Bleeds Honesty Back Into Music
Daniel L. Mitchell
Delta Dart is a group of three young ladies who, while capable of rocking at a moment’s notice, prefer to mix things up, as is evidenced by their latest release, Fight Or Flight. At times, the girls sound like Sleater-Kinney, noodling out intricate guitar lines a top a very early-’90s DC-sounding rhythm section; at other times, they play acoustically, producing sounds similar to a female version of Dashboard Confessional (but not as safe and wussy as that guy’s stuff). The thing that remains most stable, though, is the aggression that lays deep in the hearts and lungs of Delta Dart. In a current state of bands trying to be “emo” to sell record, Delta Dart reminds us what it is to be “emo,” even though they aren’t even trying to fit into that scene.
I was lucky enough to have an electronic chat with Erin McCarley, Delta Dart’s drummer. They have just returned from a tour supporting Fight Or Flight, which, by the way, is quite incredible and easily one of this year’s ten best releases of any genre.
Who are you and what do you do when not touring or recording with Delta Dart (who else is in the band, as well)?
I’m Erin McCarley, and when I’m not touring or recording with Delta Dart, I am usually working as a barista or going to school, or scheming about what Delta Dart is going to be doing next. I’m usually the person in the band who’s like, “Oh I have this crazy idea, let’s go here and do this and I’ll plan it out!!” And everyone else is like, “OK, cool!” Amber Bayer and Erin Putnam (a.k.a Sissy Chrome) sing in Delta Dart, and Amber is really good at drawing cool things and making crafts when she’s not at work as a retail manager. Erin Putnam also performs spoken word under the alias “Sissy Chrome,” and just recently moved to San Francisco from Los Angeles, CA.
How do you describe Delta Dart to scenesters who’ve never heard you? How about “regular” people (non scenesters…)?
I don’t talk to scensters, and if for some reason I do, they’d never ask about my band if they hadn’t already heard of us. To the non-scensters, I’d say that we are an acoustic punk band with intensely honest lyrics, and we like to fuck with things by periodically stealing pop verses from well known ’80s songs. When you do that you can mess with everyone’s collective memories and play on a song and sort of recreate a meaning with it. You can re-orient everyone’s ideas regarding what a particular verse or song was all about, and change it to mean something on a larger scale. I think our live show can be intimidating for some people, just because it’s so stripped down and Erin and Amber are in front of you just belting their hearts out, usually not even using microphones. That can be an intense situation if you came to a show looking for an evening of lighthearted drunken good times, you know? If people are looking to block out their feelings and not deal with shit in their life and how they honestly feel about it, I wouldn’t reccomend them listening to us.
You guys sound like many bands, to me Slant 6 and Autoclave the most. Are the similarities a result of your fandom of these bands, or coincidental?
I have to say that every band we’ve been compared to, has been totally random and coincidental. I never really listened to Slant 6 or Autoclave, and I write all the music, so I supposed that’s just an accident.
What bands are your biggest influences, and why?
We are all influenced by so many different things. I feel like personally, my main influences are the things I grew up listening to in my mom’s car, like The Cars, The Cure, Depeche Mode, you know, just ’80s pop stuff that came onto the radio. I also listened to a lot of Who, Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin. A TON of Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks, etc. Then in junior high I got into The Ramones, Vice Squad, The Clash, stuff like that. All this stuff just sort of meshed together in my head and has become the way that I process music. As far as Amber and Erin Putnam go, I know Amber was really influenced by Pat Benatar, and likes stuff like The Misfits and The Go-Go’s. Erin grew up listening to a ton of stuff, so she’s influenced by so much crazy shit, from old country to hip-hop to whatever. That girl is all over the place with her influences.
Do you feel that people appreciate your obvious musical talents? The guitar work on Fight Or Flight is very intricate and melodic…
[Laughs] Um, no, not really. I think people focus mostly on the vocals and the rest is just background to them. It’s funny, because the two guys who we recorded Fight Or Flight with in Portland were just like “Damn!” Because they saw me lay down six drum tracks as well as add bass and guitar to them in two days, so I felt like they appreciated it. As far as all the feedback I’ve gotten so far, it’s generally not specific to the music, and just focuses on lyrics and vocal melodies. It’s all right, though, I am content just doing my thing and hanging out in the background.
Why do you repeat the lyrics of past musicians in your songs? How did this come about?
I guess I answered part of this question previously, but it came about with the inception of our band. Amber and I wanted to play music together and I really wanted to steal pop verses of songs that I liked, so we brainstormed a few that we both liked and just went from there. The first song we ever wrote as a band was “Love Song” — even though it appears on our second LP, we just didnt have the means to record it the way I wanted to when we did the first record, Lonestar (which was on 4 track)). Anyways, that one used The Beatles’ “She Loves You.” The same week we wrote that, we also wrote “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” which obviously borrows from the Twisted Sister song. It was just a lot of fun, and it seemed like a new way to say things that we wanted to without sounding like thousands of other bands (no pun intended).
You just got back from tour… what’s the funniest thing that happened during the tour?
Well, I think that people have to create ways to not go completely mad when you’re spending seven hours a day in the car. I just occupied myself by being a brat with the spray bottle, and giving certain people “showers” whether they liked it or not. Other times you use bodily functions as a weapon. It’s all amusing when you are in the car, but really not all that entertaining at any other time. I guess we are sort of boring!
Do club owners ever try to stiff you guys because you’re a bunch of ladies?
I don’t even remember dealing with club owners on this last tour. Ha ha. How fortunate! At this point, we typically play places that we have been to before, or we play colleges that write up contracts previous to the show, or we play house shows. I think we take precautions to specifically not place ourselves in certain situations. Like, we all know that we shouldn’t play at a bar. So we don’t. And as far as problems go, bars are really the only places we’ve had problems, so we just took them out of the equation.
How do you respond to drunken hecklers, shouting the prophetic “show us your…”?
Ah, yes. Those situations are sort of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. In the past we have either: A) kept playing, but changed the lyrics of our songs to things like, “I’m gonna set your truck on fire you fucking asshole, I’m gonna kick your ass.” B) Stopped playing altogether, and walked out, but demanded we still get paid. C) Spit on the heckler and make a run for a vehicle that already has the motor running.
What kind of things do you guys do on long van rides between shows?
We read, listen to music, stick our feet in each others faces, eat, draw crazy cartoons, smear honey all over the place, play a fucked up version of MASH, and sort of play jokes on each other in good humor to pass time.
At what point in your life did you find punk rock? What band(s)?
I don’t know if I can actually pinpoint it. Probably junior high. Probably The Clash or Ramones. I don’t really have any recollections of having a “punk rock” epiphany or anything, hah.
If you could permanently close the mouths of three people in the world, who and why?
Oh dear, only three! You make it so hard. Can the entire Bush family past and present just count as one? Please? And how about the Cheney family, followed by Tony Blair, Tipper Gore… man, I could go on and on.
What has been Delta Dart’s finest moment?
I’m hoping we haven’t had it yet, otherwise I’m in real trouble since I can’t think of anything.
The grrrl band explosion of the early-’90s was beautiful. Any thoughts?
Unfortunately I think a lot of people feel that it was enough to just have that period of time and those bands exist for that period of time, and now that it’s over, any woman playing punk music or whatever is just rehashing what’s already been done. That’s just bullshit. I don’t think anything has changed since 1990. If anything I am having fucking DEJA VU! Iraq is back in the news even though we never left it, a Bush is in office, 95% of people cannot afford to live on the wage they are making, the radio plays bullshit angry boy rock. What’s changed? People are still pissed. Women are still being shit on, people of color are being exploited for their labor, the entire country is delusional for thinking that any military action going on right now has anything to do with “freedom,” and oil is pretty much the name of the game… Tell me that isn’t 1989 all over again. It’s totally scary! And music reviews just seem trivial in the face of all of that, but there’s something happening when people don’t want to listen and instead dismiss women’s voices in music as something that’s “been done before.” It’s like, “get a clue!” This shit is all still happening, but a lot of people still have their head up their ass, buried in patriotism, and as a result of that, making any real progress is very unlikely.
Any thoughts on Morrissey?
Ha ha. Poor Morrissey. He just can’t get happy. Here’s the world’s tiniest violin playing a song for you at your pity party.
How about The Cure?
I’m sure many people could say the same as I said about Morrissey of The Cure, but it just holds such a soft spot in my heart. It’s different when an entire band is sad and pissed, as opposed to one whiny pompadoured man.
What’s next for Delta Dart?
We are recording two songs for a split seven-inch with Swearing At Motorists, which is part of a series of seven-inches coming out on EdWalters Records. As far as our next full album, we have a ton of new songs that we are continuously working on, but at the moment, we are unsure as to what avenue we’re going to take to have it released or when that will happen. We will be playing some west coast shows throughout the winter, and plan on being in Texas in March, and from there, who knows? More tours! Europe!
How does it feel to be in what I consider one of the best five indie rock bands currently in existence (according to my oh-so-important opinion)?
It’s totally awesome! It shows what great taste in music you have! Ha! No seriously, it’s really cool to feel appreciated, and to know that someone gives a shit. I feel like a lot of times people jump on bandwagons, and are really into the “cool” band of the moment, and don’t really step back and just like the music they wanna like. It’s the story of the business and I can’t change that, but I’m not in it for the business, so whatever.