The Delta Saints Bio

Supporting Death Letter Jubilee

By Emily J Ramey

Written for The Delta Saints

Photo by Melissa Madison Fuller

The Delta Saints

The Delta Saints are not what they say they are. Delta? Absolutely. But saints? One might call them “cautionary tales” long before the term “saints” ever came to mind; however, there is something devout about their bayou rock, a dirty, distinct sound they’ve zealously refined on their debut full-length, Death Letter Jubilee. Alternating between raucous melodies and slow-burning odes to the devil in his many forms, Ben Ringel (vocals/dobro), Dylan Fitch (guitar), David Supica (bass), and Ben Azzi (drums) explore themes of difficult love, the wanderer’s high road, and the moral low road using their unconscious fascination with the classical elements – earth, air, fire, and water – as a natural vehicle for their briny narratives.

With Death Letter Jubilee, The Delta Saints are blooming into life not as a pretty flower might, but perhaps a mushroom explosion from an atomic bomb or a feral thunderhead. After two self-released and well received EPs, Pray On and A Bird Called Angola, fans demanded a full length and happily burst through the band’s Kickstarter goal to get it. “That is a feeling like no other,” Ben Ringel claims. “It’s awesome and also humbling. And it’s good pressure on us to succeed. It’s the kind of pressure we were able to harness and strive off of.”

The members of The Delta Saints each moved to Nashville for college in 2007. They first found common ground as old-world-loving, good-bourbon-swilling musicians and began playing together around town before they had any plans to record. As the searing harmonica and howling vocals of their live show began garnering notoriety in a city known well for its indifference to anything less than worthwhile, The Saints rode their roots rock wave right into the studio.

On the heels of 2010’s A Bird Called Angola, the band toured tirelessly, playing more than 150 shows a year, including a slot at Arkansas’ Wakarusa Festival and two summers headlining in Europe during which they performed on the long-running, renowned German TV show Rockpalast. Road tested and weather worn, The Delta Saints have seen wholly organic growth, working diligently in the name of a roots revival alongside fellow up and comers Alabama Shakes and Gary Clark Jr., becoming The Black Keys of a bygone era, all the while harnessing the brackish delta current into something gripping and bold.

“Liar” opens Death Letter Jubilee with a swaggering bass line and a blazing guitar riff, the “Come on!” refrain in the chorus echoing like a command, beckoning listeners to settle in for the long haul. “’Chicago’ is just written about the first time I was ever in Chicago,” Ringel explains. “We were there for 18 hours, and there was a blizzard, so it was snow and wind and bitter cold. Right before bed, I looked out this big third story window, and all I could see was amber light from the streetlights and snow, and for some reason that image just stuck.” The song itself generates a heat fit to ward off that blizzard weather, featuring a rare but incendiary brass section and an immovable beat that marks the tune as an early highlight.

“Death Letter Jubilee” is by far the most magnetic track on the album. There’s something eerie about its cacophonous Orleans-inspired chorus, the warm buzz of harmonica, the tinny trumpet whine, and the way one can’t help but be swept away by the utterly irreverent revelry. “I love songs where sonically you get one emotion from it, and then you look at the lyrics and it’s not at all what you expected,” Ringel says of the song’s musical inspiration. “And everybody has certain emotions that they’re not proud of. The idea that you can be glad about somebody’s ultimate demise… it’s such a negative thing, but everybody feels something a little like that.”

“Jezebel” melts down into a sweltering lo-fi blues number, its minimal instrumentation muddled and viscous as though the song was written on an old front porch when it was just too damn hot to do anything but sing. And like water thrown over flames, the crackling and steaming “Out to Sea” cools the album with its haunting refrain: “Oh, oh, river run, straight out from the hurt that seems to pour from me, and oh, oh, river speak, just haulin’ ass down the Calabash, just headed out to sea.”

“It was a new direction for us on a lot of different fronts,” Ringel admits of the tune. “It’s quiet and it’s sweet and it’s sad. It explores the idea of that cheesy, sappy movie line, ‘I can’t live without you,’ but this is more like, if you’re going to say it, what does that really mean?”

“Sing to Me” starts out sluggishly, forlornly, a rusted locomotive gathering speed with lyrics like, “I come to you now with blood on my hands, the law on my tail, and my conscience be damned, my sweet little babe, my sweet honeybee,” before running off the rails completely, harmonica flashing, drums galloping. And “River,” a second listen gem, is a brief interlude deep into the album in which an ethereal female gospel choir seems to sway and billow in the breeze on balmy Sunday afternoon.

“The main thing we wanted for Death Letter Jubilee was for it to have movement,” Ringel states. “We wanted people to listen and have an emotional journey similar to the one we had while making it.” That journey has left them energized and confident about the future, while still enjoying each stop along the road: “We want to grow, and maybe even grow faster, but we understand that it’s all in due time. We want to fully realize the weight of our experiences, and be able to savor them too.”

The Delta Saints’ new album will be available January 2013. For more information about The Saints and Death Letter Jubilee, go to http://www.thedeltasaints.com.

986 words

Advertisements

The Delta Saints’ “Pray On EP” Review

Album Cover

Album Cover

The Delta Saints

“Pray On EP”

September 2009; Independent

By Emily J Ramey

Click Here to See the Published Version on American Music Channel

For nearly a year, all I’ve heard from people talking about The Delta Saints is that they want a recording.  But they don’t just want it, they’ve been nearly begging.  Despite the fact that the young Nashville band’s real power is in the kinetic heat of their live show, Saints fans couldn’t stand not having those dirty delta blues tunes to spin whenever they pleased.  And so, The Delta Saints have answered those requests with their debut EP, Pray On.  With such a fiery live reputation, I had pretty high expectations, but with Pray On, The Delta Saints have drowned out any doubts of their fearlessness or brazen strength as musicians.

Sonorous and turbulent, the beginning of each song feels like a storm – stirring in the distance, suppressing tempestuous winds and pounding rain – tensely brooding and deeply natural.  “Train Song” roars in with buzzing harmonica and raging drums that sound alarmingly like a speeding steam engine.  “Momma” possesses a raucous and roiling chorus that sets it apart from the other tracks.  “Pray On” is a heavy, churning tune, showcasing the gravelly, growling vocals and wailing guitar that The Delta Saints have come to be known for.  “Steppin’” starts out slow, gathers speed, and quickly engulfs its audience with a rapid-moving current of instrumentation, driven by searing harmonica and thunderous bass lines.  “3000 Miles” is like the clearing of the storm.  The clouds part for this lyrical and resonant refrain, allowing The Delta Saints to reveal a clearer, lighter side.  Then, in the last track, the thunder rolls again more menacingly than ever in “I Feel Rain.”  Rumbling drums and howling vocals echo long after the album fades out, tormenting the listener into wanting more.

It might, therefore, surprise their audience to learn that despite their fiercely passionate music, The Delta Saints themselves are all class and old world simplicity.  Like ancient bayou blues musicians, they dress in suspenders and collared shirts, allowing their music to be wild and uncouth while they remain refined and worldly.  Even their album cover – which looks like a 20th century letter, red wax seal and all – manifests dignified, aesthetic charm.  It seems to me that this dichotomy between music and persona is what makes The Delta Saints so fascinating.  Yes, their music is an electric riot of sound, but knowing that the musicians are young and capable makes looking toward their future decidedly exciting.  I, for one, will rock out to this album, all the while anticipating the day we have a full-length from The Saints.

422 words

The Delta Saints Article

“A Driving Delta Force”

By Emily J Ramey

Written for The Belmont Vision

Dave Supica, Matt Bray, Greg Hommert, Ben Azzi, Ben Ringel

Dave Supica, Matt Bray, Greg Hommert, Ben Azzi, Ben Ringel

Ben Ringel, Greg Hommert, Matt Bray, Dave Supica, and Ben Azzi are starting a revolution, but certainly not of the stereotypical rock ‘n roll variety, no; rock is too trite for these boys.  Theirs is an uprising of the blues.  The Delta Saints are taking the south by storm, stealing in and out of venues and hometowns, and letting the echo of their musical explosions rocket them into the proverbial musical realm.

Their sound is an amalgamation of unrefined southern soul and dirty bayou blues.  The Delta Saints are as muddy as the Mississippi itself, but instead of drowning the audience, they allow their raw intensity to ooze from the music.  The band’s dusky vibes radiate heat and an almost painful fervor, tangible pressure forcing one’s breath from his lungs.

The Delta Saints evoke a kind of vehement magnetism, roused not from glamour or even charisma, but a simple, disquieting fury luring you in.  Blistering shards of harmonica lines whine fiercely over a smoldering dobro.  The rumbling bass and drums churn one’s stomach and kindle a weighty dynamism.  The band seethes with tension and uncouth power before the vocals erupt into a bellowing confrontation.  The Delta Saints seem to beg the question, “are you with us?” and dare you to deny them.  In the numbing silence after a song, one lurches back into reality to realize he has joined their revolt.

We have Belmont partially to thank for The Delta Saints’ insurrection.  The five guys behind the instruments garnered here, after all transferring in separately.  Strangely enough, though, their assembly has been several years in the making.  Dave Supica, bass, Matt Bray, lead guitar, and Ben Azzi, drums, were in a band together at Kansas University.  They broke up, went their separate ways, and all showed up at Belmont last August.

The three of them began collaborating again, but this time with fellow transferee Ben Ringel of Seattle, lead vocals, dobro, and guitar.  Ringel’s history springs from Louisiana; it was his fascination with rootsy rock that primarily induced the band’s sound, although, that blues influence suited funk-, Motown-inspired Supica and Azzi as well.

Greg Hommert, harmonica, was last on the bill.  Born and raised in St. Louis, Hommert grew up on Blues Traveler and bluegrass, but the roots thing was attractive to him too.  Hommert accompanied the four-piece band a few times before coming on as an official member.  Then, The Delta Saints were complete.

Seven months later, the boys are working on a seven-track EP, and in the process, they’ve learned a great deal.  Dave Supica sums up the band’s mentality faithfully.

“We all get such equal input and we all have to work around each other so much that we are capable of this amazing dynamic you can’t get any other way.”

Despite the balance they’ve discovered, though, Supica admits that “it’s still super frustrating, because we’ve been doing this together for seven months, and we still run into issues every time we play.”

At the end of the day, The Delta Saints realize that all they’re trying to do is “figure out how to work with each other and make a sound that pleasing and appealing to everyone else, to get what we want in there without taking away what the person next to us wants.”

And what do The Delta Saints want?  According to Hommert, they’re just working to accomplish “something that’s been done a little differently.”

Equally, the struggle in realizing that goal seems to lay in the distinction they preserve from their predecessors.  The band’s true test is incarnating a singular blues spirit in the hearts of five men.

“There’s something to be said for the simplicity that we’ve learned to embrace,” Hommert asserts.  “That’s been our hardest problem – for everybody to assume a level of simplicity.  Even vocals and songwriting are not without that challenge.”

Supica explains that The Delta Saints have begun to grasp that their genre “is a lot more groove-oriented and just feeling it.”

“But that’s where the power of the music comes from,” Ringel declares.

“The power in it comes from the simplicity and the fact that it’s one driving force,” Ringel goes on.  “Lyrically, it tells a simple story that you don’t really have to go into to figure out the meaning of this and the meaning of that and how they tie together; it’s just straightforward.”

“I feel like that the thing I’ve connected to the best my entire life – music like that – and I feel that’s what a lot of other people connect best to as well.”

“Yeah,” Hommert assents.  “I really feel that the most accessible quality of our music is what we don’t do, what we don’t say.  The things that we leave out are the most accessible because we’re not flashy; we’re simple, and that’s something everybody can buy into.”

The Delta Saints are discovering that to be true: Nashville is selling out fast.

To become part of their revolution, find The Delta Saints on MySpace: www.myspace.com/thedeltasaints.

834 words