BPM’s Henry Hauser chats with Delta Spirit founding member and bassist Jon Jameson about his band’s upcoming album, giving away free tunes, and the feeling right at home on the road.
BPM (Henry Hauser): On Delta Spirit’s new self-titled LP, you set out to affirm your status as a “modern rock band.” But since all art must build on or against the past to some degree, do you really see a bright line separating modern from classic rock?
Delta Spirit (Jon Jameson): I don’t think we’re doing anything we weren’t trying to do before, but we are letting people know that we’re not in love with the past or trying to mirror it. True, the past makes you who you are, but you also want to move forward and do something that’s new and exciting.
We wanted to get the message out that we are what we are. Some of that has to do with old music, as we’re all made from what happened in the past. But Delta Spirit is also intertwined with the sound and culture of today.
To help shed that myopic “rootsy Americana” label with which some critics have pigeonholed your band, you’ve enlisted Chris Coady [TV on the Radio, Beach House, and Smith Westerns] to produce Delta Spirit. How did having this new presence in the studio change your creative process?
In the places we are more unfamiliar, like synth sounds, he contributed an understanding of a world we knew very little about. On our first LP we had little to no understanding of recording. On this album, though we didn’t go into a fancy Los Angeles studio or anything, we did have a superb sound engineer that really understands sonics. He integrated a lot of techniques that were new to us, like using very close mics on the drums. It was really cool to see how the songs came out.
Despite your reputation as road warriors, Delta Spirit touts its involvement with a community of other musicians hatching all kinds of tunes. Can you turn us onto a few of those groups?
We’re about to go on tour with Waters. About four years ago, we did our first headlining tour with them and played some pretty brutal shows in front of about half a dozen people. Port O’Brien and We Barbarians are two great groups that I’d also highlight. On the back end of our tour we’ll be playing with Tijuana Panthers, a fantastic surf-punk band out of LA.
We’re also really grateful that bands like Cold War Kids, Dr. Dog, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah took us out on tour when we were just getting started. It’s great that now we can give other bands that chance.
I think I’ve Found It, Delta Spirit’s rambunctious, socially conscious, youthfully exuberant debut EP, is now available online free of charge. Cultivating some karma, atoning for a few sins, or just shaking things up?
Well, it’s the only music that we completely own ourselves, which is liberating. We can do anything we want with it! I think I’ve Found It has different sounding songs than our two LPs. We’re trying to remind people of our old stuff because I think Delta Spirit makes a little more sense in terms of the whole life and progression of our band.
Spring’s around the corner. I usually get in the mood by spinning George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” and Small Faces’ “Itchkcoo Park.” Have you got any favorite springtime cuts?
It’s funny because all of us are originally from California. We lived in a perpetual spring/summer our whole lives, but in the last six months we’ve all moved to Brooklyn. It’s been a relatively mild winter, but it still makes spring more exciting, which is cool for a Californian. I love New Order’s “Age of Consent” off Power, Corruption & Lies – it’s dark in parts but also bright.
A couple of months back, Delta Sprit dropped a raw, scathing cover of Zombies’ “She’s Not There” totally out of the blue – where’d that come from?
To be honest, we did it for a TV competition and got beat out by Neko Case and Nick Cave. We just recorded it in a band member’s basement, thought it sounded great, and figured put it out there. Wouldn’t want it to go to waste.
You’ve been off the road for over 6 months now, which is a long time for you guys. What excites you about going on tour?
It’s been a weird time. We recorded our new album in upstate New York near Woodstock last year, and about a month later members of the band gradually started moving to Brooklyn. It was a long layoff, so I took a part time job working in a chocolate factory.
We’re definitely ready to get back to where we feel most at home, which is playing gigs on the road. Once you get to the point of playing songs live, it’s time to flush them out and bring the whole crowd into it. It’s my favorite past about being in a band.