January 03, 2022 6 min read
Tell me a bit about your background and Delving in general.
I spent most of my 20's in Oregon playing a variety of instruments for various singer-songwriters, all of whom are close friends and who often collaborate with Delving. The community up there is unparalleled in its ability and heart, and that's shaped the way I've come to lead my own band. I want to recreate that feeling here. My time in Oregon taught me the secret - if everyone's creative voice is served you will end up with A BAND and A SOUND. Most of my favourite records are a chemistry clash - Radiohead's Kid A, The Velvet Underground & Nico self-titled record, Feist's The Reminder. They could only be created by that SPECIFIC combination of players. It's a very freeing premise to start from because everyone's weaknesses end up becoming strengths when your goal is to be creative and make something new. There are no rules and no real fuck-ups on the road to originality. That opens you up to life more than anything I've been a part of yet.
Delving is living up to its namesake in a way. The word suggests a process of continually going deeper, as such the nature and function of the band has evolved accordingly over time. It started out in 2018 with just the three of us - Robby Gaar, Jake Murphy, and myself - and now we've added two back up singers/instrumentalists (Elisabeth De La Palme Mulroy & Shanti Ryle), a violinist (Michael Fleming) and a drummer (John Miranda), while moving from an Americana-ish sound to something that embraces all of our influences, including electronica and art-rock. I've found that the more I try to control how the band grows the more it slows us down, so to reach this place of trust and collaboration between the 7 of us is the greatest gift.
What are some things that inspire you, either musically or aesthetically?
Blake Mills is a huge inspiration, he never ties himself to anything. You can't anticipate what you'll hear when you put on a record written or produced by him, but it's always worth it. Radiohead come to mind as well, they are one of the few bands who've reinvented themselves and lived to tell the tale. They also created a whole new genre of music - their strange melding of South American rhythms with a North American fingerstyle approach, all mixed up with modern cadences, technology, and lyricism. I'd love to reach a place like that - our own sound - but I've learned you can't achieve the thing if you're always looking directly at it or for it. My friend Cooper Trail out in Idaho is a massive inspiration too. It doesn't matter if he's drumming, playing piano, songwriting, or soloing on guitar - everything he does is musical and makes you feel amazing. His band is Desolation Horse, if you're reading this please check his record out, it's also called "Desolation Horse." Aesthetically I'm continually inspired by the photography of W. Eugene Smith, Saul Leiter, Fred Herzog and Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Do you consider yourself to have musical roots in any particular style?
Yes, two-fold. As a kid my first three big influences were the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Weird Al Yankovic, and Eminem. You'd never know it from my lyrics, but much of my process is grounded in very specific things I absorbed from listening to that combination. I'm usually more lyrically inspired by rap artists (billy woods, Ka, Mach-Hommy etc) because the world of hip-hop is less rule-driven and more tapped into the Zeitgeist. I mainly listened to pop, motown, and indie music in highschool, while playing guitar and piano as a hobby. Things changed after college when I jumped into music full-time - then my personal roots developed in Americana, old-time, country-rock, folk, and singer-songwriter traditions. That's how I really learned to play and record music. That's where I learned that the best songs often work with just a voice and a guitar.
Do you have a go-to band or artist that you default to listening to?
Never. It is always changing. At this exact moment I have not been able to stop listening to Daphne Gale's "Nomadder." Check her out, please. Her writing is incredible and her voice is perfect. She's based out of LA, currently.
If you could pick just one album to listen to in 2022, what would you choose?
Probably Demon Days by Gorillaz. It's my favourite record of all time and I always find something new to appreciate with repeated listens. Plus it introduced me to the great MF DOOM.
What is your favorite piece of gear, and how does it influence your sound?
To be honest none of the gear in the band (and we have a spread as far as effects and types of guitars are concerned) has a huge influence on the sound. I believe in dynamics and storytelling - whether that's a song or a show or an album - so it's more a case of everything in its right place. The thing that inspires my songwriting the most from a strictly gear perspective is how a guitar neck feels - certain guitars inspire certain feelings when I put them in my hands, so I always keep a few around me to stir up the muse in different ways.
What is the most challenging part of creating music for you?
Creating it isn't the challenge - that comes naturally after long periods of absorbing and observing life. The hard part is the logistics, and maintaining inspiration while getting everything recorded and compiled. That's something I'm in the process of refining for us right now as we finish up our debut. There are already several albums worth of songs ready to go, but the approach will be different each time until we find what works for us.
What is your musical philosophy?
Serve the song.
What is something non-music related that you find fascinating or significant?
Lately it's been Robert Lowell's poetry. This summer I finally got into Didion, and in one of her essays she quoted a Robert Lowell poem that I couldn't find anywhere online. I realized most of his stuff is unavailable on the internet, which immediately piqued my interest. So I ordered "Notebook" from thriftbooks.com and have been slowly making my way through it. Poetry is very new to me, so it's fresh and fascinating in that I have no real take on it, or understanding of how it works. Which is the exact opposite of what I can say about music by this point in my life. He has a fascinating way of re-ordering the English language so that it feels like a completely different dialect even though all the words are the same. A lot of his imagery is between the lines, very often the meaning is suggested by the way two ideas create something new between them. Trippy stuff.
What is something you would like to share with your listeners?
We have been working on our debut record, "Pink into Grey" since February of 2020 and are finally nearing completion on the recording process. It's been a huge effort that has spanned multiple states, artists, and recording studios. The last step is mixing, mastering, and vinyl production and we will be working on some ways to help fund that process in 2022 so please follow us on Instagram, Spotify, and Bandcamp if you would like to help out. We can't do this thing alone!
Delving creates from the heart of the human experience, weaving their orchestrated blend of electric guitars, psychedelic strings, and hypnotic drums into something both catchy and introspective.
Songwriter Michael James spent his early days touring, performing, and recording with a host of West Coast artists including Caitlin Jemma, Jessica Malone, Jeremy James Meyer, and Justin King. He has featured on albums alongside members of Black Pumas, Delta Spirit, Josh Ritter, and Bon Iver.
In 2020, he returned home to California to start Delving with Robby Gaar (guitar/electronics), Jake Murphy (electric/upright/synth bass), Michael Fleming (violin/percussion), Elisabeth Mulroy (backing vocals/percussion), Shanti Ryle (backing vocals/synth/piano) and John Miranda (drums).
The band released their debut EP, "Reverie", in August of 2021, and are currently finishing up their first full-length album, "Pink Into Grey" with appearances by members of The Rainbow Girls, TK & The Holy Know-Nothings, guest guitar by Jeremy Ferrara, and string arrangements by composer/songwriter David Allred.
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