Delicate Steve

Delicate Steve

Steve Marion, songwriter and lead guitarist for Delicate Steve, and Brite Revolution are sitting on the back porch of Nashville's Cannery Ballroom, a hundred-year-old building nestled in between the city's futuristic, unfinished convention center and the last vestiges of downtown’s industrial past.  It’s the first Friday of summertime; the sun is beginning to set and the graffiti-covered trains rumble past as work-a-day Nashville switches into its weekend clothes. It is a moment of serenity in the midst of a bustling club in the middle of a bustling city, a moment where the past and future are liminal, chaos and order are at equilibrium. Or, to better put it, it is the perfect moment to discuss Delicate Steve's new album Positive Force, available July 10 on David Byrne’s Luaka Bop records. 

Recorded entirely by Marion and performed live as a full band, the music of Delicate Steve inhabits a region-less space. Pulling as much from international sources as it shares with rock and jazz, it reaches as far as his most progressive peers while sharing the hook-sense of his most pop-aspirant. While it may be almost entirely wordless, the songs are lyrical in a way the words could never be -- each instrument singing in a language far more nuanced and rich than lungs and lips can manage, each voice unhindered by the contact between tongue and teeth. Fueled by Marion's guitar playing, a combination of prodigal ability and virtuosic restraint, Positive Force paints on an enormous canvas in striking detail, unveiling subtle textures only upon close scrutiny. Here's what Marion had to say about its creation and bringing it into the live arena. 

Brite Revolution: My big question is how do you write? When you're prepping a record, what is your writing process like? 

Delicate Steve: I don't think there's much prep, it just happens. The songs just happen; there's not really any demos. I just feel the impulse to start recording, and from there, whatever happens to the songs happens. The first song on the record was the first song I had worked on maybe a year-and-a-half ago, but maybe a month before the record got turned in, I totally changed the whole song up. It's a document of the impulse. 

BR: Is there a lot of editing or do you go with that first impulse – is there a point where you're meticulously picking through it?  

DS: Definitely first impulse. 

BR: Because the record does have a jazzy feel -- a looseness -- but you recorded it all yourself. That’s kind of the big mystery to me: How do you keep things loose when you're going in and doing all of these overdubs yourself? 

DS: I think it's just knowing what [recording] take to stop at. In a lot of the lead lines I really kind of worked myself up, just me in my room. The first song comes to mind -- to get that kind of lead/melody guitar -- once I found it, I'd done four or five takes. Just starting from nothing and then the first take, and another take and feeling stuff out and then just getting to the point where it felt like I had performed it -- like I could get all that I want out of it. The melody was right and it sounded right and that's when I [tried] to stop and not keep going after that point. 

BR: Is there a temptation to over-think stuff? 

DS: Oh yeah, it's hard. No time constraints makes it tough. 

BR: When you decide to make a new record do you tell your label, 'Hey I wanna make a record,' or do you just take it to them? 

DS: Just make one and take it to them. I was just working on that one – I had actually started this one before I had even gotten involved with Luaka Bop to release the first one [2011's Wondervisions]. The first one I had initially self-released and then we were playing shows and talking to some labels, talking with Luaka Bop, and in the meantime I was working on a new album. So it actually happened before Wondervisions got released. 

BR: That's a nice situation to find yourself in.

DS: Yeah, it felt like time constraints were not really there. 

BR: So when you're done recording, how do you develop it for the live shows? It seems like, with the guys you've got with you, you could just call them up and say 'Here's the record. Let's play.’

DS: We have to figure out how to make it work within our group. These are all my good friends; I’ve known everyone except for Jeremy, the drummer, for a really long time. So it's not like that, which is not to say that everybody isn't talented to learn their parts; it's more that making it work for us requires a translation. We've all got to get in the room. A lot of the things don't translate as well live. Maybe an overdub that was crucial doesn't make too much sense to do, so we've got to get into that mode. I think the songs really evolve once we start playing them live. I think they even get upgraded to a different space when it's all five of us. It's cool; it's a different feel. It loses the individual production of each song, which I do with recording and just one man and I don't have to think about a band. But then once you bring it to a band and you get it all together and try to make a set, it really feels good to think about it in terms of a set and how to make it happen with five guys. 

BR: There are definitely parts on both records that just cream to be performed live  – to be stretched out or tightened up or whatever happens when you're having fun playing with other people. That's one of the things I've found really impressive about your records: they sound really live for studio work – studio wizardry even. There's a point where some folks get into the studio and things get really stiff.

DS: I've been there too. Just trying not to do that, it's hard. That's what makes good art, just trying to avoid the things that are easy for you. That, for me, is an easy thing I could do -- to just get in my own head. It's definitely, well, not a battle, but just trying to fight that.  I can totally get in my own head – and I definitely do a lot of the time – and that's when things start to feel less playful to me. 

BR: How have people been responding to the new songs on the road in the live setting? 

DS: It's been well. I feel like a lot of it was kind of created after we started to tour, so it wasn't trying to make another bedroom-sounding record. Not that the initial record was trying to be bedroom-sounding, but trying to make this one less bedroom-sounding, knowing how we sound on stage, [and] trying to write with that in mind. It's good to hear these songs live and we've had some good responses.

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Delicate Steve - "Butterfly (Official Video)"

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