, Trevor Sutton, and Derek Thomas- released an independent EP in 2016 and began making waves on Spotify and YouTube. In the fall of 2017, Vista Kicks released their full length album, Booty Shakers Ball and solidified their sound, which they aptly refer to as “booty shakin’ rock n’ roll” – a playful mix of rock, soul, and funk that is reminiscent of bands that were at the top of their game long before these guys were even born. Their journey to that sound started in an interesting manner. Guitarist and vocalist Sam Plecker took some time while riding in a van on the way to their next show to talk to Screamer and share the journey (so far) of Vista Kicks.

Ranging between the ages of 22 and 25, the members of Vista Kicks have been playing together since high school, but their musical style was a tad different at that time. As Plecker shared, “It kind of started as a cover band that mainly covered crooner jazz and soul music in late high school, when we were 16, 17 years old. That’s when we all started.” As high school came to a close, the band began to evolve. “That’s when we really started writing songs for fun and we were trying to mix them into the set of our restaurant, backyard, and wedding gigs,” he added. “You always try to mix them in when you’re a cover band that’s also a band that writes songs. And then we all kind of broke up for college, but we’d come back on the summer breaks and winter breaks and fall breaks and whatever. So we’d just get together and start jamming again, and we’d start writing new songs. And I guess without the shackles of being a jazz/soul cover band, we started writing more freely.”

During the winter of 2013-2014, the band made the move to Los Angeles. Plecker said, “Derek [Thomas] and I lived in my car for like, seven or eight days; finding a job and finding a place to stay. Then once we got that, then we all went back up north real quick- to Sacramento where we’re from and we grabbed all of our stuff and moved down to LA. We all lived in a one bedroom apartment in Hollywood for a little over a year and since then we’ve relocated to Highland Park, on the east side, but we still all live together. It’s a family affair, truly.”

In the same way, the band seemed to take a family-style approach to recording their album. As Plecker tells it:  “We recorded our first record, Booty Shakers Ball, at our rehearsal studio in Highland Park. We just had some basic recording gear, and we got some money and we bought a little bit more recording gear. And we asked our friend Jo Napolitano, who has done work with bands like Saint Motel and The Blank Tapes- he’s our neighbor actually too- to just help out and help produce. I helped co-produce, co-engineer. I did most of the engineering on the first record. And it was a really low-cost, inspiring way to make a record. You know, we started off for a long time waiting for some miracle to happen, where we’d get to go to some big lavish studio and record some big song and some big budget or something, but we just got tired of that and we said, ‘Let’s just do it ourselves,’ so we just did it ourselves. I think it sounds very professional and we got to walk to our own studio every day; really spend as much time as wanted to get whatever take we wanted. A very relaxed environment. It wasn’t like, as the clock is ticking, money is spinning out of your bank account. Really awesome.”

While they did the majority of the work on their own, they did have an opportunity to visit another studio and record with Tommy Lee. “Our manager is also the manager of Tommy Lee,” shared Plecker. “We’ve always bugged him, like, ‘Come on, let us meet Tommy! Let us meet Tommy!’ And then he told us that Tommy had a really great studio in his house and he does. It’s really awesome. It’s called the Atrium Studio. And so we had this song called Gotta Get Away, which is the first song off our record, and we sent him one of the first demos of it. And we said, ‘Do you think that Tommy would be interested in recording this song in the studio?’ and he said, ‘I don’t know. Let’s ask him.’ So he asked him and he said sure. We got to go over and record at his house. It’s actually a bonus track on our vinyl right now.”

Speaking of that tune, Gotta Get Away,  what was the reason that particular song was chosen as the first release? Well, according to Plecker, “We just felt like it was a really strong song of what we’re kind of about at this stage in particular. It’s got a lot of boogie-woogie, it’s got a definite rock n’ roll vibe in there. It’s just kind of a more dance, feel good vibe as well, so I think we all just thought that it would connect with people, and it’s what we liked playing a lot.” With fifteen songs, Plecker says that the album certainly “covers a lot of ground. There’s some really hard rockers and there’s some really sensitive songs, and there’s some really boogie-woogie songs… A really dimensional record.”

Vista Kicks definitely respects their fans and their supportive friends. Plecker described something the band came up with to give back, known as a Vista Kick Back. “It was just a funny idea,” he said. “When we made our band name Vista Kicks- before we had our band name Vista Kicks- we always would have people over at our little studio and have a party to just get drunk, play music and have fun; hang out. So a party; a little kickback. So after we made Vista Kicks our name, I was like, ‘Whenever we invite people over, we can call it a Vista Kick Back,’ and that kind of blew up into its own idea, where- let’s do a Vista Kick Back and invite people over and do a session in our studio where we have somebody film it and we record the audio. And it’s turned into a really cool thing that we’re trying to do a little bit more. Not with just ourselves, but with other artists…Just trying to create an outlet where we can help other artists that are doing it. Provide a cool place to play their music in front of a cool, select crowd. The studio looks really cool too…I think that the kick back to them is having a really awesome video and the kick back to us- it’s making our reach bigger, just because associating yourself with other artists that are out there working every day, the more you can associate with them, then their tribe wants to then be a part of yours, so to speak. So it’s been a good way for us to really branch out and make a presence in the Los Angeles music scene.”

And for the fans that might not be lucky enough to be at a Vista Kick Back, the band still has a really cool way for them to get involved. “ We have a real cool, intimate sort of fan club on our page that we offer– to apply to. It’s not like everybody gets in- it’s an application. It’s called The Kick Back Club. That’s our premier outlet for the die hard fans. We have an exclusive Instagram where we follow them and they follow us and nobody else is allowed in there,” according to Plecker. “And that’s where we can have direct contact with our fans and we give them special deals on merch and we’re gonna offer them special deals on first listenings of records and other things.These are the fans that really help us and we rely on them so much. It’s worldwide- it’s mostly in the United States. But we’re always trying to hook them up because they’re always hooking us up with just, you know, hanging up posters in their town, or if we’re touring in a town near them, or needing a place to stay. We have all their information, so we can call them whenever. These are just the people that really want our success as much as we want our success from our music, so we want to give back to them. If there’s anybody out there that really wants to get connected with us and really vibes with what we’re doing, that’s an avenue that they can go down to get more involved and be more on the backside of what we do and really know what’s going on… It’s on our website,”

The band has no intention of taking a break any time soon as there is already a new album in the works. Plecker said, “We kind of have this little philosophy in our band that since we’re still such a young band that’s so new, as long as we can keep touring or making records, then we don’t have to go get day jobs! So we just got off a tour last December, then we did the Christmas thing for a little bit. Then that week or so right before the new year, we finished writing all the songs that we wanted to write… We’re always trying to make new stuff. That’s a big joy for us. So we wrote 17 new songs in between Booty Shakers Ball and now… So now it’s being mixed in L.A. while we’re out touring. We’re really trying to get it done and out by July. There’s no release date for it, but July is our target zone to release it so then we could go on summer tours and keep the ball moving.”

On Valentine’s Day, the band sold out the Troubadour in Los Angeles and since then have been making their way across the United States spreading their booty shakin’ music to the masses. Their sound appeals to listeners of multiple generations and can be heard on Spotify. Give them a listen now so someday you can say, “I knew them when…”

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