Last Tuesday, Park the Van Records released Deleted Scenes’ sophomore album, Young People’s Church of the Air. If the album title rings a bell, it’s because Deleted Scenes also released it last September on Sockets Records. The album was highly acclaimed—as was their 2008 debut, Birdseed Shirt—prompting Park the Van to sign the band, get them started on a third album and re-release Young People’s Church of the Air with new packaging and album art.
We caught up with Deleted Scenes before the album release to discuss the differences between Birdseed Shirt and their new album, where they draw their inspiration and how frontman Dan Scheuerman balances teaching English in Washington, D.C., with playing in a band.
Young People’s Church of the Air is about to be released on Park the Van. You also released it last year on Sockets. What has it been like going through this release process twice for the same album?
Dan Scheuerman: We put our heart into releasing it the first time in September, and at this point I think we’re on to working really hard on the follow-up album. We’ve been writing songs pretty furiously and are planning to record in September, so I guess it’s kind of victory lap. Sockets is really small; they don’t do PR or all the industry stuff. So it was basically just us going out on the road and selling the stuff at our shows. And people got word of it and were talking about it and it got good reviews, so Park the Van wanted to put out our next record. But they thought they could get a little more reach with this record so they did a rerelease with some extra tracks and stuff.
What are the extra tracks? What all is different?
Scheuerman: I believe there’s two new tracks. One is called “Challenge Club” and one is called “Hair Metal.” There’s also an acoustic version of the song “Bedbedbedbedbed.” Also, the lyrics are in the package.
What do you feel are the biggest differences between the new album and Birdseed Shirt?
Matt Dowling: When we recorded Birdseed Shirt it was sort of a non-linear process. We recorded some basic stuff at a studio with J. Robbins in Baltimore—just drums and some bass. Then we did everything else in various locations, kind of taking a portable setup into a bunch of different houses and spaces in several cities, D.C., Philly—a lot in Philly—a couple stops in Virginia and I believe in N.Y. It just took a long time. We did everything very piece-wise. In a way I think the length of time it took to record the record had an effect on the eclecticism of the record. With Young People’s…, we did it all in the studio. we went to this place called the Garden Center in Wilmington, Del., that is run by Nick Krill of The Spinto Band, and we had our producer L. Skell, who did 95 percent of Birdseed Shirt, recording and mixing.
You guys have a pretty unique style of music. Who are your influences? Were there any artists in particular that you were channeling when writing Young People’s Church of the Air?
Deleted Scenes: Nothing influences you like the music you grow up on, and in that sense, our biggest influences are our childhood music. For me, that was U2, the Smashing Pumpkins, Jeff Buckley, Radiohead, R.E.M., Pearl Jam—epic, angsty, sad. I think this album was in some ways a reaction against that, an attempt to temper the tragic outlook and deal with hope. At the same time, it’s made out of the same parts as that music. It’s sad, it’s solipsistic, it’s angry at times. And so I don’t think it succeeds in subverting sadness. If anything, it doubts sadness for a moment, just long enough to move on to the next moment.
The inspiration came from listening to a lot of music that seems to come from the American post-imperial cult of joy that has defined the past ten years of indie music. We were inspired by Dan Deacon, High Places, Hot Lava and the Hot Boyz, and trying to understand that kind of manic outlook. But there’s also a lot of sadness sneaking in, too. Elliott Smith’s last album, From a Basement on the Hill, was a big influence. In the last song on that album, “A Distorted Reality’s Now a Necessity to Be Free,” he reaches transcendence from beneath a mountain of drugs. That’s one theme that’s explored on our album.
A lot of the immediate influences on the basic sound of this album came from outside the U.S. We were really enamored with Ahmad Zahir, the Afghani Elvis and Khun Paw Yann, a Burmese psych rocker from the ‘70s. These artists who took American popular music and bent it with their own strangeness. In some ways, that’s what YPCA does—takes some pretty traditional American pop feels and pushes them off a textural ledge.
Dan, you also teach high school English in D.C. How do you balance being in a band with teaching?
Scheuerman: I’m not an English teacher in the standard sense. I am a literacy specialist, so I mainly work one-on-one with students in their houses after school. The schedule is pretty good for being a musician, because it leaves me some time during the day to work on songs. I am able to go on tour without missing a beat because I don’t have a traditional classroom or conform to a nine-month school schedule. I work with students over a longer period of time—years sometimes—to strengthen phonics skills, writing and reading comprehension.
Park the Van will be releasing your third album next year. How far along is that?
Scheuerman: We are in the midst of writing and feeling out arrangements. We have a lot of ideas, some full songs, some that are just really promising feels and melodies, some lyrics. It’s a slow, organic process, so it’s hard to say anything definitive about it right now.