completed a high-profile national tour with the Shins, the acclaimed SoCal
upstarts let the sunshine in.
BY LAVINIA JONES WRIGHT
Delta Spirit are often grouped in with former tour mates Dr.
Dog and Cold War Kids into the neo-‘70s Americana/soul revival because they
share the naïve innocence and rootsy timbre their peers have mastered. But
there is something incredibly literate and sober about the Southern California
natives that sets them apart from their contemporaries. Something contained in
the dark stomp-clap sing-along “People C’mon,” from Delta Spirit’s earthy and
sun-drenched Rounder debut Ode to the Sunshine, with its jangly piano
and Beach Boys-esque guitars, or in “Street Walker,” with its 1960s girl group
rhythm and heavy layer of frontman Matthew Vasquez’s weather-worn and plaintive
voice, proves that although the group’s approach to songwriting seems loose, it
comes from a very genuine place. BLURT spoke to guitarist Jon Jameson.
Do you feel like the
overall tone of Ode to the Sunshine is hopeful and positive? You’re
dealing with some heavy themes in your lyrics – abandonment, drugs -but you
seem to have an attitude of survival.
record has some dark themes but a warm, positive feeling… of possibility. I got
a book of poetry by St. John of the Cross the other day in Toronto and I find
that same paradox there. We try to balance the themes of hope and depression
without getting either sentimental or nihilistic. That’s what people need to
hear these days. We don’t pretend to be big-time activists, but we also are
trying to live a life free of convenient ignorance.
I heard you were
isolated in a cabin in California
when you recorded Ode.
and absence of distraction, we really needed that… a place that we couldn’t
really leave. Most of the songs were completed before we went to the cabin. We
put together the song “Parade” there, and the rest was just recording
and production ideas.
You’ve been accused
of “borrowing” from many different musical styles including folk, blues, and
soul as well as, obviously, rock. What do you call your style of songwriting?
We like that all the songs have a different pattern of production. The majority
of those ideas came while writing with five of us in a room. With this record
we tried to hold back with the production for the most part so that we could
keep everything playable. We had been playing most of the songs live for a
while so we had a pretty good idea of how we wanted them to sound.
Are there any contemporary bands who you
feel a musical kinship with?
love pretty much every band that our booking agent does. Dr Dog, Elvis Perkins,
Cold War Kids, AA Bondy, Clap Your Hands, Port O’Brien. I will add We
Barbarians, Dawes, Sparrow Love Crew and Richard Swift to that list. Anyone who
says that there isn’t any good music anymore just isn’t looking in the right
What about bands from
prior eras? Do you feel you would have found a place in the musical movement of
like the Waterboys. I think they had an interesting thing going on. They were
like us in the way that it was hard to classify them, but easy to see their
influences. They pushed boundaries. I hope we will keep doing the same.