It's mid morning in America's heartland, and once again, Delta Spirit is on yet another endless highway, this one midway between Dallas and Houston, Texas. No matter, though; they've spent the better part of the last two years spreading their nuanced country-tinged rock, and they couldn't be more pleased. "In the beginning, we were literally doing 290 dates a year and sleeping on people's floors because we couldn't even afford hotel rooms," Delta Spirit's singer, songwriter and guitarist Matthew Vasquez comments during a call from their tour bus. "Now at least we can stay in actual hotel rooms, eat decent food and even come out a little ahead."
Delta Spirit has released two albums on a reputable Rounder Records and have a third one, self-titled, coming on March 13, 2012. The opportunity to tour behind bands like Cold War Kids, Clap You Hands Say Yeah and Dr. Dog have given them a groundswell of support and now they find themselves in the enviable position of picking up a solid fan base that they can call their own. "We've been together six years and it's been a slow, gradual build, "Vasquez reflects. "It's great to know we've reached a certain plateau and haven't had to compromise to get there."
If compromise means having to bend to the whims of a record company, then in fact, Vasquez clearly knows of what he speaks. Two of the band's other principals, bassist Jon Jameson and drummer/percussionist Brandon Young, got their start in punk bands while Vasquez was busking his songs on street corners. When Jameson and Young happened to encounter him by chance at 2 a.m. one morning, they were so drawn to his songs that they decided to initiate a new band. They later recruited two other musicians into their fold -- multiinstrumentalist Kelly Winrich and guitarist Sean Walker (recently replaced by Will McLaren) -- adopting a moniker that borrowed from a company run by Jameson's uncle, the Delta Spirit Taxidermy Station of Central Alabama.
They recorded their debut album, Ode To Sunshine, on their own, a mostly mellow set of songs that more or less boasted a contemporary country rock sound. After inking the deal with Rounder, the label re-released the album and then opted for another, History From Below, which found them stretching their parameters, creating a mesh of Alternative and Americana that defied easy description.
"A band is only as good as its influences and its members' record collections," Vasquez asserts. "We all started out in the punk scene, but as we got older, we discovered Dylan and Neil Young. Then we walked through them to Tom Waits and Nick Cave. We then walked through them to people like Ornette Coleman and Eno, and actually rediscovered groups like Depeche Mode. Ultimately, there's really nothing new under the sun. And yet, there isn't a time like now. So we tend to absorb it all."
The group also tapped into television; their song "Devil Knows You're Dead" gained placement in the last scene of the fifth and final season of Friday Night Lights, while their tracks "People, Turn Around" and "911 ended up in episodes of Sons of Anarchy and of My Life As Liz, respectively. "It's like touring from home, but reaching so many more people," Vasquez says of the exposure. "With the depressed state of the record business, more labels have begun putting the emphasis on publishing. And that's how these deals are secured. That and the internet certainly helped boost our profile."
It's little surprise then that Vasquez is already touting the band's new album. "It's our first opportunity to do our songs exactly way we wanted," he says. "We recorded the tracks three times apiece, beginning with the demos and then proceeding through various stages where each member of the band got to give input and tweak accordingly. And then, when we went into the studio, our producer, Chris Coady, made us run through them again, which I was delighted to do. As a result, the songs are much more thought out than on our earlier albums and they're more energetic overall. It feels more focused, more concise. It's hard to make an album that sounds serious and even harder to make an album that sounds really fun. But the hardest thing is to make an album that sounds like serious fun."
Delta Spirit performs at 7 PM, Saturday, December 10 with My Morning Jacket at Sunset Cove Amphitheater, 12551 Glades Road, Boca Raton. Tickets coast $47.25. Go to www.ticketmaster.com.
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