Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

by Eli Zeger

Mulberry 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 hip-hop (KXNG†UT).

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 fun.

Q: Why did you choose to name The Delta ‘88 Band? After the Delta 88 Oldsmobile?

TE: 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 Williams.

Q: 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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