The Delta Saints
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The Delta Saints
Among rock ‘n’ roll’s many mistresses and muses, California remains one of the most enigmatic, enduring, and enchanting. The Golden State’s allure can notably be attributed to the intoxicating melodic excess of the Eagles’ “Hotel California” and the finger-picked pensiveness of Led Zeppelin’s “Going To California,” to name a few.
The West Coast’s influence courses throughout The Delta Saints’ 2017 full-length album, Monte Vista. Irresistible lead single “California” snaps from a vintage synth swell into a rough-n-tumble guitar riff and bluesy howl. It’s an anthem for throwing caution to the wind, skipping town and setting out to find something more. “California has always been a sort of haven for the band both physically and emotionally,” says front man Ben Ringel. “We’ve got a home base at our guitarist Dylan’s grandmother’s house in La Jolla on Monte Vista Street. That’s where the album title comes from. When we wrote the song, we were in the middle of a dismal Nashville winter. We were all feeling the need to escape the cold, but also had this drive that had been building up over the previous year to really push ourselves beyond where we were. I think we all felt a bit stagnate, and ‘California’ is about us getting up and actually doing something about it.”
The Nashville-based quintet—Ben Ringel [vocals & guitar], Dylan Fitch [guitar], David Supica [bass], Vincent “Footz” Williams [drums], and Nate Kremer [keyboards]—craft raw and visceral rock music with psychedelic flares, fuzzed-out guitar riffs, arresting drum patterns and blues tendencies over the course of 10 tracks produced by Third Man Records alum Eddie Spear [Jack White, Arctic Monkeys, Chris Stapleton]. It’s the triumphant culmination of a long journey comprised of ceaseless touring in the United States and Europe and fan favorite records such as the crowd-funded Death Letter Jubilee in 2013 and 2015’s Bones. The latter yielded “Sometimes I Worry,” which landed a prominent placement on the most recent season of Showtime’s Shameless. It also spiritually set the stage for Monte Vista, an album brimming with a restless spirit and coming-of-age ruminations on life, love, self-discovery and the world at large.
“We started working on the new music shortly after we finished Bones, which was an incredibly transitional record for us,” Dylan recalls. “We switched gears from primarily being a foot-stomping bayou blues band into the psychedelic and indie rock realms. We pivoted from harmonica to keyboard. It’s a little less roots. And now we’re independent again after being on a label. Through the whole process, we had this need to continue writing. There was a lot of stuff going on in the world and a lot to be inspired by, whether it was losing artists such as David Bowie and Prince or the political climate. So, we came up with ideas throughout 2016.”
During this time, the band found that their songwriting was evolving as well. Sharper hooks and bigger melodies took shape, invigorating The Delta Saints’ sound with a jolt that makes each one soar to new heights. Drawing a heavier energy from Alice In Chains and Rage Against The Machine, a succinct delivery courtesy of The Kinks, Oasis, and Kasabian, and a cinematic expanse a la Pink Floyd and Radiohead, The Delta Saints fell into a groove that finally felt right. They seamlessly began to create undeniable rock songs with Spear at the helm.
“In the past, we wrote the music first and then put the choruses down afterwards,” elaborates Dylan. “With Monte Vista, we started the opposite way. We came up with the lyrics and the choruses first. Figuring out what we wanted to say was the initial goal.”
“Bones was way more focused on instrumentation,” says David. “With these songs, we would show Eddie a jam, and he’d be like, ‘That’s cool, but I don’t care. There are no fucking words!’ He wouldn’t listen to anything until it had a melody. That forced us out of our comfort zone and established a new system. Ed had a major impact on the album.”
The Delta Saints recorded the entire record in just six days at Sound Emporium in Nashville. As a result, a palpable energy carries the music.
“Sun God” blazes with bright bombast as Ben chants, “I am the Sun God. Come take it from me.” It’s about the conflict that comes with generations giving way to the next; a poignant snapshot into modern day politics. “In Your Head,” is a swaggering tune accented with pops of playful, drowsy synths, an adrenaline-spiked chorus and raucous vocals telling the story of an early morning cab ride back to the hotel after a long night out. Inspired by Alabama Shakes, the rollicking “Burning Wheels” ends with a Celesta solo. Throughout the record, the band enriches its sonic backdrop with a 1969 Moogerfoogerkeyboard and delay.
“It’s the exact delay you hear over Dark Side of the Moon,” Dylan beams. “As soon as you put any instrument, vocal, guitar, or keyboard through it, it takes you to ‘Us And Them.’ We found some great places to incorporate the sound.”
“Space Man” is a tribute to the late David Bowie. An acoustic guitar starts off with Dylan and Nate coming in from out in the atmosphere, before Footz and Ben fade in to fly the ship. “This was one of those really magical moments, when a song just pours out onto the page, and you have to just try to get it all down. Bowie is undeniable. A musical force.” says Ringel. The song shows a softer side of the band, but builds until you feel the boosters kick in on the chorus.
Monte Vista concludes with the haunting harmonies of “Two Days,” illuminating Ben’s vivid lyricism. “I had a stretch where I didn't leave home for a few days, and I started to lose it,” the front man admits. “On top of it all, my wife was out of town, so I just stayed in the house and got lost in my head for a little too long. She returned and pulled me back to reality, fed me vegetables, and made me step out into the sun. The song is about needing that person to pull you out sometimes, when you get too deep down in the rabbit hole.”
The band proudly continues a rock ‘n’ roll legacy for Nashville. “While it obviously is the heart of contemporary Christian and Country music, the city has a really incredible rock scene,” adds David. “Between Jack White, Black Keys, and Kings Of Leon, I’d argue that the biggest rock stars of today live in this town. I’ve personally felt a lot of support from the community.”
Now, The Delta Saints are ready to bring Monte Vista to listeners everywhere as they hit the road for another marathon of touring.
“I hope that listeners hear the story in the record and can relate to it in their own way,” Ben concludes.
“I’d love for people to listen to this record and replay it the way I did when I first heard Aha Shake Heartbreak by Kings of Leon,” Dylan leaves off. “I hope we’re able to set the bar for what rock music can be right now.”
The best rock & roll doesn’t have to be heady or pretentious—it has to hit you square between the thighs. The genre’s name was always a feverish, rollicking euphemism for sex, and too often these days, that base, primal essence of what once made it so great is diluted to the point of powerlessness. Nashville band The Wans are a potent antidote to this lack of passion—a pure, concentrated shot of life-saving adrenaline stabbed straight into the flatlined heart of rock & roll.
Singer/guitarist Simon Kerr, bassist Thomas Bragg and drummer Mark Petaccia craft epic, unapologetic rock anthems with instantly memorable hooks built to last. Now gearing up for their third release, the new EP Run Baby Run, they’ve grown into impressive songwriters—not necessarily in the tradition of Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen, but in the way a band like Led Zeppelin was able to uniquely fuse unforgettable guitar lines with wailing rock vocals, ushering in an era where it was impossible to separate song from performer
“We’re basically a gang of pirates,” Kerr says, “roaming from city to city and hoisting up our flag.” But it’s not just ‘70s stadium rock The Wans are pillaging. They also dabble in turn-of-the-Millennium garage revivalism a la The White Stripes and The Vines, and—above all else—’90s grunge, channeling Alice in Chains and Soundgarden in a way that incinerates the memory of every shitty nü-metal band those two pioneers inadvertently spawned, rewriting history as the space-time continuum branches off circa 1995, going in a different and much more fulfilling musical direction.
“Being in the band and knowing Mark and Thomas for this long inevitably translates to the songs,” Kerr says. “When we’re writing, we can be vulnerable. It’s almost as if we’re of the same mind, even down to the subconscious level. We’re definitely coming into our own and finding our sound.”
The hard-touring Wans have been on the rise for a while now, playing major festivals like Austin City Limits, Forecastle and Hangout Fest, and sharing bills with Pearl Jam, Beck and Queens of the Stone Age. They recorded their 2014 LP, He Said She Said, with Grammy-winning producer Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Chris Cornell), the acclaimed record landing them press at USA Today, NME, Consequence of Sound, Flavorwire, The AV Club and more. Not
only that, the band’s music has been featured everywhere from major motion picture Point Break and TV shows like Nashville, Longmire and Necessary Roughness to a powerhouse commercial for BMW's 4 Series Gran Coupe, which was soundtracked by the band’s muscular riff rocker ”Black Pony.”
The Wans’ new six-song EP, Run Baby Run, was produced, recorded and mixed by Vance Powell (Jack White, Arctic Monkeys, Red Fang) at Sputnik Sound in Nashville using all vintage analog gear. The songs were fresh going in, a month old at most, and had only been played on acoustic up to the point they were recorded, so there was a lot of sculpting in the studio, the band experimenting with arrangements and instrumentation, adding Moog synths to sweeten a few of the tracks.
Run Baby Run is chock full of the two essential elements Iggy Pop once said were required to make real rock & roll—sex & danger, as many of the songs are vignettes and meditations on the band’s wild, wanton encounters during a heavy season of touring. But the EP also takes some key inspiration from a less obvious place. “I was listening a lot to Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, and it really blew me away,” Kerr says. “I think some of the vocal rhythms on Run Baby Run—the way they flow, the lyrical cadence and delivery—were influenced by Kendrick in a big way.”
After four years together, The Wans radiate a rare kind of closeness and camaraderie that comes through their shared experiences on the road, where they strictly adhere to old rock & roll sage Cowboy Jack Clement’s mantra—we’re in the fun business. If we’re not having fun, we’re not doing our jobs. “That’s the mentality we try to bring to it,” Petaccia says. “We do our best to have a good time and capitalize on all the energy while we’re out there, so we can turn around and put it right back into the songs.”
With all of the rock & roll icons we’ve buried this year, it’s high time the next generation of would-be heavy hitters steps up to the plate. It’s a calling that is not lost on The Wans. “When Bowie died and released Blackstar earlier this year, it really affected us,” Kerr says. “We ended up thinking a lot about exactly what it is that musicians do. With The Wans, we’re more committed than we ever have been to leaving behind something of value. Something that—30 or 40 years down the road—will still have an impact. We aim to leave our mark.”
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2208 Elliston Pl
Nashville, TN, 37203