Delta Spirit in Motion
Delta Spirit performing “White Table” with School of Rock Cleveland – photo by John Patrick Gatta
JPG: You talk about being inspired by musicians, what about location because you formed in San Diego, moved to Long Beach, now living in Brooklyn, and then recorded Delta Spirit in Woodstock?
MV: For music you learn a new trick, a new chord, a new phrasing or a new rhyme scheme or a new arrangement of the song and those things they inspired tenfold. Same with places. And being in Long Beach for the time we spent there was so great because we had this great community of friends and I think that our community in terms of our close-knit group of friends were either moving to New York or Los Angeles. So, it was kind of high time to go. Also, I got married in between the last record and this one. My wife is from Norway, so I just want to be a lot closer to her folks and I get to be in a city with a tremendous amount of energy. And we’ve always loved New York. It’s a different animal to be there. It’s so inspiring.
JPG: Singing lyrics written by Kelly Winrich (keyboards) does he sit down with you to explain them so you can get into his mindset or does he just hand them over and let you figure it out?
MV: It depends. There’s some things, like if there’s a vocal inflection that he likes out of a song. Like “Otherside,” I was singing it very staccato and he wanted it legato. So he was like, ‘Just lay it back, man.’ And a I was like, ‘Alright. All good.’ It’s very light like that.
In terms of topics it’s not hard to figure what he’s writing about because we’re really close.
JPG: I was going to say a song of his such as “California” is real heartbreaking each time I listen to it.
MV: I know what girl’s about what song. That definitely spurs me on to feel it when I sing it. I never have to sing a Kelly song from his perspective, which is nice. For me getting to play “California” is very much all of us. He didn’t even want that song on the record because it was so personal to him, and still is. But we really wanted to play and play it loud. It brings a different aesthetic and message because we want to pick our brother up.
JPG: Why did Colton Harris Moore deserve an anthem (“Tellin’ the Mind”)?
MV: Because…well, why did Jesse James deserve an anthem and all the songs that he got? He exhibits all the traits of a folk hero and he’s a folk hero in our day and time. He didn’t deserve a bluegrass song. It’s crazy. It’s a sad story. He’s so obviously gifted and intelligent and he had a real crap dad. He stole three planes. He never landed one. He just crash landed them. He stole cars. He stole money. Never was a violent guy. He donated money to the ASPCA. (slight laugh) He stole some money and left the money at an animal shelter and wrote a little letter, ‘Give this to the animals, Barefoot Bandit.’ Reading that I was just dying laughing. He’s got his Facebook while he’s doing all this crazy shit. And he also has an iPhone that he’s listening to police band on his iPhone. If that guy’s not worthy of a song then I don’t know who is worthy of a song.
JPG: When I was looking over Harris Moore’s bio and the things he did, it reminded me of the Leonardo DiCaprio character in Catch Me If You Can, which is based on a true story.
MV: Exactly. You think about that movie and you hear about this guy’s life. If they’d ever make a movie about him you certainly play a similar movie in your head. And I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to write a song for at least the soundtrack in my head.
JPG: With all the textures on Delta Spirit, it’s very much a studio album. Is there a certain amount of adapting you did to bring a studio recording into a live situation?
MV: No because the variable is always the audience and the audience is what dictates us going deeper, and we’ll always try to encourage certain involvement. When you have an excited audience songs just naturally go there. We’ve been adapting since the second record. We’ve been using drones and synth loops since our second record. After working with Chris Coady he taught us how to use MPC Pads and all sorts of fun shit. So now, we’ve worked it out to a way where we never have to use a click. So, everything that is played it’s through triggers and Kelly’s hitting them with drumstricks while he’s playing the organ, which is really cool. Specific drums sounds are like sickening reverb-swelled ooze or just crazy drum samples. The piano sound on “California” is actually a piano note that we recorded, that we chopped down and put it into a MPC Pad, and Kelly literally plays the track. So there’s still performance space in the recording situation.
JPG: What about your fans’ reaction to “Delta Spirit” because your debut had a particular Americana sound while the new one moves away from that? Are you getting any grief from those who are like, ‘Aww, I liked your first record but then you changed’?
MV: It’s still happening at a concert, that’s for sure. What happened to us on our second record I feel like a lot of people said the same thing and we had the same amount of people, which is such a minority of people. A lot of folks when they hear something like that and they’re already listening for, ‘Oh, great. it’s gonna be like this.’ And then, in their imagination try to take away all the soulfulness in the existing record. It’s like placebo effect.
In between our first and third record it’s suddenly become really popular to be an Americana folk band, and we’re not necessarily interested in doing the popular thing. We write songs to write songs and make music to make music. And the response, especially to the new shit that we’ve been playing live, has been so so incredible. Just people coming up and being like, (mimics overly enthusiastic fan) ‘I had no idea! Ahhhh…!’ That is encouraging.
JPG: Is it a matter of just follow your muse and you hope enough people will follow?
MV: We’re not going to make a hundred of the same record or, hopefully, not gonna make even two of the same record. Geez, because why would you do that? If you’re not striving or reaching then what’s the point in doing it. That’s where we come from, man. We love it and believe in it and chase it.