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Cross-country move leads Delta Spirit to new horizons

Patrick Dunn
Special to The Detroit News

The soaring, spacious pop of Delta Spirit’s newest album seems a far cry from the roots rock the band initially made its name on, but frontman Matt Vasquez says his approach hasn’t changed.

“I think our goal with music has always been pretty anthemic, always looking for a chorus that people can sing along with,” he says. “I don’t know how poppy our music is, but I would say that writing things that are catchy is a compliment. That’s always the goal.”

Vasquez says geography was the biggest shift this time around for the indie rockers, who play Saint Andrew’s Hall Friday. Before recording last year’s “Into the Wide,” Vasquez and his bandmates uprooted from their southern California stomping grounds to join drummer Will McLaren in Brooklyn. Although they experienced an initial setback when flooding from Hurricane Sandy ruined all their recording equipment, the band regrouped. Vasquez went through an extremely prolific creative period, churning out 45 songs as candidates for the new record.

“I’d go up to our studio space, which was just like a concrete dungeon on a canal, and I would just invent the songs and the stories for the record there,” he says. “I had a lot of good solitude there, surprisingly for a city like New York, and that’s kind of where everything burst out of this new world. It was really inspiring to be there.”

Vasquez says several of the 30-plus songs that didn’t make it on “Into the Wide” will see release next year, in a solo album that will take more of a stripped-back, Neil Young-inspired approach. Despite the bigger, more heavily produced sound of “Into the Wide,” the band is also aiming for more of a back-to-basics approach on its upcoming tour dates supporting the album. The band’s recent tours have featured live-edited video projected behind the group, and while Vasquez says that part of the show is “really cool,” the band will eschew such bells and whistles for the foreseeable future.

“It seems like every band is kind of taking a tip from EDM, where it’s like we’re fighting an arms race, building the biggest nuclear sub,” he says. “I think it’s turning into ‘This Is Spinal Tap.’”

Vasquez will also be cutting back on his own onstage theatrics. In a widely noted incident during the band’s 2012 performance at the Austin City Limits Musical Festival, Vasquez scaled and dangled from a 70-foot-high lighting rig. He says he experienced a “clarity moment” when he saw his wife’s silent, shocked reaction afterward.

“She just started crying, and I just started realizing antics are fun and all that stuff’s great,” he says. “I was inspired by the music and that’s why I went up there, but I think I’d like to focus more on the songwriting these days and the music itself.”

Fans seem to be responding more strongly to the band’s songwriting than ever before. “Into the Wide” hit No. 70 on the Billboard 200, the band’s highest U.S. chart performance yet. However, Vasquez doesn’t see Delta Spirit ever being a chart-topping group, and he’s satisfied with that.

“I don’t think that’s a likelihood with the way the business works these days,” he says. “I just want to be somebody’s favorite band. That makes me really happy.”

Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer.

Delta Spirit

with Avid Dancer

8:30 p.m. Friday

Saint Andrew’s Hall

431 E. Congress, Detroit

Tickets $26

(313) 961-8961

www.saintandrewsdetroit.com