Somewhere inside a vault in a small recording studio in Los Angeles sits a veritable treasure trove of new music from REO Speedwagon.
Not that anyone will ever hear it.
The classic rock band, which performs Tuesday evening at Kenley Amphitheater in Layton, had some of its biggest hits in the early 1980s with catchy pop tunes and power ballads like “Keep On Loving You,” “Take It On the Run,” “Can’t Fight This Feeling” and “Time for Me to Fly.”
Bruce Hall has been the bassist with the group for more than 40 years. In a recent telephone interview with the Standard-Examiner, Hall said classic rock bands like REO Speedwagon — and its contemporaries, like Styx and Chicago — continue to write new music to this day.
“We can’t stop writing songs and recording,” Hall said. “It’s part of the process of becoming a recording band.”
This, despite the fact that fans don’t ever get to hear their more recent songs. It’s “kind of a sad situation,” according to Hall.
“We’ve put out a couple of albums that have just sat there and done nothing, because there’s no radio airplay anymore,” he said. “Our fans might want them, and I suppose we could sell them at our shows, but there’s just no place for classic rock bands on the radio.
“They play the heck out of the old stuff, thank goodness, but they don’t play our new stuff.”
And so these new songs gather dust in a vault at Blue Moon Studio in L.A., a recording company owned by the brother of singer-songwriter Gino Vannelli.
“We don’t do much with the songs once they’re recorded,” Hall says. “We just sit on them.”
No one will be sitting in Kenley Amphitheater on Tuesday evening when REO Speedwagon takes the stage. Along with Styx and Journey, REO Speedwagon was considered the arena-rock kings of the ’80s.
Although the band saw some success in the late 1970s, its real breakthrough came in the 1980s with “Hi Infidelity,” one of the decade’s biggest albums. That record also featured one of the top power ballads of all time, “Keep on Loving You.”
Along with Hall, the group features frontman Kevin Cronin on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, founding member Neal Doughty on keyboards, Dave Amato on lead guitar, and Bryan Hitt on drums.
Hall, who now lives in Florida, likes to spend his spare time fishing and playing golf.
“So South Florida, for me, is perfect,” he says.
But aside from those pastimes, Hall says he gets excited about going out on tour with his bandmates.
“I love coming out in the summer,” he said. “Who wouldn’t? I mean, think about it: If you had a rock band and you were still playing after 50 years, wouldn’t you love it?”
Hall says fans ask them all the time, “How in the heck have you been together so long?” The short answer: Hall says they genuinely like one another.
“We’re a group of brothers,” he says. We get along so well. We disagree sometimes, but not a lot.”
Indeed, on their days off while on tour, most of the band members will go to a movie together, or perhaps play golf.
“We like to spend time together,” Hall said. “I love these guys.”
Hall says the members of REO Speedwagon don’t take for granted that they’re basically living the dream. And while they play the music for themselves, they’re also doing it for the fans.
“I think all of us had dreams to be in bands,” he said. “And so to be fortunate enough to still be with it, we’re not taking it for granted. We enjoy the people coming to see us play; it gives us a lot of energy to keep going.”
Hall says many of their songs offer inspiration to the listener and that there’s a therapeutic quality to the music.
Although REO Speedwagon will be performing a solo show in Layton, the band routinely tours with contemporary groups like Styx and Chicago.
“It’s funny, during our earlier years, everybody was in competition with each other, so we didn’t tour much together,” Hall said. “But as time goes by, now we do. We love our brothers in Styx. When we’re out on tour, we’re like one big unit. And the thing about Chicago is they’re, like, real musicians. They read music and everything.”
Asked if there are any musicians he’d love to see REO Speedwagon pair with for a tour, Hall doesn’t hesitate. “Bryan Adams,” he says. “I’d love to tour with him.”
Hall encourages Utahns to come to Tuesday’s show in Layton.
“We do love to play live,” he said. “The summer’s coming up, and here we go again. If anybody is considering this show, I strongly suggest they come — because I think we’re playing better than ever.
“And we’ll play all of the hits,” he adds. “It’s a lot of music.”