Q&A with Delta Spirit’s Matt Vasquez
Delta Spirit recently released their third studio album, but don’t expect more of the same from this roots rock act out of Long Beach, Calif. The new Chris Coady-produced album features drum machines and samples and a broadened direction. Frontman Matt Vasquez recently gave us the lowdown on this latest effort …
Fender News: Did you guys intentionally set out to go in a different direction with this album or was it more of an organic thing?
Matt Vasquez: Well, we never set out for a “sound” in the first place. When people called us rootsy and folksy, that was cool and a really great thing. But that has kind of became a shtick for a lot of bands and how they were selling their stuff, and we had never even thought of ourselves like that. It kind of encouraged us even more to not be pigeonholed and to really let in the influences like Prince and Kanye West and Talking Heads and a billion other bands. So I think wanting to showcase those influences and wanting to make a really good sounding record is what motivated us with this album. You can record on an 8-track and make a vibey, chunky analog recorded record, but it’s a harder feat to make a good-sounding, well-produced record. That’s what we set out to do. We wanted to take the time and have the focus and the well-crafted songwriting and we did. I’m very, very proud of it.
FN: So why, third studio album in, choose to go with a self title?
MV: Because finally we are a quintet again. We finally have that fifth member, William McLaren, who has a musical voice – can sing like a bird and play. His style of guitar playing is kind of like — he has that David Rawlings touch but he is able to get these ambient effects – kind of comes from the Jonny Greenwood school of thought. He knows what he’s doing – let’s say that. And he’s not afraid to fight for what he thinks musically which is good because otherwise he’d get bulled over by four other alpha males.
FN: So, strong personalities in your band?
MV: Yeah, we like to argue. We’re a family.
FN: Sometimes arguments are important in the creative process. Did you guys experience that during the album recording?
MV: UH-HUH! “Telling the Mind” was the most minor sounding song, and there’s like vocal drumming in it. It was a demo I made. I recorded the track just to make it. We don’t write songs just for Delta Spirit. We just write songs to write songs. That was the song I thought everyone would hate and everyone loved, and then we ended up starting to arrange it and we started putting all of these push-pull major/minors in the chord progressions. I was like ‘No, this is supposed to be like Nick Cave/(Led) Zeppelin, man, and you are ruining my shit here.’ I felt they were taking the balls out of the song and I was getting so pissed but by the end of it, it was awesome. I was screaming about it and arguing, and even Chad Blake when he was mixing it was like “Huh?” But I think the transition and progression of it, it ended up being really great. So I got my way on certain things, but I also gave up a lot of different arguments that definitely made the song better. There’s so many of those arguments that make the second half of a verse change and so you have this interesting progression in a really short song. There’s a lot of different moves that are subtle.
FN: We know it’s unfair to ask, but do you have a favorite track?
MV: They are all my little children. “Time Bomb” is one that has really grown on me though. I almost didn’t want it on the record but once it was all said and done and Chad Blake finished his mix on it, I was sold on that song. “Into the Darkness”, I’m really proud of the melody of that song. It’s cool to be able to use a (Roy) Orbison-esque melody in an ambient, modern sounding song. That was really cool and fun to be able to throw those two things together.
FN: What’s the reaction been like from your fans?
MV: At first I think when people heard the record the reaction was mixed but every record we’ve ever released has had mixed reviews until they see it live, and then usually they go, “Oh shit, I get it now.” That has been the most fun part – some people who may only be excited about Ode to Sunshine or only excited about History from Below will hopefully see us play this one live, will see the meaning of it and they’ll get it.