Lean machine 

Delta Spirit frontman gets back to his rock roots

"Push It," from Delta Spirit's 2014 release Into the Wide, has been compared to the ethereal music of the Electric Light Orchestra. The airy, atmospheric song represents a move for the Brooklyn-based band toward a denser, sleeker sound, which helped land a few of their tunes on TV shows like "Friday Night Lights" and "Sons of Anarchy."

Delta Spirit's singer and multi-instrumentalist, Matthew Logan Vasquez, however, is heading for more rugged sonic terrain with his new solo album, Solicitor Returns. In an interview from his tour van en route from Phoenix to San Diego, Vasquez explains the difference in his songs and those of the band he helped establish in 2015.

"Delta Spirit doesn't really get noisy on record," he says. "My production style leans toward a rawer, more aggressive style."

Much of Solicitor Returns bursts forth in a ragged caterwaul that feels more like Crazy Horse than Delta Spirit, bristling with damaged guitar tones and an edge of desperation.

"Lots of these songs just didn't fit Delta Spirit for one reason or other," Vasquez says. His rock influences come through loud and clear, especially on songs like "Everything I Do Is Out," where he sings, "My little sister got my record collection/ They tried to tell her it's a bad direction/ But somehow I'm alive today/ With Syd Barrett fuckin' up my brain."

"You can hear [influences] like John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band and Pink Floyd," he says. "I like drier mixes. Sounds of the '70s."

click to enlarge Matthew Logan Vasquez’s solo effort hints at 1970s influences like late John Lennon and early Pink Floyd.
  • Matthew Logan Vasquez’s solo effort hints at 1970s influences like late John Lennon and early Pink Floyd.

Vasquez played all of the instruments on Solicitor Returns, except for a couple of guitar and drum tracks. Being a one-man band allows him to be more nimble in the studio, where he says he treats the computer more like a tape machine. Most people use Pro Tools, which involves plenty of digital shortcuts like copy-and-pasting. Vasquez prefers to capture full takes, mistakes and all.

"I like to maintain the immediacy, the sound of discovery," he says. "Not everything is in tune or in key, nor does it need to be."

Solicitor Returns took him a couple of weeks to record, where Into the Wide took Delta Spirit two and a half years from start to finish. "We had 45 songs to choose from," Vasquez says of Into the Wide. "We wrote the songs, then it was two months of recording and another six months waiting for the record to come out. It's a huge commitment."

That band is currently on hiatus, he says, while he pursues his solo venture.

"We'll come back around, but I'm going to do this for a while."

Last year he and his wife, Marthe, had a son, Thor, and decided to pull up roots and move from Brooklyn back to Austin, where Vasquez used to live. Having a baby hasn't slowed him down, he just takes his family on tour with him.

"My son has hung out with Shakey Graves, we went to Willie Nelson's ranch, saw Ray Wylie Hubbard..." His voice is momentarily muffled, then he comes back on the line. "Ooh, I just ran over a snake," he says. "Poor little snake."

While the other members of Delta Spirit explore their own side projects, Vasquez keeps his own approach as lean as the aforementioned reptile.

"Now I hire less people. I'm my own driver, my own promotor. I like mixing it up," says Vasquez as he pilots his tour van westward toward the next show. "Rock and roll is fun. That's the whole fucking point."

Matthew Logan Vasquez plays the Top Hat Mon., April 11, along with Reverend Baron. Doors at 7:30 PM, show at 8. $15/$12 advance.

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