Spinning Platters Interview: Brandon Young of Delta Spirit

by Jen Robie on November 17, 2010

Delta Spirit, one of my personal favorite bands, is coming to the Bay Area in December.   Their breakthrough album Ode to Sunshine was packed with such raw, personable authenticity that it was shocking to find out they had emerged from my hometown of San Diego (land of the cultural brain fart).  This band came together organically.  Through the music you can hear the enjoyment of their jamming together and the shit-talking session that ensues, which is at the core of what makes it work.  Their music is intimate, free and unapologetic like a good drunken conversation.  I can’t wait to hear what they’ve come out the recording cabin with this time.  They have a steady track record of releasing an album every two years and then touring like, well, like dedicated musicians.

If this is your first intro to the band, here is their historic run down:  Brandon (Young) was getting a pack of smokes at 2:30 am when he saw Matt (Vasquez) busking at a trolley station in San Diego and (shocked that the dude actually sounded good) got his number.  Brandon called Matt when the band that he and Jon (Jameson) were in at the time broke up.  Once they started playing together they never stopped.  You can feel the creative compatibility between Matt and Kelly (Winrich), which makes me hopeful that History From Below will be as strong, yet different than, Ode To Sunshine.  The name Delta Spirit did not come from a plane.  Jon’s Uncle, Red (his photo is the album cover for Ode to Sunshine), had a taxidermy business named “Delta Spirit Taxidermy Station of North Central Alabama” and that is where the name comes from.  I spoke with Brandon Young (drummer), and I can’t wait to talk to him again- just to see what he says next.

Do you have a Delta Spirit taxidermy mascot that lives in the van?

We have an alligator head that sits in the van.  It keeps us company, holds our cigarettes every once and a while.. if it gets too hot you can start smelling the inside of its throat.

What makes the chemistry of the band work?

I guess it seems as cheesy as possible, but we’re all kind of brothers.  We get everything out right away.  Everyone thinks we are going to break up every five seconds because we fight so much- it’s just how you fight with your brother and sister.  But we love each other to death.

(While we were on the phone)  “Jon, you gotta get the fuck out of here- I’ve got the worst ADD in the world man.  (Then back to me) Sorry, it’s interview day and everybody is walking around here (in the studio) on the phone, I can’t do this.  It’s the reason why I play drums and do not have a day job. ”

As far as touring goes, the band started by accident and we didn’t have a label backing us at the time. (We were) just self releasing everything, so you’re not really going to progress with no label and no money, back in the day where you are sitting on your ass playing music locally, so we figured we would just tour like crazy.  I think back in 2009 we did 290 shows.

What’s your dirtiest tour behavior?  Do you take sink baths and eat Slim Jims?

(Laughs) As for as snacks go, I am probably the worst. I eat the meat and cheese stick combos non-stop.  I’m the guy that will go get a nice hot cookie from a gas station and a little thing of milk too.  (P.S. Brandon- I didn’t know gas stations made “nice hot cookies”, that’s awesome- and gross)

Are you doing any new or unusual instruments on the album (like the trashcan lids)?

No, we’re not and it’s funny because we kinda got pinned as “This Band that plays obscure instruments”.  The truth is, we play a fucking trashcan lid on one song.  That was purely by accident. It was really just: Kelly in the studio and he was trying to give me a tempo of what he wanted and I couldn’t hear anything from what he was banging on, so he just picked up a trashcan lid in the studio and started hitting it.  It just kinda made a sweet sound.  We ended up recording it, and it made sense to play it live because it sounded so good.  Everyone thought we were trying to be a hybrid of Tom Waits’s bastard children by banging on a bunch of weird stuff.  I mean we’re all huge fans of Tom Waits, but we’re definitely not trying to be him and we don’t play that weird of instruments.

Did you write the new album while you were touring with Ode to Sunshine?

Yeah, this is the only album that was written on the road.  Matt and Kelly wrote a bunch of songs when we were touring like crazy.  We went straight into the studio after those couple years of touring and did a couple months of pre-production.  We ended up getting the whole record done, mixed and mastered within 6 months.

What is the tone of the new album, History From Below?

It’s heavier.  Even with lyrical content.  I think it’s the best lyrics Matt has ever written in his entire life.  Specifically I think there are a couple songs: Salt in the Wound, Vivian, and Vitally are lyrically some of the best songs he’s ever written.  The recording is a bit different we went in with a different approach… I think that every record we make is going to be different.  I don’t think that there is going to be any record that sounds the same.

Has being on tour all the time given the new album a somber note of constantly moving on?

I don’t think we are a band that looks to deep into things…  You know- we don’t try to prepare ourselves before we go into the studio and like, sit down Indian style and do weird rituals- or like, Matt has a bad day, so he’s going to go inside and write a song about his bad day.  I don’t think we try to hard in that area, because the songs just seem to come off cheesy (when you do).  It’s just like having a conversation with a friend, and you guys drank a bottle of wine a piece and you wake up in the morning and you are like ‘man, some of the stuff I was saying last night was super cheesy and I hope to God he or she doesn’t tell anyone about it.   Ya know? We’re just not that band.

What else are you guys into besides music?

There’s a bit of everything.  John is a crazy antiquer.  Matt only plays music, exercises and goes swimming.  I play golf almost every day, so does Kelly.  Kelly and I are big golfers.  We all love hiking, goin’ around and seeing the country, and we all love traveling.

Who are you most excited to play with on the tour?

We’re really excited for both of the bands we are taking out on tour with us.  Darker My Love is a band we’ve wanted to take out on tour with us for the last couple of years and scheduling-wise didn’t make any sense, so we finally handcuffed them to this tour.  We’re really excited about them, we’re really big fans of their music, and they’re really great dudes.  The Fling, they are going to be the next big and best thing.  They write incredible music, they’re super loud live, and they’re really great dudes, and the record they just made is absolutely incredible.  It’s in my top ten favorite new bands right now.

You can follow Delta Spirit on the road via Twitter, or better yet, come see them live at The Fillmore on December 7th.

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[Editor’s note: Jen Robie also writes about food (rarely Slim Jims) at jenrobiesmoodfood.com]

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