With Free Company, Oakland indie-folk artist Taylor Vick is leaving lo-fi behind.
Taylor Vick, the artist behind Bay Area folk-pop project Boy Scouts, has spent the better part of the past decade uploading sweetly wistful self-produced tunes to SoundCloud and Bandcamp. Her new album and label debut, Free Company, sees her expanding out of her comfort zone to embrace a sprightly and spacious production aesthetic; one song, “All Right,” even uses synths.
Vick recorded the album in an unusual setting, working alongside fellow Oakland bedroom pop veteran Stephen Steinbrink in a windowless shipping-container studio. Via email, she shared her experiences working with Steinbrink in this “cozy and unintimidating” setting, what it was like to move away from self-production, and the origins of her single “Expiration Date.”
AdHoc: The Free Company press release says that you recorded the album “in a tiny studio that [Stephen] Steinbrink set up inside a rented shipping container.” What was behind that decision? Did it have an impact on the recording process?
Taylor Vick: Shortly after Stephen and I met, we talked about recording together. He offered to record in his studio space in Oakland that happened to be a shipping container with all his gear, which was where he’d recorded most of his own stuff. I was already a big fan of his music and loved how his recordings sounded, so it was a very easy decision for me. It wasn’t until around the fourth song or so that we were like, “Oh, we could make a whole album!” I liked that the space had the comfort of recording at home—cozy and unintimidating.
Your previous recordings were totally self-produced. What was it like to bring others into the process?
It was a super positive experience bringing others into the process. I’ve always loved recording at home on my own, but I don’t know much about recording other than just what I’ve learned from trial and error over the years, and I don’t have very good equipment. So I was pretty pumped to work with someone who knew a lot more, had better gear, and was on the same page with me about things.
Is there a song that changed substantially in the studio? How did it change?
I think the song that turned out being the most different from the demo version is “All Right.” Stephen asked if he could try out some synth parts over the guitars, which is something I probably never would’ve thought to try on my own. I really like the way he uses synthesizers in his songs. I think his Casio keyboards and electronic drums ended up giving the song a very Stephen Steinbrink vibe, which I love.
What’s an example of something new you learned from working with Stephen?
I think after having recorded with Stephen, I reached this new threshold or standard for myself specifically recording vocals. I’m not a perfectionist when it comes to recording and usually find a take that’s good enough and sort of settle and move on to the next thing. But working with him taught me to be excited about having a take I’m really pumped on and to continue trying until I [get] it rather than moving on because of my impatience.
Coming from that lo-fi background, how does it feel to embrace a more polished sound on this album?
It’s nice. I love the intimacy that exists in more “lo-fi” recordings, and I felt like some of that intimacy was still captured even with the more polished-sounding recordings, which is what I’d hoped for.
Boy Scouts songs often explore contradictory or ambivalent emotions—love and hate, the desire to hold on and the desire to let go. What helps guide you when you’re stuck between feelings or choices?
Writing songs can help me understand situations and feelings a bit better, but I wouldn’t say I’m good at getting unstuck between feelings or choices. Writing about something I’m feeling pretty deeply in the moment is a great way to process stuff and helps with letting go. I think I tend to feel stuff pretty intensely, and it helps if I allow myself to do so before making a decision, even if the choice is clear from the start.
Your latest single, “Expiration Date,” calls back to “Ode” from 2016’s Homeroom Breakfast with the line “Everything great has an expiration date.” What prompted you to “recycle” that line? Does it hold a significant meaning for you?
Whoa—I kind of completely forgot about recycling that lyric. I wrote that song “Ode” for my brother, and that line was originally sung as a question to him. Not necessarily toward him specifically, but just a general life question I thought to ask my brother about. I guess it’s a recurring question I have, and now it’s framed more in the way of, “How can I be better at accepting impermanence?”
What inspired the song, and what made you decide to address it to your brother?
I wrote it back in 2015, which is the year I was finishing up college. [I was] very spent on academia by that point and just trying to pass all my classes so I could graduate—probably feeling out of place and disappointed with myself and my lack of interest/drive for the post-graduation career life trajectory. As far as addressing it to my brother, he isn’t someone I necessarily look to for answers, but is someone I’ve always felt a deep connection and almost unspoken understanding with—and that, to me, is even more valuable. I think writing this song was just me finding comfort in that and trying to appreciate it for what it is.
You’re touring with Jay Som and featured on their new album. How did you connect with each other? What role(s) did you take on for that album?
I met Melina [Duterte] a few years back, probably at a show in the Bay Area, and we had connected on Soundcloud or Bandcamp beforehand. She’s always been a very sweet supporter of my music and is just an awesome person. Earlier this year, I stopped by her house one morning and sang some harmonies on a few songs. We’re very stoked to tour with Jay Som—they are great buds and an incredible band!
What’s the story behind the title Free Company?
I spent a lot of time inside these thoughts and feelings while writing this batch of songs and thought of them as the company I kept during shitty times.