Delta Spirit drummer Brandon Young and bassist Jon Jameson were both in Noise Ratchet. After deciding to form a new group together, Young came across singer Matt Vasquez at a trolley station, where he was standing on a bench and singing to passersby.
Vasquez swears that he still busks for spare change. “I made, like, 30 bucks on a street corner in Kensington, London, a couple of months ago.” He has busked regularly since he was a kid, and even though his band Delta Spirit is now an international touring act, he calls busking one of the most honorable things a musician can do. In fact, had Vasquez (a native Texan who was just passing through San Diego on his way to Los Angeles) not sat down to sing and play guitar outside a bar late one night in the Gaslamp, it is likely that Delta Spirit would never have happened. “I met Brandon [Young] while busking.”
The trio were joined by guitarist Sean Walker, and you-name-it-I-play-it Kelly Winrich. Regarding the band name, Jon Jameson says "My mom’s Uncle Red, from Birmingham, Alabama, had a taxidermy shop called Delta Spirit Taxidermy Station of North Central Alabama."
Delta Spirit learned their trade by playing a local club circuit that included the Beauty Bar, the Sports Club, and the Ken Club. They drove to Orange County gigs in a rusted green van they would often spend the night in. They dumpster-dove behind Trader Joe’s (“the best,” says Vasquez, “because they double-wrapped their throwaways”).
They first garnered attention while touring with Tokyo Police Club, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and their Monarchy Music labelmates (and fellow religious refugees) Cold War Kids.
The group's rootsy debut EP I Think I've Found It ranked number nine on the Best of '07 list at the influential music blog Daytrotter. Word of mouth about their fiery stage shows caused ever-growing crowds, though offbeat antics like playing trash can lids as instruments didn't always endear them to audiences expecting mainstream indie rock.
In summer 2007, they convened in Julian to stay in a friend's cabin and record a full length album, called Ode to Sunshine. They also recorded in a studio built in the basement of Kelly Winrich's parents' house, located on the beach in San Clemente. After circulating copies of the album themselves, the band was signed by Rounder Records in 2008, with the label re-releasing Ode to Sunshine. Rounder's remastered version of the album includes an additional song, "Streetwalker," taken from the EP and re-recorded.
They made their network TV debut on September 3, 2008, on Late Night With Conan O'Brien. Their song "Trashcan," featuring an actual trashcan lid used as a percussion instrument, has become a popular radio hit.
The band's 2010 album History From Below was produced by Eli Thomson and keyboardist Bo Koster (My Morning Jacket), and recorded at Tom Waits' fave Prairie Sun Studio C in Cotati, California. In October of that year, they were named the Rock Band Network T-Mobile Artist-of-the-Month.
“A lot of songs on History From Below are the product of three years of writing songs in hotel rooms and presenting them to each other at sound check,” according to Vasquez. Now they write music together, and that they live within walking distance of each other in Long Beach should help that process. “Long Beach is basically like North Park,” says Vasquez, “and all of our close-knit friends just kind of migrated here.”
A limited edition vinyl release of The Waits Room EP was sold exclusively on their subsequent tour. Their two-song set on the Jimmy Kimmel TV show (January 26) can be viewed on YouTube, and they played the 2011 Coachella music fest, held April 15 through 17 in Indio.
Singer Matt Vasquez’s side band Middle Brother (with Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes and John McCauley of Deer Tick) dropped their debut album March 1, 2011. A free download of the first track “Me Me Me” is available at PartisanRecords.com.
Members of My Morning Jacket jammed onstage with the band on August 3, 2011 at the Uptown Theater in Kansas City. Bo Koster and Carl Broemel sat in on the Delta Spirit song “Ransom Man.” In early 2012, a new song, “California,” was released online. By this time, the band had moved from Southern California to Brooklyn, New York City, shedding and then gaining a member along the way.
A Brooklyn, NYC First Listen/Pub Crawl event happened February 25, 2012, with the band performing tracks from their self-titled full-length (released March 13 via Rounder Records) at three bars in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, followed by an invite-only show at Public Assembly. A headline tour with Waters started March 19 at Webster Hall in NYC, wrapping up 30 dates later at the Fillmore in San Francisco.
A video for “Empty House,” from their self-titled full-length began streaming online. In August 2012, the band took home Song of the Year and Album of the Year at the San Diego Music Awards. Around the same time, Stone Brewing Company released a Delta Spirit Black IPA home brewed ale.
After relocating to Brooklyn NYC and replacing guitarist Sean Walker with Will Mclaren, the band released its fourth album Into the Wide, born in a flood-ruined, cave-like, rat-colonized room in Brooklyn. The band spent more than a year writing together in the windowless studio they rebuilt after Hurricane Sandy. “That sense of feeling trapped in our studio and in the city definitely gave the album more of a weight than our previous records, and played a big part in this being our moodiest recording yet,” notes Kelly Winrich of the experience.
When it came time to record, the band relocated to Maze Studios in Atlanta and teamed up with producer Ben Allen (Animal Collective, Deerhunter), helping breathe new life and brighter energy into the songs while still capturing the claustrophobia of their creative writing space. Of the recording process, Brandon Young (drums) explains, “One of the most important things was getting back to all of us being in a room together for every single song and recording everything live.”
The album's lead single “From Now On” was released in June 2014, followed by “Push It” and “Patriarch.” Into the Wide debuted on the Billboard charts at #18 on Independent Albums and #15 on Current Alternative Albums.
After performing “From Now On” on the Late Show With David Letterman, the album's support tour wrapped at the Belly Up on November 1, 2014.
Their Delta Spirit and Friends tour kicked off May 29 and 30, 2015 at the Irenic, featuring rotating guests like Alec Ounsworth (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah), T. Hardy Morris, Robert Ellis, Sam Outlaw, Richie Eaton, Jessica Dobson, and Amasa Hines.
Singer Matt Vasquez debuted his solo project in November 2015 with The Austin EP, named after the hometown he moved back to that year.