Deleted Scenes is an indie-rock quartet based in DC. Their debut album Birdseed Shirt was released in 2009 to much critical acclaim. (They are beloved by Pitchfork and NPR alike.) I arrived late to this party, but I’m happy to have made it. I met singer/guitarist Dan Scheuerman by chance a few weeks ago after seeing his brother Vince play a show at The Hamilton. (Vince is also a super-talented musician- he fronted the DC power-pop-rock group Army of Me, and alt-Americana leaning River James. Coincidentally, I interviewed Vince recently, and you can check that out here!)
Deleted Scenes just released their sophomore album, Young People’s Church of the Air last week on Park the Van Records, once again to great acclaim. It is a work of complexity and beauty, dancy yet reflective, light and dark. I sang its praises last week on WLDC, and you can read that here. Deleted Scenes is currently on tour in support of their new album, and will be making a hometown stop this Saturday, July 21st at Red Palace. I got the chance to chat with Dan recently*, and here’s what he had to say!
Alexia: You come from a musical family, how did you first start playing music?
Dan: My Mom and Dad both played guitar in church and sang, and we’d have these big family sing-alongs on Saturdays, and we all sang. Well I have five brothers, so it was actually very Von Trapp- we’d all sit in the living room and play, like, religious songs and sing in these huge harmonies. That was very natural.
Alexia: Oh, that’s really cool! Was your brother Vince an influence on you at all when you started playing music?
Dan: Yeah! Well I used to go see his band all the time- they were called Linus and they were called Cactus Patch, and then they were called Army of Me. But in the Cactus Patch days I used to go to all their shows. Yeah, it was inspiring and he kind of showed me how to do it myself, you know? I was in I guess grade school and he was older so he would teach me to make CDs in the family CDR drive, and printing CD labels, and flyering shows, and just kinda, like, showing me how to get started. That was definitely a big influence. And I used to go see his ska band all the time. I was a big fan!
Alexia: How did Deleted Scenes come together as a band?
Dan:Me and Dominic, the guitar player, and Brian, the drummer, and Matt, the bass player, we all grew up playing in bands together in high school and grade school. Then we all went off to college, and when we came back it was just natural to play with each other again. I think we’re all pretty shy dudes, so we kinda gravitated back towards one another. It was kind of like a family, I guess, since we’d started playing together so young, but it was basically a totally different band than it would have been back then. We played in like, crappy alt-bands. Me and Matt and Dominic and Brian played in a band that sounded like Incubus, back in high school.
Alexia: Oh, and you don’t think that’s exactly, like, the sound that you have now? (laughs)
Dan: Um, I wish I had the physique of Brandon Boyd, so that I could take my shirt off onstage and all the young boys would covet me. But I just don’t have that physique, so we had to change the sound.
Alexia: What’s the songwriting process like for you and the band?
Dan: Me and Matt historically have written all the stuff, working together. I’ll write some songs all by myself, and definitely about a quarter of the songs. The rest are very collaborative- Matt will come up with a beat, or a weird guitar or bass pattern, and I’ll come up with a melody or he’ll come up with a melody. We kind of, at this point we’re all involved in the songwriting process, at least me and Dominic and Matt send computer files and, like, session files for the new songs back and forth. And do recordings, and riff off of what the other person’s done, and sort of slowly pick up bits and pieces and nuances and try to develop a song over like a long period of time.
Alexia: So I read that you recorded your newest album Young People’s Church of the Air with Nick Krill of the Spinto Band- how did that come about, and what was the experience of making this newest album like?
Dan: Well it came about because the producer that we wanted to use, this guy named L. Skell, who also produced our first album, Birdseed Shirt, knew Nick, and had worked with Nick on an album that he made called The Rude Staircase, and worked really well with him. They had worked together before, they’d done a couple productions together, they did something for a band called Screens, with the former drummer of the Medications. So they’d had a history of working together, so we knew we wanted a great engineer, and we knew that L. Skell was our producer, so it was just kind of a natural fit.
Alexia: How was making this album different from your last one?
Dan: It was a lot more organized, and a lot shorter. Birdseed Shirt was all- L. Skell did all of the production and the engineering, so he would basically come down from Philly where he was living, and we’d record in my living room for a few days, or we’d go over to our friend’s house who had a piano and record there for a few days, or to other friends in Maryland who had all these organs that we wanted to use. So basically it was about a year of weekends where we’d go all over the East coast and record bits and pieces. So when it came time to mix, the whole thing was a big mess! Like, it probably took us three months to mix, just because nothing was together, and it had been recorded in such a weird, sloppy fashion. We wanted a similar experience creatively, like to be able to do the same things and take our time with finding textures that we liked, and having a recording that sounded, that didn’t remind us of anything. And that’s something L. Skell is really good at. Nick is really well organized, and he’s an awesome musician, a creative guy himself, and just a really extremely nice guy. So the sessions in the real studio were a lot, you know, more organized. The sessions were well catalogued, and we didn’t have as much of a hard time mixing it, it wasn’t as messy of a process.
Alexia: Do you have any favorite moment or story from any of your time touring?
Dan: Let’s see…touring…I mean, we have probably a lot of the same stories as anybody else…we’re pretty boring dudes. We listen to podcasts, and memorize state capitals while we’re driving, and, you know, make the same jokes over and over again… I’d say the worst tour experience ever is whenever we play Omaha, um, Brian and Matt will semi-ironically put on the entire 311 catalogue. Like, I’m talking every 311 song ever recorded, in order.
Dan: Um, they think it’s funny, because we’re in Omaha, and they’re, like, an Omaha band. I think they had brief romances with 311 growing up.
Alexia: So 311’s from Omaha? That’s not what I think of when I think of Omaha…
Dan: Yeah, yeah. Oh, you think of Conner Oberst?
Alexia: Yeah, I guess.. I’ve been getting it all wrong this whole time…
Dan: Well they did move to LA at one point, and they’re still in LA, but 311, one of their first instant classics was “Omaha Stylee.” So that’s like an extremely painful and somewhat hilarious- every tour it happens, and I’ve gotten more used to it as time has gone on, but that first time was extremely painful.
Alexia: So you’re not trying to re-route your tours now to avoid Omaha?
Dan: (laughs) I love Omaha! I think it’s a great town, and Omaha seems to like us, so I’ll take one for the team. It’s as rewarding to listen to 311 just because it provides an example of how not to evolve as a band. I can actually say that 311 got worse as they went on.
Alexia: If you could collaborate with any band or artist, who would it be?
Dan: Huh…most of the artists I love are not lovers of other people, so I don’t know if I could collaborate with them. Like, I don’t think Thom Yorke would want to collaborate with me. (laughs)
Alexia: I say dream big!
Dan: Let me think about this…I like to think things through…let me get this right.
Alexia: (laughs) Because, you know I can make this happen…
Dan: Really? Yeah! (laughs) I think the singer of Xiu Xiu, Jamie, probably would be a great collaboration- he’s got a great sound, he sounds so weird. But yeah, probably Thom Yorke, sure, fine, why not?
Alexia: So who are you listening to these days?
Dan: Neil Young, a lot, and a lot of the record label called Sublime Frequencies– they put out world music and discovered cassettes from the 1970s in weird third-world places, that sound like nothing else in history, it’s really great stuff.
Alexia: So what’s on the horizon for you?
Dan: We’re doing a lot of writing right now, and planning on recording an album in the fall. So, just so much writing, like everyday we’re writing and sending files back and forth, and practicing and stuff.
Alexia: Awesome! That’s exciting! Well I’m really looking forward to your show at Red Palace on the 21st!
w/ Spinto Band, Pree
8pm/tix $10 in advance/$12 day of show
*(It was a treat talking to Dan, and doubly so to have interviewed two super-talented brothers within a week of each other. By the by, Dan told me no writer had ever made the connection from him to his brother before, so yay! Cracked the code!)