Delta Rae on Jay Leno, the South, and women who rock

Categories: Interview
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DeltaRae.com
Delta Rae is a six-person indie folk-rock outfit that has recently sprung up from North Carolina and is steadily swooping up converted fans with a cult-like ferocity. It's not hard for them: with four lead singers and vocal harmonies that would inspire jealousy in baby cherubs -- not to mention the titanic vocals of Brittany Hölljes, whose voice could silence a lion-- it's no surprise that Delta Rae is finding an eager audience. See for yourself with their video for "Bottom of the River," a dark, heavy song that sounds a little like going to church in a bayou.

With last week's debut of their full-length album Carry the Fire, Delta Rae is embarking on an intensive tour and drumming up new disciples. The band, composed of siblings Ian, Eric and Brittany Hölljes, along with long-time friends Elizabeth Hopkins, Mike McKee, and Grant Emerson, seems to be on the fast track for success, especially with the full support of their new label Warner Bros. behind them. Gimme Noise caught up with Hopkins to talk about all things Delta Rae and what's next for the group.

So, how is it being in a band where half of the members are siblings? Do you ever have to break up fights?

[Laughs] I don't break up the fights. I've known [Ian, Eric and Britanny] for an extremely long time. Ian and Eric are like brothers to me, and Brittany is like a sister. We are siblings, so we all certainly do have arguments. We work together so closely and spend so much time together, and when you're working very closely with a group of people I think conflict is bound to happen a little bit. For the most part, we solve things like a family.

You guys have really been blowing up recently, but you're still pretty new for a lot of people. Can you give me a little background on the band? How did you all meet and come together?

The band has been together for three years. We recently signed to Warner Bros. Records in January. We've just always been very hard workers. When we're home, we're always rehearsing. Over the past three years we've worked really hard, and when we signed with Warner Bros., they helped us to get more connections and opportunities.

Opportunities like appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, right? You made your national television debut with Leno fairly recently, where you performed "Bottom of the River." Tell me about that experience.

It was a surreal and momentous experience. We've been doing "Bottom of the River" since day one, that's kind of our flagship, and it's always had a very powerful impact on the audience. We always want to do a song that turns heads and makes people pay attention to us, so playing ["Bottom of the River"] on Leno is kind of a full circle experience. [The song is] getting a really great response, and it's our first music video, and the view count has been soaring, so we're extremely excited. And Jay Leno is extremely nice. It was great.

You performed "Bottom Of The River" with some really awesome trash can beats on the show. Is that a normal part of the song, or was it just for the show?

The trash can is a part of that song. Mike McKee, our drummer, introduced the trash can and the chain, and he brought that idea to life. It fit very well with the heavy, intense sound and effect that that song has. The trash can has made its way into some other songs as well, like the live version of "Dance in the Graveyard." It was Mike's idea, and every time we do it our live shows, it gets people excited.

Cool. So, I know that Ian and Eric write the lyrics to most of the songs. Can you tell me about how the music comes together from there?

Ian and Eric are the songwriters. They write the lyrics and the melodies. They generally have a song in nearly final form, and then they present it to the rest of the band. Then we generally just start playing it all together, and then we usually all have a very organic conclusion about who will sing lead on the songs, and the harmonies fall together very naturally. We've all been singing together for many, many, many years, and we just let the songs go until we feel they've come to a good place.

Nice. So, speaking of opportunities, Delta Rae was recently hand-picked by Rolling Stone as one of six female-fronted bands for the chance to win their Women Who Rock campaign, and the winner snags the cover of the magazine. Congratulations, that's exciting. But I'm just wondering, with four lead singers -- two of whom are male -- how do you feel about being cast as a female-driven band?

Good question... [Pause] I think that we're just really excited to be part of the competition. On a lot of the songs the lead is done by Brittany and I, and I think that for this competition, for the songs that we perform, I think that it will make sense. I think that people who want to hear more will learn that there's four lead singers, and I think they'll come to know our story. They'll dig a little deeper.

Nice. So, you guys hail from North Carolina, where there are a lot of great musical things brewing. How has the South influenced your music? Can you give me some insight on the scene there?

I think North Carolina is a really great place. There are a lot of bands that are coming out of there -- the Avett Brothers are big now. We're from Durham, part of the Triangle -- that's what it's called, Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, where a lot of music happens. The Carolina Chocolate Drops are coming up, they're a very old-school folk influence, and we have a gospel influence, especially in the way the four of us sing. We sing in a very full way, and all of our songs are emotional, they capture some type of very happy or sad experience. I think the South is a fitting place for our band. All the songs from Carry the Fire were written, rehearsed and recorded in a house in the woods in North Carolina, and I think you can hear that -- you can hear the place when you listen to our music.

I think that's accurate. So, what's next for Delta Rae?

Well, we just officially released our album last week, but we're working on a list of all the songs that we want to put on our next record. I don't think we're going to get back in the studio for a while -- this tour is six weeks, and the focus of this next year is really touring and touring and touring and more touring. We're really, really proud of this album. It's a labor of love that has been three years in the making, and we want to play in every possible place. We'll be releasing another music video soon, but that's still being decided on.

Sounds great. Last question: What should new fans to be prepared for at the Minneapolis show, or any show?

I think they should be prepared for an emotional journey. We want to have an emotional connection, and we want people to really feel something when they listen to us.

Delta Rae will be performing this Sunday, July 8, at the 7th Street Entry, with openers Chris Pureka and the Glorious Misfortune. 7 p.m. doors. $8. 18+.



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