Embodying a sound both foreign and familiar, nostalgic and futuristic, Delicate Steve‘s music is like running through a field saturated in Technicolor to reach some triumphant, yet humble achievement. The (mostly) vocal-less tracks are still capable of evoking lyricism, and heroic lead-guitar clears a path through the surrounding landscape of celebratory percussion, cascading synth, and buoyant baselines.
Delicate Steve are a four-piece group but the band’s creation, most of the song-writing, and primary creative direction are attributed to Steve Marion. Delicate Steve are playing two nights at the Fox Theater in Oakland this weekend (Saturday 11/15 and Sunday 11/16) with Tame Impala. After a night in Los Angeles, Marion spoke with The B-Side over the phone as the band made their way through the desert to their next performance.
Hey there. How are you?
I’m good. We are just on our way to Vegas.
How has the tour been so far?
It’s been a lot of fun — the shows are huge. So that’s been cool. [Ourselves and Tame Impala] feels like a really good pairing of bands.
Are these some of the larger crowds you have played for?
In a while, yeah. Last night [at The Shrine in LA] was definitely one of the largest indoor shows we’ve played — Tame Impala also said that was their biggest show ever. It was very… big, but still pretty cool. It felt like it had a vibe, so yeah; we have done big shows with Yeasayer and tUnE-yArDs, but they weren’t that big.
You seem to place an importance on presence in your live shows, how has that been on this current tour?
I’ve been really nice, trying to play to everyone in the room. You have to think about doing that — it’s not something that happens naturally. Last night, just going to the balcony and hanging out up there before the show started and seeing how small the space looked, I realized what I needed to do to play for everyone in the room and tried to concentrate on that. Trying not to play for just the first, like, fifty rows — to [instead] do the things my favorite performers like Freddie Mercury did really well — you have to just go for it and try to connect with that person farthest from the stage. That’s what this tour has been about for me.
On your last album Positive Force (2012) you featured more of the glass slide on the guitar — then on Wondervisions (2011). It has a really lyrical quality that many people enjoy about your music. What do you like about that sound?
I started playing slide when I was 18 or 19 because I got into The Allman Brothers Band — I hated that band growing up because my dad liked them, but then I realized they were actually really awesome. It took me a year or two to decide to learn slide because every time you pick it up it’s really hard, and when you are listening to Duane Allman — who I think is one of the best slide players ever — and you’re trying to copy that, it can be really discouraging. I kept playing it over the years. I don’t know why I wanted to put slide on there, I just had a lot of fun playing around with it and you can make a guitar feel more like a singer because you don’t have just the twelve different notes. You have the whole range of things — you can be a little flat, then bend up. It’s just a fun tool to use.
The first time I heard you guys was while driving through LA: a college radio station was playing “Butterfly” and I was really attracted to the use of the slide because it had this sense of urgency and excitement while also being quite peaceful. If you had to choose an environment or activity to best accompany your music what would it be?
It would be going on a run.
You released Positive Force by placing play buttons around New York City [anyone walking by could attach headphones to listen to a previously unreleased track]. Were you thinking about going for a run and coming across something like that? Where did you get the idea?
Yeah, or biking around. The idea was about having a new way to relate to the music. You have music videos, album covers, and the first time you hear a song. So instead of just sitting on your computer somewhere, which isn’t the most memorable way, this was a more powerful, mysterious way.
Do you do all the album art and visuals yourself?
Yeah, the first record I originally made with a friend of mine and then it got tweaked a little bit for the Luaka Bop release. The second album I did too, and that is actually how Tame Impala found out about the band. They were just shopping at a record store in New Orleans and they pulled out the album, really liking the cover art. They didn’t know who Delicate Steve was at all and they picked it up, bought it on a whim, and really dug it — I actually found that out last night.
Oh wow. Did you also record all the footage for the video “Redeemer?” Where was it shot?
There were shots of the beach in Goa and all over Southern India. It was taken in January of 2012.
Was your trip before or after recording Positive Force?
I went after. I turned in the record the day I flew out and was tweaking it until the last minute and then I literally got on the plane the day that I had turned it in. Then I didn’t think about it for a month which was really nice.
Who is the band composed of now?
The band is a four-piece now: Jeremy Guston on drums; Adam Pumillia on bass; Christian Peslack on guitar and keyboard — and he’s singing too.
Are your members from the Small Boy Pants collective?
Yeah — some of them are. It seems exactly the same as the Tame Impala crew; they’re all based outside of Perth and it’s a similar collection of musicians. When you and a group of friends come from a small town you tend to stick together and play all kinds of music together — and that’s basically what that collective is.
If Positive Force was a mythical creature, how would you describe it? What would its powers be?
Its powers would be alchemy… it would be an alchemist.
… would this alchemist take on a form?
I can’t tell you — it’s a secret.
You have a sandwich named after you, the ‘Delicate Cheese,’ but what is your favorite type of sandwich?
My favorite kind of sandwich is — I’m actually really getting into sandwiches right now, for the first time — probably just a breakfast sandwich, bacon, egg, and cheese on a nice bagel or, you know, sesame bagel with lox, scallion cream cheese, onions, tomatoes, capers, and that’s it.
Article and interview by Penelope Leggett