Chasing Twisters: Five Questions With Delta Rae
Photo: Jon Weiner
It’s funny how the music industry attempts to find descriptive labels for artists that they represent. I’ve learned that many artists don’t know how to put the music they make into words, other than to offer up a mishmash of genres to explain what they do. Such could be said about Durham six piece, Delta Rae. Though the band defines themselves as Americana, their albums are more a paintbrush of the American landscape. In just two albums, they’ve gone from a band that used kickstarter to fund an album, to two releases on a major label, multiple festival appearances, and spots all over television. On Saturday at Fitzgerald’s, Houston will get two experience the multiple genres that the band creates, especially the beautiful vocals from each member, when they perform upstairs at the iconic venue. FPH was lucky enough to get some time with founding member Brittany Holljes, to catch up with what the band has going on, and what Houston should expect from them this weekend.
FPH: The band is made up of three siblings, which seems like it could be amazing at times and a nightmare at others. Is it strange touring and performing with people who know you so well?
DELTA RAE: Well, as one of the siblings, I can attest to the fact that it’s definitely both strange and wonderful. We all tolerate each other, and we fight from time to time, but the dynamic that we share creates a unity and a harmony that works well for us. It’s definitely more benifitting than it is detracting.
FPH: I think most fans of the band know that you bounced around the country as kids, and that you went to college in North Carolina, which is where the band was formed. But where do you guys call home?
DELTA RAE: We’ve lived in North Carolina for six years now, and my brothers were born there and my mom lives there. So that’s our home. I always say that home is where your mom is, and the only one of us that’s really a transplant is Liz (Hopkins), so maybe she considers California her home. But she seems to be faring well living there.
FPH: The new album, “After It All” has a very different sound than the debut, with more pop and hip hop influences; yet you seemed to have really retained the overall sound that you’re known for. Were there times where you questioned some of the instrumentation used because it was so different, or did want something that took a more experimental approach?
DELTA RAE: That core sound between the two albums, that we recognize as our “genre umbrella,” is still there. It gets called everything, but I don’t think we try to be experimental. In fact when we go to record we have to be much more disciplined. We constantly ask ourselves, “Can we add this or use that and still be us?” I feel like if we can add all of those elements and still sound the same, then it works. We were very free with this album, and we never let that little voice of doubt inside ever get louder than a whisper. Overall I think the album is an accurate reflection about how we feel about our country right now. The record is basically our version of Americana with all of those other influential elements mixed in.
FPH: The different sound of the album has been said to have come from the different collaborations that the band did of the course of a year and a half, with big names like Rob Cavallo. Did you prefer writing this way as opposed to how you wrote your first album?
DELTA RAE: The way we’ve done the album process has always been outside of the box for us. For the first one, we went the kickstarter route, and we took what were our tried and true songs and did the whole thing pretty fast. This time we had done an EP with Rob, and we liked how it sounded so much that we went in and did a whole album with him. But, we knew when listening back to it, that there was this underlying feeling that we missed. So, we toured and took time off to hammer out our ideas, we reworked some things, and we wrote new songs from scratch. Then we pulled all of those elements and Peter Katis put it all together. The way that he kept what we did with the different artists gave it color and depth. The energy and uniqueness to it really makes the album its own.
FPH: The band has appeared on the bulk of the major festivals across North America, you’ve been on Farm Aid and all over TV and the web. Do you tend to play a more intimate set when you aren’t doing shows on the festival circuit? What should people in Houston expect from you this weekend?
DELTA RAE: I think our club and theater shows are definitely more intimate. With the festival sets you’re usually outdoors and you’re playing in front of people who don’t know who you are. Where with our club shows, we try to make it where the overall feeling isn’t just one note. Playing our older songs with their softness, while mixing in more rock songs, and just those emotional highs and lows; we want to take the audience on a journey. There’s an energy from the audience that we get in the theaters and clubs, that creates a real give and take that makes it more special. We want everyone to come out and to be ready to take a ride with us, while we both feed off of each other’s energy.
The band definitely puts their own spin on their genre, while still retaining some of their core sound, and making it fun for anyone who sees them live. You can catch those highs and lows when Delta Rae performs at Fitzgerald’s this Saturday. The all ages show will feature opener Liz Longley with doors at 7:00, and tickets between $20.00 and $24.00.