Interview by Hatchet Staff reporter Carson Rolleri
A summer festival favorite is coming straight into the heart of D.C.’s music scene.
Six-member Americana folk rock band Delta Rae, named Time Magazine’s band to watch in 2013, is a group defined by bellowing vocals and soulful lyrics, looks to bring their new EP, “Chasing Twisters,” to the 9:30 Club Feb. 15.
The Hatchet spoke with the singer of the band’s current single, “If I Loved You,” Elizabeth Hopkins, about touring, their new music and the diplomatic processes that exist between a band of four singers.
Hatchet: So how did you come up with the band title, “Delta Rae”?
Hopkins: Three people in our band are siblings, the fair-haired Hölljes kids, and their mother is a writer. She was working on a novel at the same time our band was starting about a girl named Delta Rae whose father is in a coma, and she awakens the Greek gods to help her awaken her father. The book takes place in the south and we were a band that was coming of age in the south as well. And it just felt very aligned with what we were doing because a big part of our sound and landscape that we like to tell stories in is southern and gothic and mystical. The name is also related to the Greek gods and larger, mythical stories. The character is a very adventurous risk-taker and I think we are also that as a band.
Hatchet: You mentioned there are four of you that sing. So how do you, as a band, decide who sings what song?
Hopkins: The writers, Dan and Eric, will complete a song on their own and then they bring it to the group and they play it for us. And usually in the course of it being played to us, we can sometimes just feel where the song feels right, because we’ve been working together for so long and know each other so well. We’ve never really had a disagreement about who should sing what song. We all have different vocal ranges. It’s usually that something feels right and something sinks in. Like Ian will sing it and we’ll say, “That’s you man, it’s awesome.” Or one of us will jump up and say, “I want to try it!” and then one of the girls tries it and it feels great, or if it doesn’t we all move on and have someone else try it. But it’s usually a very diplomatic process. And a song will speak to someone in a very specific and personal way, and that’s usually who ends up singing it.
Hatchet: Can you tell me a little about your new EP, “Chasing Twisters,” and how it’s different from your first album?
Hopkins: “Chasing Twisters” came out in November. It’s a five song collection with a rerecording of “Dance in the Graveyards,” which we also had on our debut album “Carry the Fire.” This recording is a little more robust and loud and more true to form in the way the song ended up evolving live. And then we have “If I Loved You,” which is our current single, which we were very fortunate to have Lindsey Buckingham play twelve-string guitar, and join us and collaborate with us on that. That was a dream come true that I think all of us still have a hard time believing. That such a legendary guitar player from a band that we all really respect wanted to work with us on that song. And the title track, “Chasing Twisters,” which has a cow-boy feeling to it, very western, and makes me think about rolling, south-western landscapes. And this song was really inspired on some of the nights that we were driving through the Southwest when we were on tour. And then you’ve got “Run,” which is this super high energy, big, percussive, triumphant, joyful, anthem. Anyway, we are really excited about this EP and it’s the material we are most proud of to date, and it’s really just an appetizer for our album, which is going to be coming out in Fall. And this album is full of songs that we never have performed live for anyone that we’ve currently are getting ready for the road. And we are really excited for the “Chasing Twisters” tour. It’s a new phase for Delta Rae that’s more passionate, and bigger.
Hatchet: What’s your favorite part about being on tour?
Hopkins: It is really connecting with audience members. The moment when I look into someone’s eyes and they are singing the song that I’m singing right back to me, it’s unlike any other feeling I’ve ever had.
Hatchet: What’s it like to record and tour simultaneously?
Hopkins: We are a very tour-heavy band. For the most part, we were a band that was sort of born live. We were touring for two years before we ever recorded anything. Recording happened after we grew into our song, into who we were and what we wanted to sound like. We wanted a way to transfer all of the sweat and the energy and the percussion into it. There’s moments during the show where all six of us are banging on something. So it’s very loud and it’s kind of a visual experience, and I think it can feel very freeing for people to know that they don’t have to be a drummer to feel a song or to feel a beat. I think that everyone has that capacity within themselves to feel something so much that they can’t just sing, that they have to play something, whether it’s banging on a drumstick or a bass drum. I read something written last year about Delta Rae where they described the band as three siblings, four singers, and six drummers.
Hatchet: Will you be playing songs from your upcoming album?
Hopkins: We will be playing some of the new stuff on tour! People should come out because of course we will be playing songs from “Chasing Twisters EP”, but new songs from the album will be sprinkled throughout, including songs that are even not on the album. So we are keeping everyone on their toes. And we are so excited to come to the 9:30 Club in February!