Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound Engineering by Patrick Stolley
A man the other day - a homeowner -- was talking about improvements he was making to his house and yard, proud that they were being done and excited for their completion, but then at the end of his story, he got profound in a very unexpected way that strangely applies to certain matters that San Diego's Delta Spirit make you think about with their general mannerisms and their spectacular, rootsy debut EP I Think I've Found It. He said, in so many words, "What do I care though? It's not really my dirt. I'm going to kick the bucket someday and somebody else will get it."
The possessiveness that is so incredibly American wasn't there - a rare instance. There wasn't a moment when this man fancied himself bigger and more important than all that was around him. His words weren't a kiss-off to the land, but an acknowledgment that it was his to take care of for a while. He remained unconsumed by the categorical take on our own existence compared to that of everyone else. He reminded me once again - and we should be reminded of this daily, it seems - that no one gets out of here alive, we can only get out of here happier or sadder than when we arrived. We must, we simply must leave everything behind, but there is a chance to make a significant difference if we choose to.
The music that Delta Spirit makes is not about going green or any of that business, but it is socially conscious enough in the sense that it sounds wizened enough to appreciate the flaws in certain men, flaws in the consensus in such a way that they aren't just conversation pieces, but are addressed for their relevant importance in their ability to affect the greater good, or what could potentially be good. You see, Matthew Vasquez, Jonathan Jameson, Sean Walker, Brandon Young and Kelly Winrich are not saints, but they've got soul and their music has deep, canyon-voiced soul of its own that is surreal for young 20-somethings.
They make music - like their good buddies Cold War Kids and Richard Swift - that means something, that goes above and beyond chords, melodies, bridges and words. It has its own veins, pumps its own blood, perspires and exhales its own carbon dioxide. It's different though because the blood it pumps and the sweat it spills have to be that of grandfathers long since turned to dust. All five are old souls who experience things - and consequently write about them - the way our most treasured songwriters have. They cut to the core, reaching right into the pot and stirring the meats and vegetables up into the broth - making it all more game.
Interestingly, none of the members have any connections to the Bible Belt or the southeastern part of the country that their music seems to have been made for and long ago risen from. There is compassion and feelings that should be shouted from the other sides of stained glass windows, with conviction. There's love and remorse in every second of their music. Vasquez sings as if he's seen the worst in people and situations, but still believes wholeheartedly that the best is still possible with a little effort. Children are asked to shut their eyes and to listen closer to what they believe, instead of listening to the adults who are burning this place down.
The connotation of the blind leading the blind is at the forefront of a song that calls for some more action out of the youth and damn if their isn't a perfect reinvention of some of the activism that Bob Dylan (or the unintended activism as Bobby often alluded to in interviews) was suggesting early in his career. There's a civic nature to it all - wishful thinking that people can come to their senses and just be gentle souls and mindful of others. It doesn't have to deal with world relations or politics, just the interactions between others. Everyone's an individual with a responsibility to treat others with kindness, like it or not. We're here for other reasons than fattening our bank accounts, thinking only of ourselves and roundly flipping the bird to all others, believe it or not. The world's too small for that. Delta Spirit should be required listening.
The Daytrotter interview:
*How great was that Cold War Kids/Tokyo Police Club tour? You must have gotten into phenomenal trouble every single night, right?*
Jonathan Jameson: It was honestly insane! Not like an insane party, just such good time every day and with such great shows. Being out on tour with your friends, who happen to be in a great band and also happen to be doing really well is such an amazing opportunity and we felt so blessed to be a part of it. It was ok for a first tour, I guess. (sarcasm)
Kelly Winrich: For our first tour, it was pretty stupid. The fact we were able to spend two months with good friends, play sold out shows, and actually sell CDs, was pretty insane. We haven't really figured it out yet, but we're pretty spoiled, and probably won't do another tour as good as this one was, but as for me, I'm pretty grateful for the opportunity.
*What can you get out of a bottle of Jack Daniels that you can't get out of any other alcohol?*
KW: I feel this question is somehow directed towards me. I think I suggested we get a pint of Jack. Though now, it might have been a good idea that I was a bit more sober. But I think personally, what I get out of a bottle of Jack, is a little more loose and sloppy style of playing. Which is priceless to listen to that day after, because it feels like you're listening to someone else. Sometimes it might work against you, and turn out like complete shit, but sometimes you get lucky and it's sweet.
JJ: I feel like I am gonna get fat by drinking beer. Whiskey is much superior, but I am barely a drinker. Ask the other guys. Kelly was heavily influenced by JD on the session that we did with you. I had never seen him that way. Oh man.
*How did you all meet the CWKids and Richard Swift? Who else are your homies from your turf?*
JJ: I was friends with the Colour and Matt Maust of CWK first. I met them through some friends who went to school with them. They are all great guys. It was hard not to be friends with them. Eventually, I met the rest of the bunch and honestly have never met such an interesting group of guys. All kind and weird and creative in their own ways. We are weirder though. As far as Dickie -- Kelly and Matt have been big fans for years. He is amazing as well as all the people who play with him. We also love J Dob and the Deep Sea Divers, Sparrow Love Crew, The Prayers and The Shys.
KW: I met Cold War Kids through Delta Spirit, as I was the last one to join the band, and they had already been friends. I met Eli Thompson (bass player in Dickie Swift's band) through my brother's band, and later met Dickie. And somehow, a while back, a bootleg copy of Walking Without Effort showed up (mysteriously) in my house, and I started listening -- instantly becoming a fan. From then on, I would see Eli and Dickie here and there, at shows or in the studio, and got to get to know them a bit better as time went on. I think the ultimate tour dream would be CWK, Richard Swift, and Delta Spirit. We've been pushing for it, but who knows. Maybe someday. As for homies from our "home turf," some of our closest boys are Sparrow Love Crew and the Colour. I think we have a pretty amazing community of bands that support each other, and will continue to support each other as we all move forward in music.
*When was the last time you felt you were losing your mind?*
JJ: We have already lost our minds. You kind of have to decide to play music as a "career". We all feel more at peace on the road. Things are more clear and we know where we are headed and what we need to do. We have a much harder time just sitting around, but we have learned a great deal of patience from doing that for the last year or so. Things are starting to pick up and I'm sure eventually we will wish that we had this kind of free time again.
KW: I think I'm on the verge of losing my mind on the daily. But I think it's possible that the band keeps me in check.
*When Jon and Matt went to New Orleans to help with Katrina relief, what did it do for you? What did you see and how did it affect you? It must have been moving, as you wrote at least one song about it.*
JJ: Living in Southern California, we are really separated from the real world. I mean most of us are broke and don't have cars and stuff, but we will be OK. None of us are gonna starve. None of us have had our house destroyed by a hurricane or by flooding. None of us are gonna die from malaria from a mosquito bite. None of us are aids orphans. None of us are slaves or live on under a dollar a day and all of these things that are realities for millions. I think that is what our trip to New Orleans showed me. The reality of the need in the world as well as the compassion and beauty of people coming together to help others in need just because it was the right thing to do. I think we all have to escape our small worlds at times. If we don't, we stay consumed with our little problems and forget about the rest of the world. That can be a dangerous thing.
KW: I hadn't joined the band at this point. They had already gone to New Orleans, and written the song, so I think I might have the least to say. But I think all of us, to a certain degree, were affected by Katrina, and the song is a good reminder of however it moved us individually.
*What's next for you guys?*
KW: We've converted our studio into a mobile recording rig, so our next adventure is in Wrightwood (local mountains, about two hours away) recording our second EP in my buddy Josh's cabin. Eli from Richard Swift will be hanging and helping with producing/engineering. We should come away with an interesting recording....hopefully it's amazing.
JJ: Well, we are about to record a new EP next week! The songs have been coming out great. We are really excited. Oh, and we have a west coast run with Dr. Dog! We love them. Should be seriously rad.
*Of the five of you, which of you was most genius this week? Give examples.*
JJ: I don't know about this week, but Brandon would definitely win the lifetime achievement award. He is the most bizarre guy, but at the same time I am so immune to it that...I was gonna say that nothing surprises me any more, but that is not true. When someone develops a form of communication that is largely based on whistles you know he is someone special.
KW: I'll go ahead and speak for everyone here and say that I was the most genius this week. But I have no examples.
*Who would you spend your one call from prison on if you knew you were going away for a while and you just wanted to have a great conversation? What would you talk about? (Doesn't have to be someone that you have a phone number for)*
KW: Thom Yorke. And what kind of jackets are you into these days.
JJ: For me it would be Brandon, Tom Waits or someone else in prison cause any of them would be sure to have some ridiculous stories. Paris Hilton would be funny too. Especially now that she is losing popularity. hmm.
*What do you have in your residence that everyone always asks about?*
KW: Now, it's a recording studio. But back in the day, we had some quarter pipes set up in our backyard, and people I haven't seen for years will still ask about them.
JJ: My dog Rocky. He is nuts.
*Do any of you have the south in your blood?*
KW: The most south I got in my blood, is Southern Calif.
JJ: My dad is from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Does that count?
*What are your recording habits like? Kelly mentioned that you'd like to record everything at different places across the country for the next album. Is that just a dream thought or do you really want to try that?*
KW: Well, considering we have a mobile recording rig now, it might be more of a reality than a dream. It'll start at this cabin we're going too, but who knows what will happen afterwards. Across the country might be a dream, but definitely, we'll record in different places, houses, buildings, or wherever we might think will sound interesting.
*Other than where you are, where could you see yourself living?*
JJ: For some reason, I have had a heightened interest in politics for the last year or so. When we drove into DC on this tour, I just had this feeling like I might live there some day. I could feel the weight of what happens there every day. The whole world is effected by decisions made there. It's crazy. We also played a rad show that night with the Cold Wars. It was the biggest show of the tour. Then after the show we went around the capitol with a friend at like 2 a.m. It was amazing! We walked straight up to the White House and there was no one around! It was surreal. Then we walked by the reflecting pool on the way to the Lincoln Memorial. The Lincoln Memorial was so ominous and sacred feeling. I read the Gettysburg Address out loud and was taken back by the wisdom. Then Matt started singing the "Star Spangled Banner" kind of as a joke, but it was still magical. I am heading out there soon to go to this social justice conference. It should be insane. The democratic candidates will be talking on how faith and politics and social justice work together. Should be an exciting conversation.
KW: I like Chicago and New York, but I'd have to live with a good core group of friends to live in a city like that. Ventura is pretty interesting, but it might be because there's a sweet Frank Loyd Wright house in Ventura, and I want to build a recording studio in it.
*What are you listening to and reading right now?*
JJ: Our lawyer Dave Rap gave us these great soul comps. There is a Decca, a Chess Uptown Soul and a couple of great Norther soul discs. We all really love northern soul. Before it went disco at least. I am reading too much at once always. I just bought Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse. I hear it is great, but I haven't got a start yet. I also like to listen to political books on CD, cause I figure the literary quality isn't the important part. I just listened to Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope and was really inspired by the ideas put forth. The idea of a politics that brings people together for the common good instead of dividing the nation into the deep partisan standoff that we have been in for way too long. Now I am listening to God's Politics by Jim Wallis. His big thing is that that God is not a republican or a democrat and that people must stop claiming that God is on their side because that is what inspires pride and fundamentalism and extremism. We must ask the deeper question, "Are we on God's side?" This instead inspires humility and love for our neighbors and maybe even for our enemies. Crazy idea, right?
KW: We're a big friend rock band. Love listening to friend's bands, in other words. Besides that, some Beatles (whatever record suits my mood), and some Arthur Conley (Sweet Soul Music, and Soul Directions).