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Take Five – with The Delta Spirit

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Photograph by Matt Wignall
The Delta Spirit’s album Tomorrow Goes Away is lovely collection of sharp melodic pop with tips of the hat to Country, Folk, and Indie Rock under the umbrella of a crisp and clean production that lets the unfettered interplay of the band members shine through. In short it’s a hoot. The album – recorded in a cabin – hops from danceable romps (Trashcan) to somber hungover sadness (House built For Two) to sloppy garagey stumbles (Parade) with a joyous grace and confidence. If you like hummable melodies, droll arrangements, and solid live performances their show tomorrow night at Walter’s On Washington with Dr. Dog and Seth Kaufman is likely one you do not want to miss.

Lucky for us we got a hold of producer turned full time band member Kelly Winrich who was good enough to play five questions with us.

1) Ode To Sunshine was produced/engineered in a cabin but the production is really sharp and at times even lush. I suspect the cabin wasn’t on par with what Abe Lincoln grew up in so what was the cabin/studio like? What equipment did you bring in and how was the recording approached?

First and foremost, and probably the most important characteristic of the cabin, was that it was almost entirely unfurnished. It was half forest-green carpet, half oak wood floors. There was a freshly tuned upright piano waiting for us there, compliments of the Derek Shaw (the owner). There were glass windows or doors that allowed you too see into to each room. It was almost like it was built to be a studio. We still set up all in one room, to capture a live sound. Everyone was facing each other, and had a personal monitor speaker (no headphones). Most songs were recorded this way, save a few vocal/percussion overdubs. As far as the “lush” production is concerned, there were a few songs that we recorded in a traditional way (i.e. drums separately, layering, etc.). Ultimately, we catered to the song…if it didn’t feel full enough, we adjusted to make it feel right. For the most part, we got lucky, and stuck to first takes.

2) Trashcan is a great pop song – a get off your feet and dance kind of song – but the rest of the album is a bit less light which makes Trashcan kind of stick out to the point where it took me some time to get past that song and get into the rest of the album (which I think is great). I’m just kind of curious about how you approach what goes on an album, what gets left off, and tracking. In effect what is your approach to editing and flow? Also is there any thematic thread in all the lyrics that you find yourself returning to?

There might be a reason that trashcan sticks out from the rest. It evolved from jam that only included myself on bass, Matt on piano, and a friend/non-band member Al Kweskin on drums. So the fact that it was only a partial group of the band may have been the reason the song was created in such a lighter mood. And if anything, the only reason certain songs were left off the album, was because of a lyrical or production inconsistency. And then some just downright didn’t fit. We definitely took some time deciding the order and flow of the record. We arranged the track-list in a way that felt natural, from tempo, to key, to space between songs. And to answer the last question, lyrical themes are not as important to us as the individual song lyrics themselves, though since Matt writes the majority of the lyrics, that might be a theme in itself.

3) The album has some nice contrasts in approach like The Strange Vine evokes a Roy Orbison lushness whereas Parade sounds like some dirty drunken garage band sloppiness (particularly the guitar phrasing). I’m kind of curious how the songs evolved from composition to recording in terms of tone and arrangements.

That’s what we were going for. We knew what we didn’t like, and everything else was up for grabs. And when we started recording, some songs came easy and some songs needed last minute work. It all came down to the take. Parade, in particular, was the last song written for the record, so that may account for it’s raw production and sound.

4) You guys have a pretty solid rep for lively performances. How do you approach the road, particularly the challenge of performing the same songs night after night and still keep it fresh?

Matt puts it best when he says “We try our best to really think about the song when we’re performing” And that usually pertains to the lyrics and dynamics. I would say we play every song different each night, whether we mean to or not, and that keeps it fresh.

5) The new album wasn’t recorded for Rounder but is being re-issued by Rounder. How did you go from unsigned band* to suddenly scoring a deal with Rounder and how has it changed how your fans view you?

We approached a possible record deal with caution. We’re all about moving forward, and we weren’t interested in letting a label set us back. But when we decided to sign to Rounder we were all confident in the people that were behind the label, not dollar signs or some flashy artist roster. And if fans are turned off by our decision to sign to Rounder, then maybe they’re interested in the music for the wrong reason.

Links:
The Delta Spirit on Myspace (Link)
The Delta Spirit (Link)
Rounder Records (Link)
* Note that the band did release an EP on Monarchy Music before this album.

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