By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
What does it take to bring a rock ‘n’ roll band from dorm room sessions to the stages of the world? About a 1,000 shows and just as much bourbon.
That’s what Ben Ringel attributes the success of The Delta Saints to. When the band plays the 10 p.m. set for the Friday show at the Black Swamp Arts Festival Sept.9, he wants the audience to come away with one impression: “I’d love it if people left and said ‘we really saw this great rock ’n’ roll band.’”
Not that he feels the Delta Saints have reached perfection. It’s a continuing learning process, he said. “We try to learn something every night,” he said. “Three-quarters of the lessons we learn are ‘don’t do that the next time.’”
That sense of lifelong learning is not surprising for a band that got its start at a college, Belmont University in Nashville. In 2007, Ringel and several other students who had transferred into the college bonded together. They shared a bit of an outsider attitude, coming from different schools and parts of the country. Ringel was born in Louisiana, but lived in Seattle, before going to Nashville. Bassist David Supica came from Kansas. They and a couple other guys were “all pursuing music, both in school and as a passion.”
“We needed an outlet for it, needed friends to drink beer with. It really took off from there.”
They wrote songs together, and then with enough for a setlist, they started playing the first of those more than 1,000 shows.
The band’s members – Ringel, vocals, guitar; Nate Kremer, keyboards and guitar; Dylan Fitch, guitar; Supica, bass; and Vincent Williams, drums – all bring their own stylistic predilections to the Delta Saints mix.
Ringel brings a background listening to the blues and playing in jam bands while co-founder Supica was more into soul and funk. Williams came up playing gospel and hip-hop. Fitch and Kremer have a diversity of influences ranging from the Allman Brothers to the Beatles.
All these ingredients get mixed in as the band gathers for writing sessions. A song may start with the line of lyric or a bass groove, or inspiration from another band’s song, and grow from there. With “everyone coming at it from different directions” blending is not always smooth. The members may differ on what the final feel of the song will be. “We’re always working to find that sweet spot,” Ringel.
As the band works on material for its next album – they’re heading into the studio in October – the band is taking a new tack with songwriting. Before the groove was paramount with the lyrics set atop the churning beat. Now, Ringel said, they are using the music to frame the story and the mood. “The results so far are songs we would have never written.”
Any songs must pass yet another, all-important test – live performance. “An audience is pretty honest,” Ringel said. “If you play a chorus they can’t relate to, they can’t sing it, people won’t react positively. They’re not there to stroke your ego. It’s such a valuable experience. I’d prefer 100-fold to have that experience than to release it and have people listen to the record once and go ‘that’s not for me.’”
So the band plays a song live, gauges listeners’ reactions, before re-approaching the song “to massage it a little bit, so it’s the best it can be.”
So audiences at the Black Swamp Arts Festival will have a hand in shaping the band’s follow-up to last year’s “Bones.”
Ringel said he likes the stylistic diversity of the BG lineup.
“I prefer festivals that are multidimensional because it’s nice for us to show up to play for people who aren’t looking for one style of music. People tend to be a little more open and ready to dive in and hear what you’ve got.”
What the Delta Saints will deliver is a healthy serving of well-seasoned rock ‘n’ roll.