Delta Spirit | Success Is Progressive

prof delta-spirit_75“This album has been the funnest thing to make and be a part of.”


prof delta-spirit_500

Things have changed since I first interviewed Jon Jameson, bassist of Delta Spirit, a year and a half ago. The band has since released an EP, Live at the Waits Room, and a new full-length, an eponymous third album out March 13 on Rounder Records. The band itself has changed—they returned to being a five piece after a few years as a four piece, and the move of almost all of the band from their community in Long Beach (they had all lived within two blocks of each other) to New York City. The sound has changed, as well. Falling somewhere between the pop-influenced rock of their first album, Ode to Sunshine, and the grit of follow-up album History From Below, Delta Spirit walks the fine line between polished and over-produced, and manages to never fall over the edge.

When I talked to Jameson, the band was in preparation for the album’s release, something they’d celebrate while at SXSW, the annual music festival in Austin, Texas. They have a few shows lined up that week, and then the tour starts the following Monday in Little Rock. Jameson sounds excited about the new music and the new tour. The last album didn’t have the best roll-out—the music leaked months in advance and much of their fan base didn’t know they even had a new album out. This time, though, things have been more calculated, and while the album was completed seven months ago, they managed to keep it under wraps until a few weeks before its release. At that point, it was streamed for free online, and the label began making sure this time that everyone knew the album was coming out. As Jameson puts it, “We learned what not to do.”

The creation of this album shows they are learning. The last album was completed while the band was temporarily a four piece, following the departure of original member Sean Walker. Instead of spending a lot of time writing the music for History From Below, they skipped right into the demo process. This time, with new guitarist William McLaren on board, they spent a long time making sure the songs were right—working, as Jameson tells me, in a concentrated way , Monday to Friday, to make sure the songs were as good as they could be. He also comments that McLaren is a true guitar player. Before, he tells me with a laugh, they basically had whoever could play a guitar part play it—but McLaren has added some much-appreciated depth to the guitar-playing abilities of the band.

deltaspirit2Perhaps the addition of McLaren and the better process behind this album is why Jameson sounds so excited about the direction the band is heading in. I asked him if he’s having as much fun as he did when they recorded their first EP, I Think I’ve Found It, in 2006. He responds enthusiastically, “This album has been the funnest thing to make and be a part of since the EP or Ode to Sunshine.” He adds, “It’s reinvigorated the band and just all of our dedication to the band.” This might be why the album sounds a bit different from the other releases. It’s not intentional, but the members of the band, like everyone else, like to change up routines. “We get bored doing the same thing and we all have very varied interests and inspirations, so it’s just trying to keep up with each other,” Jameson tells me.

They seem to be good at changing things up. Lead singer Matt Vasquez has lessened his smoking (all the band members who smoke are trying to quit), and you can hear it, though Jameson says that’s partly due to a concentrated effort by Vasquez to sing more and yell less. His voice never seemed impacted by the yelling but, be it his efforts to sing or to stop smoking, his voice is much smoother on this album than on History From Below, where he sounded like he had a two-pack-a-day habit. When I mentioned that to Jameson, he laughed, and said that at one point, it had been that much.

The album might be a turning point for the band—it’s self-titled because they felt they managed to convey themselves the best on this album—and the tour to go along with it is getting equal attention from the band. While the band’s live shows have never been lacking, they apparently decided to ramp things up a few notches. “We’re just really thrilled to do this tour because we’re putting a lot into it. The show is going to be really amazing. We’ve built these crazy light rigs and we have a whole new album to play.” I commented that I hoped to still see the trashcan lid on stage—which multi-instrumentalist Kelly Winrich plays with vigor during the song “Trashcan” from Ode to Sunshine—and Jameson laughed and assured me they’d bring it, if only for me.

The intense love of that song from their fan base (it’s a crowd favorite)—and the other songs on the previous albums and EPs prove Jameson right when he says, “All of the albums have been successful in their own little ways,” before adding, “but we still have much bigger dreams.” I asked him if success was something he thought either himself or the band had achieved or if it was something they were still aiming for, and he thought for a moment before answering, “I think the definite aspect of success is that it is progressive. You don’t want to see yourself going backwards, you know what I mean?” Seeming to think about it a bit more, he continued, “You want to see yourself still inspired, still inspiring other people and people responding to what you’re doing.”

There’s no doubt people will respond to the shows on this tour—the band has one of the most high-energy performances I’ve ever seen. When I last saw them, shortly after McLaren had joined the band, they were just as intensely enthusiastic on stage as I’d ever seen them. Jameson, Vasquez, McLaren, Winrich, and drummer Brandon Young have worked hard for years and seem to be having too much fun now to stop. Thankfully, they’ve invited all of us along for the journey. | Teresa Montgomery

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