Band: 92 ZEW presents Delta Rae, Liz Longley
Date: Tuesday, July 14, with doors at 7 p.m.
Venue: Soul Kitchen, 219 Dauphin St., www.soulkitchenmobile.com
Tickets: $15 advance/$18 day of show, available at Soul Kitchen, their website, Mellow Mushroom (Midtown and West Mobile) and by calling 1-866-468-7630
The folk rock movement is arguably at the highest point it has been in a generation, with Delta Rae one of its brightest stars. Built on a foundation of harmonic vocals, this Raleigh, North Carolina, group jumped onto the national scene with its debut, “Carry the Fire.” Delta Rae’s sophomore effort, “After It All,” shows how the band has evolved. In a recent conversation with Lagniappe, vocalist Elizabeth Hopkins laid out the road map, both literal and figurative, that took the band through the album’s formation.
Stephen Centanni: “After It All” went through a unique creative process. You started the album in 2013 with producer Rob Cavallo in Los Angeles and finished with producer Peter Katis in Bridgeport, Connecticut. These guys have very different backgrounds. What made Delta Rae want to take this path in the creation of “After it All”?
Elizabeth Hopkins: Well, we started out with Rob Cavallo, and we were very grateful to him and also producer Julian Raymond, who was our producer at Warner Brothers at the time, for everything they were able to contribute to our record and for their perspectives. Rob has a huge background in rock and guitars and a roster that includes Fleetwood Mac, Avril Lavigne, Alanis Morrisette and all the Green Day records. The roster of artists he’s worked with was inspiring in itself. We recorded a number of drums and vocal tracks out in Los Angeles. I think we cut something like 16 different songs when we were out there.
We had the holidays to reflect on it, and there was so much more that we needed to do. We wanted more grit on the album. We wanted to make sure that this album showed more of who we are and what we really sound like and show that we’ve grown and become quite a bit more road-worn than when we first brought out “Carry the Fire.” We also wanted to show the distinct differences between the four voices that make up the band.
We really respect a lot of what Peter Katis has done. He’s worked with The National and The Lone Bellow, another band that’s heavily vocal. We love the way the drums sound on a lot of the records Peter has made. Overall, we really are an East Coast band, and he’s on the East Coast. His studio in Bridgeport is very humble. He himself is very down to earth, and Bridgeport itself is very down to earth. We really wanted some of that on the record. Thus far, some of our favorite places to play are in the Northeast. So, we were very happy to be in the Northeast in the fall. We had a great time. We get along with Peter Katis very well. He also makes excellent cocktails at the end of each recording session.
It further reflects the way our lives have been for the past three years. We’ve been on the road a lot, and were barely home at all for the past two years. We spent a lot on the West Coast and a lot of time playing up and down the East Coast and in the Northeast. That’s what ended up being our record. We recorded some on the West Coast and some on the East Coast. It’s a reflection of your life taking place on the road.
Centanni: “After It All” began as a concept album detailing the story of a couple facing obstacles during the recession. As the album came together, y’all started making it a more personal album that reflected your lives. How did this one evolve from a concept album to the final product?
Hopkins: We did start out thinking about a modern Bonnie and Clyde story for this record, because so many of these songs seemed to be following a story of two people running away to start a new life out West. We liked that idea, and we are very much storytellers. We all like to read, and we all have different musicals and stories that we’ve grown up being in love with. We were working on it last May, and we found that some our greatest songs didn’t seem to fit into the paradigm of the story. One day, we all met up at our headquarters in Raleigh to make more demos and write more songs. We realized that were songs that we really didn’t want to let go. We felt they were some of our greatest songs and our favorite songs to perform. We didn’t want them to get knocked off the album, just because there was no way to fit them into the sequence of this story. We decided at that point to not be beholden to making it completely a concept album.
There are definitely themes that run through the entire album. There were also songs that just needed to be on the album. My favorite song on the album is “My Whole Life Long.” When we were looking at a Bonnie and Clyde story and people running across to the West Coast and this western cowboy story, we didn’t have enough songs to write a musical, which at some point we would love to do. The core of the band and what we love is the songs. We couldn’t just throw songs out, just because we couldn’t fit them into the story.
There are consistent themes that run through the album. It’s about going west and the sweeping landscapes of America. It’s also about the disillusionment of the American Dream. If you listen to “Bethlehem Steel,” it’s about how the steel industry died and the way that happened to so many industries in America. It’s about towns like Flint, Michigan, and the towns that were so dependent on industry that have died because these industries moved overseas. What do these towns do now? How do they rebuild? That’s definitely one theme.
Another theme is restlessness. We’re all between 25 and 30. We’re young, and we’ve spent the past few years in a touring band playing across America. It’s been really amazing, but sometimes you feel a little bit cramped. I think it’s that the restlessness of being in your late 20s and early 30s and trying to figure out, what is the best version of myself that I can be. How do I do what’s right? What’s right? What’s wrong? What am I going to do to make sure my parents are proud of me? It’s the big questions, and what it’s like to grapple with those questions. You can hear that in “Outlaws” and “Scared.” It’s the gravity of realizing you’re in a real relationship and on your own now. It’s reality setting in.
Centanni: The recent Charleston tragedy really hit home with Delta Rae, and it inspired y’all to pen “All Good People,” your response to this incident. What would you say is Delta Rae’s message to the world with “All Good People?”
Hopkins: I think the message is that things are not going to get better if we all remain passive and if we don’t try to actively engage with community members and people who look different from us and being part of a world that is racially mixed, then the world will stay the same. The world will remain segregated. That’s a horrible thing to think about. Everyone of all different colors needs to make efforts to understand that there are differences, but we don’t need to be like, “You stay on your side of the fence, and you stay on your side of the fence.” If that mindset exists anywhere, it creates possibilities for small, impressionable children to grow up with hateful views without even trying. Our message is that we need to change something, and everyone needs to take an active role. It’s not going to change as long as we keep turning our heads.