Deleted Scenes is comprised of four ambitious musicians who have all been writing and performing music since grade school. In 2009, the Washington, D.C.-based quartet released its debut LP, Birdseed Shirt, to welcoming ears, and hit the road. Since then, the experimental indie rockers have played, on average, over 100 shows a year. Amidst the live shows, the four-piece somehow managed to record a sophomore release, Young People’s Church of Air, in 2011, and then (surprise, surprise), hit the road again. The band’s bassist/keyboardist, Matt Dowling, was nice enough to take time out of a surely hectic tour schedule to talk to me about recording Young People’s, the state of D.C.’s music scene, and his fantasy of getting booed off stage by crazed Beatles fans.
Katrina Nattress: Your debut 2009 release, Birdseed Shirt, was very successful. Did this put any pressure on you when writing/ recording its follow-up, Young People’s Church of Air?
Matt Dowling: I think there was pressure there, although it wasn't like this was the Arcade Fire's follow up to Funeral. Despite the newfound visibility that Birdseed Shirt brought us outside of DC, we were still a relatively unknown band after touring off it for a year. The pressure only existed in the sense that you had a lot of press/blog outlets that were tangibly familiar with the band leading up to Young People's. With Birdseed Shirt, we had no real previous chatter in the press world, so getting press was an entirely new thing for us. Thankfully, a lot of it was positive. In contrast, with Young People's it became a safe bet that there indeed would be sources that would offer their opinion on the record to the world. But if anything is certain, it is that you cannot predict what people will think of your art, so there's sort of an anxiety knowing that your new music is going to get "graded." But all we can control is our craft and the effort we put into it. We felt like we put a wholehearted effort into the record. If we didn't do that, I'd imagine there'd be a really negative pressure involved with the record. But we did, so it was really just taking a next step as a band that overall felt natural and positive.
KN: How do you feel your sound has progressed between the two albums?
MD: I think we just have more an identifiable sound with this record. Birdseed sort of jumped all over the place, which at times worked beautifully, but at times may have distracted from the message. We've also refined and highlighted musical personality quirks that make us are who we are as a band. I feel like with this one we put it out there in a consistent way. But who knows, I spent a million hours working on both records, so I have no real perspective.
KN: Spending a good portion of the year on tour, I’m sure you’ve got some stories. What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you on the road?
MD: Our first van was the most decrepit vehicle I have ever experienced, and we had an instance where we broke down four times on the New Jersey Turnpike during a trip up and back from NYC to play a show there. That issue with the van was the fuel pump, and when those start going bad, the vehicle will shut off, but if you let it sit for a while, it can start up again and drive for a considerable distance before breaking down. Anyway, in each break down we had to get the van towed to a mechanic. Three different mechanics did three different things to the van and thought they had fixed it because it started up. Man, that sucked. But miraculously, we actually made it to the show.
KN: If you could tour with any band, dead or alive, who would it be?
MD: Whoa. My imagination is about to have a heart attack. I think I'd have to say the Beatles. I mean it's a shamelessly obvious answer to this question, but c'mon. People never stopped clapping at their concerts. It was just clapping with minor fluctuations in volume and dynamics, but never a pause. To witness that occurrence—people applauding constantly for an hour straight, for many nights in many cities—would be so mind boggling that I'd imagine your brain chemistry would be permanently altered. Much in the way that someone who does way too much acid at once, but this would be completely tangibly safe. You'd just never view reality in the same way.
By the way, I'm sure the crowd would not applaud for us at all. They'd be like "uhhh....hello......get the fuck off the stage and let us see the reincarnation of John Lennon you assholes." But yes, I'd still pick the Beatles.
KN: How do you feel living in DC has affected your musical career?
MD: I think there's no doubt that environment is important, and honestly the environment wasn't particularly great for the first few years we were a band. Any spotlight that had been on the city's music sort of burnt out very quickly after the break up of a number of important DC bands. For the new bands that were starting around that time, it made things difficult. I think the city was sort of bitter at the state of things and there wasn't much of an artistic community for bands to fall back on. There was just kind of this gross dispersion of bands that all secretly, or explicitly, hated each other, but the music itself was just toothless. But within the past three years or so, it feels like there's more of a community for the bands in the city. A lot more house shows, and enthusiasm for music on a ground level and for the synergy between music and community. A wider visibility for DC music as a whole has been very beneficial for us; it's just exposed us to a much wider audience by association.
KN: What does 2012 have in store for Deleted Scenes?MD: A lot of touring and writing as much as we possibly can. We're excited with the fresh start after getting Young People's out there, and we want to push things in new directions and take new approaches to our sound. It's sort of like looking at it as a new band, and that always brings excitement with it.