Tuesday, June 24, 2008

interview: Delta Spirit

"The Great Spirit of America"
A while back I sat down for an interview with Delta Spirit bass player and badass Jonathan Jameson. Besides having the greatest email account in the history of the world, Jameson knows how to lay down the groovy bits that keep the "dharma bum" tunes together. Delta Spirit rolls into NYC this week and Friday will be my third time seeing them in the past 8 months. There is a reason I keep going back and the reason is Ode to Sunshine. Be sure you catch them at the Mercury Lounge Thursday or Union Hall Friday before they get huge and start opening for Coldplay or Pearl Jam at the Garden.

Chocolate Bobka: There is an innate honesty in the Delta Spirit sound that seems to owe as much to punk rock as it does to old school folk and country music. Who are your influences?
JJ: On the punk side there are some. We like The Clash, Television, more recently the Libertines. I really like the Waterboys, but they aren't really punk. We also love soul music, hip hop and some folk. We are a band that loves big ideas, like social change and redemption, as well as songs about how its hard to date another man's girlfriend. It is that paradox that we are drawn to.
C: I've heard you talk about personal responsibility in the world, and realizing that everyone is apart of the problem, and that it's more important to be part of the solution rather than point the blame on someone, actually owning up to personal responsibility. How does that sort of personal integrity affect your music?
JJ: I guess it leaves us in a slightly more constructive place than a destructive place, because we aren't disillusioned with the idea of fighting against something as much as we are into fighting for something. We made our own record, put it out ourselves, managed ourselves for a while, got some good tours with some friends and now we are working with really great people who we know understand us and whom we deeply respect. It feels good.
C: In the live setting it seems that there is an unfettered equality between band members on stage, something I don't feel/see with alot of other bands. On Ode to Sunshine the writing, recording and producing are all credited to Delta Spirit. most would says its impossible to maintain equality, put egos aside and work for the greater good in a band, especially when your spending X amount of days in a cramped van with the same people. How do you keep it together?
JJ: There was a monk in the 4th century that said living in community is the only asceticism that you will ever need. It really isn't easy, but it is worth it and it does require us to constantly push our egos back. The President of the United States should be forced to be in a band for a year or so. I think they could really learn a thing or two about how to get along. We respect each other and recognize that the band wouldn't be half as good with out any one of us.
C: Ode to Sunshine was essentially recorded live. Was it important for you to capture the essence of your live shows on record?
JJ: Yeah we felt that that was how that album needed to be recorded. I'm not sure we will do it again, but it was right for that album and we are all happy with the results. I think one of the most beautiful parts about it is that it feels like it belongs in time and space. It feels like a living room, not a museum.
C: Delta Spirit is uber-tight live. Has there been anything, instrumentally or an arrangement that the band can't pull off live, or chooses not to try?
JJ: We can't play the last song on Ode to Sunshine. We played it once cause we had our friend playing trumpet, but it still wasn't quite there. It's kind of a thorn in our side. I really want to solve it, to bring it back to life.
C: Does the band have any plans to record in 2008?
JJ: We have already done a bit of recording, and with us you never know what might make the album. So yes, we will be recording as songs come. It may or may not be the final version. We have the blessing of having our own recording gear, so it would be a shame to be lazy with that. we are always looking forward too.
C: The Port O'Brien tour was a great pairing in that both bands have an unbridled sense of working class companionship, loyalty and selflessness. Is there anything you personally took away from touring with those guys, or any other band you've toured with?
JJ: They were so great! We really love them. Real people playing music they love. It's the best. Thankfully we have toured mostly with bands like that.
C: The band seems to embody a working mans integrity. Is there any particular reason for this, or is it simply that you are all so passionate about what you do that you have to work hard...and enjoy yourselves?
JJ: We don't really identify with the culture of Southern California, so in our effort to dig deeper we have found that that is the great spirit of America, not the 'american dream,' but working hard to do something you love. It's what makes us a country of grand possibilities. It may be a bit presumptuous but I also think that that is really one of the deepest human desires. I also think music is a beautiful example of giving love. We work so hard not to just record a bunch of songs so that when we are old we can sit back with our headphones on and listen to all that we have accomplished. No! How absurd would that be!? We work hard to have the chance to share this with other people, to give them a little of ourselves and when this sharing happens something greater than words is established. It is a communion. It is a holy moment, even though it becomes normal to us from time to time.
C: Ode to Sunshine is an album that screams 'vinyl'. any plans to release it on wax?
JJ: One way or another it will be released on vinyl this year. You are right, it may make the most sense like that.

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