When you are in a six-piece band that features four lead singers and three siblings, you would think that things would get complicated, right? Not so for Delta Rae, the North Carolina-based group performing at Sixth and I Synagogue on Tuesday. After a year of touring and releasing a five-song EP in 2010, the band just released a new single, “Bottom of the River,” an intense movement that has drops of blues, soul and rock. Brothers Ian and Eric Hölljes talked with Click Track about using Kickstarter to fund their new LP, keeping the sibling rivalry at bay, and how even the creation of their band name was a family affair
Of the six members in the band, three of you (Ian Hölljes, Eric Hölljes, Brittany Hölljes) are siblings — how does that work out? Do you fight a lot?
Ian Hölljes: Yes, we fight lots — and we put increased pressure on it by all three siblings living together in Durham. We picked [out] a house out in Durham and have all moved in together. Actually, I think we get along remarkably well, given the circumstances. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s really cool because any — it is challenging. It feels like there’s a lot on the line when you’ve got your family involved in something, but when you have victories, there’s no greater feeling than sharing that with your family, and I also just think that I feel really lucky to be working with two people that I think have unique talent and we get to share that together.
The video for “Bottom of the River” is very intense — a woman gets kidnapped from her bedroom and is led out in a full-on march. What was the inspiration behind that?
Ian Hölljes: We had been going back and forth with ideas for the video for months, and knew that we wanted to work together on it. We had come to the end of a very long weekend of generating ideas, all of which we put the kibosh on ultimately ’cause they just seemed impractical. At the end of it, I was like ‘I know this isn’t literally the story of the song, but I’ve always felt like this song has the feeling of a witch trial.’ We seized on that idea and ran with it. Brittany, our sister, was just able really to carry the character in such a way that — I couldn’t even necessarily have envisioned that. We loved the idea of her starting off the role as a victim, and by the end of it having transformed into the leader of this mob. The audience starts off thinking that she’s being falsely accused as a witch, and by the end of it, she’s more powerful than anyone would have imagined. I thought the story ark of it was really exciting, so we just ran with it. You feel scared for her then you feel scared of her.
Your music has a broad genre appeal — you describe yourselves as “Mumford and Sons meets Fleetwood Mac” and you can definitely hear other genres highlighted in between. Where does your band fit?
Ian Hölljes: That’s such an interesting question and we’ve been really struggling to answer it. We love so many different styles of music that I think it’s hard to — it does feel like a very broad category that we’re working in. At the heart of what we’re doing, it’s pop music in terms of its sensibility.
Eric Hölljes: We’re huge fans of epic melody and thoughtful lyricism. Some of my favorite artists are very eclectic. Billy Joel has written songs that are doo-wop a capella songs, and he’s also written huge rock songs and epic ballads. We also love Michael Jackson, who runs the gamut and spans genres. We’re coming from a southern American place, but with a pop sensibility that runs through all of our songs. Really at the heart of it, we try to be very thoughtful with our lyrics and melody and just let the music speak for itself beyond that.
With four lead singers, how do you decide who sings what?
Ian Hölljes: It’s actually been very organic thus far in terms of how songs get divvied out. Eric and I write all of the songs, but it’s been amazing because either we’ll have a really strong feeling about who should be singing the song or we’ll be singing the song sort of casually around the house and having the different singers in the band hear it, and someone will seize upon it and say “That’s mine, I have to sing that song.” It’s one of the coolest parts about being in this band is just watching great singers take ownership of the songs that we write.
This upcoming album was funded through donations set up through a Kickstarter account — do you feel a duty to show our fans where money went?
Ian Hölljes: Absolutely. It’s tough because we’re going to finish the album in the next couple of weeks, and then there’s still going to be a lag until it’s able to come out because we’ll need to prepare for the launch and for the publicity and everything around it. We’re so connected to our fans in a very fundamental way. They funded this album, and they’re the only reason that we were able to do it. So absolutely, I think we feel very accountable to them in terms of keeping them in the loop. One of the great things about the age that we live in is that on Facebook — that’s where a lot of this community interacts with us — we’re able to share all those cool moments from the studio with them. We’ve felt this incredible excitement from our fans throughout the process. It’s been really, really cool.
Eric Hölljes: We’ve been planning to give our fans something in addition before [the release] just to let them know that we really appreciate everything they’ve done and that we haven’t disappeared for a whole year. We actually had a big live show Dec. 2 at Lincoln Theater [in NC] and fans from all over the country flew in for it. We recorded it [as a] live album and are releasing that for free as a thank you.
What was the band up to in 2011?
Ian Hölljes: This past year has been all about developing the live show and making it something that we think is really incredible. We’re gonna be even again taking it under the microscope and building it to another level in this next year. I think that the album is gonna reflect all of that work, because we’ve just been playing nonstop. The band that we left Durham as at the beginning of our cross country trip was not the same band that returned. The amount of shows that we were playing and the amount of practice that we were getting and the chance to road test all of the songs has been invaluable, and I think that that work is really going to be reflected on the album. It’s a whole ‘nother level.
Last question — where does the name Delta Rae come from?
Ian Hölljes: It is the main character in a book that our mom is writing. It’s all in the family.