by Eli Zeger
Sound Recordings is a Hudson County-based record label founded
by Timothy Erbach and Marcel Rudin. It’s a very diverse
label with acts ranging from indie rock (Perennial Reel)
to ambient/experimental (Din Strange Dresses) to instrumental
The Delta ‘88 Band - Mulberry Sound’s newest
project - is a fun, vibrant ensemble with a rootsy style
that varies between bluegrass and Dixieland. While the band
was recording their self-titled debut album in the basement,
I spoke with Timothy at his Jersey City home studio about
the label, The Felice Brothers, and free jazz breakdowns.
Q: The Delta ‘88 Band seems a lot more exuberant
than other Mulberry Sound groups. Is the band’s liveliness
deliberate or did it occur spontaneously?
Timothy Erbach: It’s definitely both. A lot of the
other [Mulberry Sound] bands are introspective. The other
stuff is fun to play live, with all the other bands, but
we wanted something that we could goof around a little bit
more with because everyone on the label - I’m pretty
sure - is like that as a person. And then of course [The
Delta ‘88 Band’s liveliness] did happen spontaneously,
too. We had some recordings that were just really goofy
and we were getting really carried away with our being silly
as hell while we were doing stuff. But yeah, it was definitely
intentional. We wanted to do something that was a lot of
Q: Why did you choose to name The Delta ‘88 Band?
After the Delta 88 Oldsmobile?
We used to run this venue in Union City called Lincoln Continental
and when you went in, you’d open the door and there
was my friend Adam’s Delta 88. He was sitting in it
taking money for the door and we were just hanging out there.
Even while the shows were going on, we were listening to
the Mets game or we would just hang out in it. It was a
lot of fun. It’s this huge old car and it can fit
everyone. [We didn’t name the band] because of that,
but it’s a very inclusive project and it’s kind
of what the car feels like. I wrote the song “Delta
‘88,” then we decided to name the album that,
and we didn’t want to name the band that, but it kind
of just happened because, again, it’s something we’re
not taking too seriously.
Q: Your trombonist Dean Scarlett played me a bit of “Air
Conditioning, Alcohol.” It’s upbeat and very
New Orleans-ish. Can you describe the styles of the other
tracks that’ll be on the album?
TE: Yeah, there’s definitely a lot of Dixie stuff
in it. Everyone on Mulberry Sound listens to a hell lot
of roots music. [The Delta ‘88 Band] was a chance
for us to channel [our love for roots music]. It’s
a lot of country, 70’s roots rock like The Band or
Poco, and a little bit of - not bluegrassy bluegrass - but
slower bluegrass, like banjo, mandolin, slower-arrangement
kind of thing.
Q: Which bands/artists influenced Delta ‘88?
TE: The big one is The Felice Brothers, who we all really
really love, and have loved for like six or seven years.
They have fun-ass music and are really inclusive and relaxed,
so we were definitely looking to them for the lead on [our
music]. Beyond that, The Band is another big one, The Del
Mccoury Band (even though I don’t know if we really
sound like them at all, because they’re faster bluegrass
and really old school bluegrass), Bill Monroe, and Hank
Hoboken gave birth to influential indie trio Yo La Tengo
and was home to the beloved concert venue Maxwell’s.
Since you do a lot of stuff in this famous music city, would
you say it’s influenced your work?
TE: I actually wouldn’t say Hoboken has so much.
A lot of the songs are written about Jersey City. I lived
in Brooklyn last year and “Air Conditioning”
is about living in the weirdest apartment with no heat,
gas, or electricity. We were just living around with candles,
bumming around, and getting drunk all the time. A lot of
our songs are about Jersey City and definitely take a lot
of cues from Jersey City and places where I’ve traveled
when I was younger, like me and Adam went on a big bus trip
and a lot of the lyrics that were the seed of the album
came from the trip; I actually wrote like seven or eight
songs on the trip and then I left my notebook on a bus in
Georgia, so that was pretty annoying. [Delta ‘88]
is more of a Hudson County kind of album.
Q: Finally, if every song that you recorded for the rest
of your life had to contain either a slap bass solo or a
free jazz breakdown, which would you choose to use and why?
TE: Oh damn. Free jazz breakdown, I think. I’d love
to hear some of these songs with a free jazz breakdown.
Maybe we’ll do that.
Check out The Delta ’88 Band’s “Air
Conditioning, Alcohol” here.
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