As their name might suggest, San Diego’s Delta Spirit combine the sounds of the swampy South with lyrics that suggest-though never forcibly-something greater. On the stage and on a record, the bandmembers fluctuate between being contemplative soul musicians and barely constrained blues rockers. And thanks in part to the gritty, emotive vocals of frontman Matt Vasquez (the band discovered him busking in a San Diego train station at 2 a.m.), Delta Spirit are finally beginning to rake in the praise they so rightfully deserve.
Scan the comments on the band’s Facebook page and you’ll find an endless stream of posts from kids across the country, thanking the five-piece for their amazing stint at the Bowery, or their epic performance at the Drunken Unicorn, or their fantastic show at some place called Tractor Tavern. One can take this heavy smattering of e-praise to mean many things. I took from it two truths: Delta Spirit can rock the roof off a club, and they’re in desperate need of a vacation. I recently caught up with bassist Jon Jameson to discuss hometown scenes, sound checks, and what not to do in Texas.
Musically, San Diego is known for a strong singer/songwriter scene and a lot of pop punk bands. How did the whole blues rock thing come about? We were never really involved in the singer/songwritery thing. And we never were involved in-well, when I was a kid, I was in a punk band. : The only time I was really involved in the San Diego scene was when I was in a hardcore band and going to see those kinds of shows. But I think eventually our musical interests expanded, and it’s probably due to the fact that it’s such a vacuum culture in California. None of us are really die-hard surfer bros listening to Sublime or anything. The closest thing to who we were is the fact that we’re American, at least in some sense, even though we’re all the way over on the coast. I think we eventually found American music and decided that that was going to be our starting point.
Between yourselves, Cold War Kids, and Port O’Brien, it seems like the California rock sound is definitely evolving. Do you feel like things have changed since you first started writing music? Yeah, I don’t know. I guess there’s always, like, something in the air when multiple things start happening at the same time. Or maybe we’re all just ripping each other off. [Laughs.] It’s one or the other. But, yeah, there’s some pretty good music coming out. I think it’s a good thing. Everyone always has a hard time just deciding where they’re going to fit in to music, or how they’re going to present themselves. I think that all these bands have kind of chosen not to present themselves in any certain way, and somehow accidentally ended up along the same lines.
Since you released Ode to Sunshine, you’ve gone from supporting gigs to headlining sold-out shows. How is the tour going? It’s crazy. It’s been mind-numbing and body-destroying just because of the relentless nature of the drives and stuff. But then the shows have been so good and encouraging and surprising that it’s been really awesome. It’s just such a weird paradox there, but overall, it’s more than we ever could have hoped for. And it’s cool to have a sound check every day. Sometimes you end up playing at a place that sounds horrible and you just hate yourself afterward. When you get a chance to make things actually sound good, that obviously helps.
The idea of five young guys traveling around the country just sounds like trouble. Do you have any strange tales from the road to share? This run, we’ve all been so tired that we haven’t gotten into a whole lot of trouble. But on the last tour, I got arrested, so that was kind of crazy. My mom gave me some alertness pills, which they are really not down with in Texas. You see, we do these long drives and my mom worries that we’re going to die by falling asleep and driving off the road. So I ended up spending the night in jail and having to pay a defense attorney thousands of dollars to get me out of it. It still hasn’t worked. [Laughs.] There were six other dudes [in there with me]. One of the guys was in for assault with a deadly weapon. They were all pretty cool though. They rolled me a cigarette and I gave them my menudo in the morning because I’m not really into pig intestines. I’m a harder man because of it.
Club Mercy and KCRW present Delta Spirit at Velvet Jones (423 State St.) this Saturday, March 14, at 9 p.m. Call 965-8676 or visit clubmercy.com for tickets and info.