Ode to Sunshine with Jon Jameson of Delta Spirit
Words by Audra Tracy
San Diego, California — When you record your hit song on a garbage pail, there’s nowhere else to go but up, right? Boasting a catchy chorus and percussion care of (you guessed it) a dirty trashcan, Delta Spirit’s saloon tune ‘Trashcan’ has helped them to steadily climb the indie rock ranks. Their style has been dubbed ‘Americana’, but it seems that, like many artists, Delta Spirit prefers to be label-free. If you ask them, they are just a couple of ‘poor old dirt farmers’ singing songs about drinking, girls, and God’.
The quintet’s 2008 debut Ode to Sunshine sounds like your friend’s incredibly talented college bar band that you always hoped would “make it” – you can totally hear the pint glasses clinking in the background. Matt Vasquez sings sweet pillow talk in songs like the dreamy opener ‘Tomorrow Goes Away’, but the weightier ‘Streetwalker’ and ‘Children’ prove he has a rusty roar when called for. Filled with ivory melodies, hearty harmonicas, and soulful sing-a-longs, Sunshine likens to that warm and buzzy feeling you get after a few glasses of red wine. It makes you feel hopeful, it makes you feel at home, and it makes this writer wish they would send her a copy on vinyl.
To give you an idea of their kind of crowd, the SoCal soul searchers have already shared the stage with the Cold War Kids, Richard Swift, and Dr. Dog. This summer they are on a bi-coastal tour in support of hipster darlings The Shins, as well as making festival stops at Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. Though Delta Spirit is also working on their follow up record, gracious bassist Jon Jameson took time for an interview where he shoots the San Diego breeze about his tour-mates, Eritrean cab drivers, and being mistaken for a bum.
Every article I read about Delta Spirit describes your sound as a slice of “Americana”. What does that word mean to you?
JJ: I think we may sound American, but I don’t really get the Americana thing. We don’t have British accents or a big rock recording or crazy hairdos, so maybe that’s what it means to be Americana.
You discovered your singer busking at a train station, and you play songs on trashcans. Do you prefer to be labeled tramps, hobos, or bums?
JJ: Matt looks like a bum from time to time. I think I have been mistaken as one before, but other than that we aren’t trying to create ‘bum rock’ or anything. That sounds a little weird anyways. We do ask people for money every night though, so maybe we are.
What’s so great about trashcans anyway? What can it achieve that a proper drum cannot? Do you bring your trashcans on tour?
JJ: Nothing. It was an accident and we still feel funny about it. What can you do though? The song is called ‘Trashcan’! We have dug ourselves in a deep hole with that one.
– Jon Jameson of Delta Spirit
Here on the Jersey Shore, bands like the Parlor Mob and the Gay Blades project a certain attitude in their music that locals can identify with. What about your sound represents Southern California?
JJ: Not a lot. That’s probably why people say Americana. They can’t say California surf pop. I don’t think Californians identify with us any differently than New Yorkers or Mississippians. We are Pan-Americana if anything.
Your songs are very spiritual, and in an interview with Chocolate Bobka, you described sharing your music with others as a “holy moment”. Would you say that music connects people in the same way religion does?
JJ: I was just riding in a cab the other day and the driver, Abraham, was from Eritrea. We had a nice conversation, but when I mentioned that I played music his eyes lit up and he exclaimed, ‘Music is everything!’ He went on to explain to me just how important music was to him and to the world. Only things that are truly holy and beyond reason can incite that kind of reaction from people, let alone your average Eritrean cab driver. We had a moment just going back and forth explaining our thoughts on music and it helped bring me to the remembrance that what I do is not just good times or simply a business, but it has weight and depth that I can’t begin to comprehend. Music was a part of his soul and it is a part of mine as well. Therefore it is Holy.
Your song “Streetwalker” addresses the social injustice of human trafficking. Have you ever pondered entering the world of politics? Or activism?
JJ: I have. For a while I thought that politics are how things change, but I don’t really feel that way anymore. We live in an age of reactionary and bought politics. It seems that even those who genuinely care are almost helpless to really do anything outside of the box. I now believe that real change can only take place if it first takes place within and then by expressing that process through love and imagination. I really don’t want that to sound new age or anything. My point is that metaphysical ideals, and the political imposition thereof, will not change culture let alone hearts. True change happens on a relational level and through the arts.
The Waster loves Dr. Dog! What did you learn from touring with them? Any cool stories from the road?
JJ: Man we love those guys too! Well, we are coming out to Philly in a few months to play a show with the Dog at a pool shaped like an airplane — I’m stoked.
Tell me about the new album you are working on – do you have any special guests on deck?
JJ: Hopefully as many as we can gather. We have a lot of great and talented friends. The record is still in its early stages but I’m really excited to get started and see what happens.
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