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Local Listens: Deleted Scenes

We revisit the DC-based band ahead of this Sunday’s DC9 show to talk new music, long-distance band relationships, and growing up.

Deleted Scenes are dropping by DC9 Sunday, October 9. Photograph by Laura Rotondo

DC and Brooklyn-based four-piece Deleted Scenes released their second album, Young People’s Church of the Air, last month, giving fans a welcome follow-up to their well-received 2009 debut record, Birdsheet Shirt. NPR’s Rachel Kowal called the first record “a creative and emotional album of soaring . . . full of rich imagery and metaphors.” Church of the Air is a complex, thoughtful work, detailing what almost appears to be a reverse-quarter-life-crisis of emotional growth from singer and guitarist Daniel Scheuerman. The band will be showcasing new songs at DC9 this weekend—we caught up with Dan to find out how Deleted Scenes copes with touring, recording music while 200 miles apart, and other bands they like to see when they’re home.

Tell me about your new album.

This new album is our second, and we wrote it over the course of the last two or three years. Lyrically, it opens up a lot of new territory, so it moves away from a post-adolescence/early twenties negativity, and tries to come to terms with a post-cynical outlook. In your late twenties, you start to doubt the usefulness of negativity, and try to find truth in a world that doesn’t really offer it, so I think you try to create it yourself instead. It’s about getting over yourself, I guess.

Does it reflect changes in your personal life? You got married . . .
I did. There’s a little bit of that. Love is definitely a part of growing up, by dealing with relationships in a positive way and learning how to get along with somebody and look towards the long term. You have to try to think of ways to make that a reality when obviously your mind keeps bringing up all the potential pitfalls and hazards. One of my favorite songs on the new album is called “Bedbedbedbedbed,” and that’s definitely inspired by getting engaged and appreciating the nice things about relationships, the ways in which they help you.

You’ve been touring a lot recently. How’s that going?
We toured in all of July, and most of September, and we’re going on another week of shows in October, starting today.

What’s it like playing a hometown show?
It’s cool because people know the songs, and come up front without you having to say, “There’s a lot of space up here,” which is good. It’s also a bit of a tap dance though because you don’t want to play at home too much in case people get tired of you. DC’s really small, and the number of people who actually go out to shows is even smaller, so you have to try not to play too often so you can still bring people out.

Is Deleted Scenes still split between DC and Brooklyn?
Yeah. Me and Matt, the bass player, we live here in DC. And Brian the guitarist and Dominic the drummer live in Brooklyn.

How does that work? Do you spend a lot of time on the Boltbus?
Me and Matt work on songs together, and we use recording software to flesh out the structures of songs. We only really practice when it’s time to go on tour, so we try not to play one-offs. Before a tour we’ll practice for a week or so and nail down two or three new songs. And then over the course of the tour the songs’ll start to sound good, and so we can start fresh next time. We tour a good deal—maybe 100 shows a year, maybe more, so we get a chance to work out material on the road.

The Washington Post called you one of DC’s hardest working bands. Is that true?
That’s cool. I don’t know—Hume is giving us a run for our money. They practice for around nine hours a day, apparently. They’re awesome. They’re on an ’80-show tour right now with all new stuff that nobody’s ever heard before, so they play it, record it, and then never play it again. They’re always on a new cycle.

Are there any other bands you’ve been impressed by recently?
A lot of our other label mates on Socket are also great. This band Cigarette from Northern Virginia is really breathtaking. They play this very quiet, slow music. They’re a five-piece, sometimes a six-piece, band, and they play electric instruments with amplification, but the vibe is so peaceful and quiet that you really have to pay attention.

After playing together for so long, does it get easier to make music together?
We’ve played together in various bands since we were in high school, so we know each other maybe too well. But it also feels very purposeful to play with people that you’ve played with forever. Every band has struggles and tension and stuff like that, but knowing each other for so long adds to our comfort level with each other.

From growing up in DC, how much of a local influence does your music have?
It’s interesting, because there’s the classic post-punk scene in DC, and we’re not a post-punk band. I’d say if anything, the biggest influence growing up around here is a sort of jaded outlook toward the music industry. That’s a gift you get when you play here, because there is no music industry here, and so you’re surrounded by all these examples of bands that have created music in a very pure way.

What are some of your other favorite cities to play?
Omaha, Nebraska; Nashville; Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Montreal. Those are probably our favorite places. We have friends in those cities and we’ve managed to grow a following, which is all you can ask for.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever had about your music?
Someone wrote on MySpace, back when MySpace was a thing, that our music doesn’t sound at all contrived. That was probably the best compliment we’ve ever received, because it’s very sincere music. So that was nice.

What’s the best thing about being in Deleted Scenes?
Probably working with a partner as talented and as different from me as Matt, because come at music in completely opposite ways, and so if we manage to satisfy both our standards then we come up with something really strong. I wish I could do it all myself but I’m limited. I think left to my own devices at this point I’d probably write a folk album with all acoustic songs, but Matt’s very rhythmic, and thinks about dynamics and structure, and those things have really defined our sound.

Where do you see the band going from here?
That’s an exciting question and I don’t know the answer. We just finished the album, and we have nothing right now, so I’m looking forward to the discovery process of trying new things. I’ve been really getting down with Neil Young recently, so I’d like to write some classic songs that sound weird. Basically, keep growing, keep trying out new things, and not repeating ourselves.

Deleted Scenes plays DC9 this Sunday, October 9. For tickets ($12) visit DC9’s Web site.