INTERVIEW: The Delines | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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The last time we spoke to The Delines’ guitarist and songwriter Willy, the band were re-emerging after a hiatus caused by a horrible accident experienced by singer Amy Boone. Then came lockdown and another forced break. It had to be hard keeping up the momentum, but Vlautin is typically generous and philosophical about it all.

“You know, ever since Amy recovered from her accident and could still be in the band, I’ve been nothing grateful. Even with forced breaks here and there. And you’re right, the pandemic stopped us in our tracks, but we all knew if the world didn’t end we’d be a band again. So frustrating, yes, but we still worked. We made The Sea Drift and a soundtrack to my book The Night Always Comes… and I spent I spent the pandemic writing. It was the longest I’d been home in over twenty years. So for me, I got lucky, it had a couple of upsides.”

The Sea Drift came out in February to some of the band’s best reviews yet. It’s a beautiful record, building on the rich country soul of its two predecessors. The band had talked about it being their cinematic ‘Gulf Coast’ album and this feeling seems to have been in place right from the writing stage. “I think going into writing the songs, I was hoping we could transport the listener into our world,” Vlautin explains. “I constructed them that way, the stories of them and the melodies. I left big open spaces where I knew Cory [Gray], the keyboardist and trumpeter, would come up with the cool shit he did. I can’t say enough about how great he is.”

I was hoping we could transport the listener into our world

One of the obvious standout tracks is Kid Codeine, a track which marries one of Vlautin’s brief but insightful character studies to a breezy sixties pop melody. It’s an avenue Vlautin is keen to explore. “You know, I hope we can do that kind of tune more often. I’m actually just starting to write more upbeat tunes. For a long time, I was in this kind of melancholy groove because Amy is so good on those tunes that I just couldn’t stop.” Vlautin is as ever still full of wonder for Boone’s voice and delivery. “She’s so fun to write songs for because she’s one of my favourite singers. So I never get tired of it and she keeps getting better. She’s just got that thing that makes me believe her when she sings. She’s got old school soul. And she pulls me back from being too bleak or dark. She always takes me aside and says, ‘Can’t you write me a love song once in while, a song that isn’t so heavy? Can’t a girl just have an easy time?’”

The spirit of Tony Joe White, the astonishing musician and songwriter from Louisiana who wrote such classics as Polk Salad Annie and Rainy Night In Georgia, has always been present in The Delines’ work, the latter in particular being a touchstone. “It started there, with us talking about that tune and her saying that I should write her a tune that good for our next record. Jesus, how do you do that? I sure wish I could, I know that. But I started trying in my own way. In general, there’s such a sense of place to Tony Joe White’s songs, and also a warmth. There’s that inviting feel to his voice and the way he frames songs and the production, and I think we always wanted The Delines to feel a bit like that. A sound that’s smooth, velvet, but the world inside that velvet is real and stark, beat up and bruised.”

The Delines have been touring pretty regularly since the world opened up again, and Vlautin admits it was hard getting back into gear. “I think we’ve all slowed down. Both literally and mentally. And then on tour it’s wham! But I guess everyone is feeling that. Nothing much else has changed. Luckily so far people have been coming out to the shows, so fingers crossed that continues.” Indeed, as soon as The Delines’ last European tour finished, Vlautin was in the UK promoting The Night Always Comes with no break at all. “It was only hard because I’m not used to being in front of people any more. With the pandemic and also being in The Delines I’ve gotten used to being out of any sorta public eye. So doing those book gigs was like being thrown into a cold river. I was like, Jesus I forgot how it feels to be nervous and to have to say things and try to act coherent. But it’s lucky to get to do them and I love my novels and want to help them in any way I can.”

The Delines play Gosforth Civic Theatre on Thursday 14th July. The Sea Drift is out via Décor Records now.


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