The CultureMap Interview
Modern rockers Delta Spirit talk playing Dallas, songwriting and moving to theEast Coast
Delta Spirit has been on the move lately. After releasing their eponymous third album in March, the band recently moved from Southern California to Brooklyn.
Formed in San Diego in 2006, Delta Spirit has been touring relentlessly and releasing critcally acclaimed albums in the roots rock and folk scenes. But they saw themselves as a modern rock band and set out to prove that on their latest album.
Their first hit — a word they are wary of using — off the album is “California.” It starts with a driving beat and an airy, almost haunting guitar lead. Synthesizers and effects help create a big, open sound on the track. The juxtaposition helps frame lyrics that are certain about the end of a relationship but uncertain about what the future might hold.
We sat down with bassist Jon Jameson in between shows to discuss their roots and what they’ve been up to. Catch Delta Spirit Sunday, November 4, at the House of Blues Dallas.
CultureMap: How has the beginning of the tour been going?
Jon Jameson: Yesterday was the first show. We played New Orleans on Halloween, which was crazy. Before that we had done some random one-off shows around Northern California. We also were scheduled to play a show in Honolulu, but it was canceled because it was on the night of the alleged tsunami. We were able to play a show there later, however.
CM: Are you excited to play Dallas again?
JJ: Yes, we had a great show here the last time. We are very psyched. Our singer, Matt Vasquez, climbed on top of a lighting truck the last time we were here. Hopefully he doesn’t do that again, but he may do something crazy. You never know with that guy.
CM: What can people who’ve never seen Delta Spirit live expect?
JJ: We take shows really seriously, but we still have fun. We take shows personally. The first thing we do after we got off stage each night is we criticize and think about what we could have done differently. We feel like we are a live band, and that’s where we really connect with people.
CM: Talk about your most recent album. It sounds a bit more pop or electronic than previous efforts. What inspired this? How did the recording process work?
JJ: We like to get away and make a record in a place where we can focus on just making an album. We made our second album at a ranch in a converted chicken coop that Tom Waits recorded in once. We made this album in an old Catholic church near Woodstock, New York. We spent three months writing in San Pedro, California, before that. It was like a job, five days a week. We were there for a lot of hours each day.
We had some direction going into it. We didn’t want to make a quiet acoustic record. We get bored pretty easily so our sound is always evolving, and we have diverse tastes so that keeps changing too. The best thing about our band is we have dedicated fans who love everything we’ve done. They have given us permission to try new things and do whatever we want, as long as it’s within the bounds of something we really love.
CM: That sounds like a pretty intentional writing process. Do you sit down and write or wait until the ideas come to you?
JJ: Both. The song “Vivian” came to Matt after his grandparents died. Other times we sit around in a room and jam until something sparks and connects. Other times we have to hash out a song for months. Writing is different every time.
CM: What’s one album or song you wish you could’ve written?
JJ: That’s a good question. There are so many great songs. I’ve been in to Van Morrison’s album Astral Weeks lately. I’ll say “Sweet Thing.” That whole album is a crazy thing. He went in and recorded the whole album in 16 hours with a bunch of musicians who hadn’t played together before.
CM: Talk about the song “California.” Y’all just moved from there to Brooklyn, right? Is this a song to someone you’ve met on the East Coast since then?
JJ: That song was written before any of us thought we were going to move to the East Coast. Kelly wrote that about a specific girl he dated, and things just didn’t work out. It was that give and take in his mind of how long distance would work out. It started as one beautiful line that turned into a song.
CM: What prompted the move?
JJ: We moved for lots of different personal reasons. My wife is from Philly, and our guitar player lived in New York, so it felt like the right time for a change. It was time to see a new area. It has been great so far. Our rehearsal space flooded during the hurricane, but thankfully most of our gear was out here on tour with us. Besides the hurricane, the East Coast has been great.
CM: What’s your music about in a few words or images?
JJ: Authenticity. We care about being a genuine band. We can all be pretty sarcastic and pessimistic, so to be genuine is a constant struggle, even among ourselves. We need to do it in a way that is worthy of people’s time. Our deepest gratification is when we come and play these songs and connect with people.