An Interview with Holden Jaffe of Del Water Gap

Words by Nick Hodgins

Written haphazardly on the back of a sketchy box truck, Holden Jaffe saw the words Delaware Water Gap scribbled in paint marker. Like many of his thoughts, Holden jotted the three words down in a notebook with plans to revisit them later. Those words would eventually become the name of his band.

Del Water Gap is an indie-folk group based out of Manhattan. Founded by singer and songwriter Holden Jaffe, the NYC trio combines natural acoustic elements with with an array of instruments ranging from organs to accordions, horns and up-tempo drumbeats; and while things are going strong now, it wasn’t always so simple.

Back in 2012, after returning from a trip abroad in Spain, a 17 year old senior in high school, Holden found himself somewhat distanced from his peers. Unsure of what to do next, he turned to music.

“I just felt completely out of the loop with everyone,” Holden explained over a Skype call from Iceland where he currently holds a summer internship at a music studio. “I’d experienced so much more than your average 17 year old experiences, basically being alone in Europe for a year. I came back and found myself totally alienated by the culture.”

He took to recording. Using what little resources he could find within his high school’s music department he composed what would become The Del Water Gap’s first unofficial EP.

“There’s something really special about the moment when a song you’ve written is suddenly a physical/tangible arrangement on a computer or tape,” he said. “It’s a really exciting feeling and that was the first time I’ve experienced that.”

Having written and recorded the whole album by himself, he recalled the process as one that had liberated him by his limitations. Currently enrolled at an engineering production school, Holden is hardly as limited as his 17 year old self once was.

“There’s definitely something to be said for doing everything yourself with regards to music, because it’s the ultimate freedom to do whatever you choose,” he explained. “One thing I’ve learned is there’s just this other variable that one person cannot produce by themselves and that’s just what happens when two people work together.”

Holden met the bands current bass player, Will Evans, at an NYU dorm during Hurricane Sandy. Residing in one of the few buildings that actually had a working generator, Evans stumbled across Holden playing his acoustic in a stairwell, and the rest as they say, is history.

“Pretty soon after that I asked him if he wanted to play some of these songs I’d written live,” Holden remembered; although with shows booked they still needed a drummer. “I met Charlie [Schlinkert] at a party and offhandedly mentioned it. He was down to drum.”

With a steady lineup, Del Water Gap was ready to move forward, but with only his self-recorded EP to show for the band, Holden was eager to write some new material with Will and Charlie.

“This record was a huge cathartic thing for us,” explained Holden. “We all had something we could get behind and contribute to equally and really kind of establish ourselves as a band.”

Sleeping is a six track EP engineered by Holden and recorded in part at his school in New York and in upstate Connecticut where they did drums and added finishing touches. The album features a range of melodic treats from bluesy solos to catchy choruses singing tales of lost love.

Del Water Gap can be found playing Brooklyn’s Cameo Gallery on September, 10 along with Little Sur. The event info can be found here on Facebook. | Sleeping