Since moving back to Columbus from Boston, one of my favorite (if not favorite) local bands has been Delay. While already a band for years before I discovered them (they have been the same band since middle school – unreal!), I have watched them grow from energetic pop-punk upstarts to something entirely more nuanced and sophisticated. Delay is known in their scene, but for more people fly way under the radar. If you’ve never listened to them, do yourself a favor and check them out.
This interview was done with Ryan Eilbeck, who splits lead vocal duties and plays guitar.
You write poetry and do readings. How do you think this affects your songwriting? Do you write with one medium in mind or do you just write and what you write tells you which medium it is?
Poetry has made me more selective with language. I think about the sound of words and especially phrasing. Usually, I can feel a distinction between these two mediums, though more and more, I find that fragments of my writing will be a catalyst or the bonding agent for a song. My poetry tends to happen in bursts on scraps of paper or in journals. I scribble a lot before typing them out. I toil over the words and the meaning.
Songs, lyrics included, tend to be born in my head and are a longer meditation.
At first the words seem less important than in a poem and it’s more about how they feel when I sing them. It’s rare that I write out any parts of the song. I’ll sit down with the guitar and start plinking around, mumbling random words and melodies that are heavily influenced by my mood. Then it all begins to evolve and I let it change over time into something more solid. I record a lot of my ideas to cassette or a handheld recorder. I will visit these clips every now and then, even ones that are a few years old and finally have a break through jamming one day. I try and suffuse a simple sounding song with subtext, like a lot of poets I like. I want to view and share my experiences through a wider lens so more people may connect with the song.
You have been in this band since you have been in bands. How do you think that has affected your writing? Have there been up and downs with creativity or group chemistry?
Being in a band with the same people for 17 years has had a huge impact on my writing. It has taught me to be patient and more open in the creative process, with myself and my band mates.
You have to listen to each other, learn each other’s differences in approaching a song. It’s healthy to pull back pressure and just play a song again and again. We have a laid back, weekly practice night. Jesse and Austin are both solid musicians and they approach their instruments like no one else I’ve met. You can hear that even on some of our earliest stuff. I’ll be plugging along with some bad lyrics and power chords and they will be doing something that’s actually pretty good. It takes time to let that kind of stuff come to the front.
It’s also been a life lesson. I joke that Delay is in an open relationship with each other. We are successfully non-monogamous. It’s pretty true though. We give each other room to play in other bands. We let ourselves have lives beyond Delay; family and romantic relationships, friends, and jobs (have to do that one, Delay doesn’t pay the bills!). None of us live together at the moment. There have been years in there where it felt like our bond and stability as a band was in danger. Our creativity felt forced along and thread-thin. But then there are times when Delay will be our balance, the steady focus over a period of time. We’ll get lost in it, grow and change in it or in relation to it. I’ve experienced a full range of emotions within this band yet it remains a place of healthy collaboration. Our chemistry has changed again and again but for some reason, we can’t shake each other and it continues to make sense as an axis in our lives. You never know though.
Let’s talk about the song “Grocery List.” First, the lyrics – I like the juxtaposition of the idea of a grocery store stare-down with the food chain metaphor. How did you come up with this? Did it come out fully-formed or did you develop it?
I was at Kroger, the big chain grocery store here in Columbus. I saw a group of acquaintances who were close to someone I had been seeing and no longer was. They scowled at me and I felt like a jerk. That scowl made me defensive and I needed to sing out the feeling. I thought Should I really be judged here? Probably. I bet the song was pretty bad at first. Then it may have hit me – How can I convert reactionary boy angst into something less idiotic?! Oh yeah, tune down and get a fuzz pedal.
I think lot of people are clunking around through ways of connecting with each other. If love is unfair then we are often unfair in it. The song is saying that at times we take advantage of each other to get what we want and then move on. Shop. Eat. We’re wasting each other and we don’t even realize it. We’re glazed over, numb and removed from what we buy, much like we are removed from our own/other’s true wants and needs. If we’re trying to blur the lines and boundaries of how we’ve been socialized to love, we need a language for it. We need to be more self-aware. We are privileged to have mobility in the dating world and most of us aren’t that different in that food chain. In this song-scenario I was viewed as the trash-eating scavenger (vulture) by those who prepared the meal (hawks). I was thinking we could do a little better.
This song has some odd-time sections. You guys also do this on “Whomever” and I don’t remember any prior Delay songs having odd time signatures. How did you get into adding odd-time signatures and why did you do it on these songs?
I like an odd meter showing up in a pretty basic, poppy tune. It surprises at the first listen. It throws you out of the song for a second. I think it’s another way to say this isn’t everything else.
I know that Green Day was a major influence on your early years, but I don’t hear that influence so much anymore. Do you think it’s faded or is it just there in different ways?
I think you could still make the connection. The melodies and energy. Touring in Delay and living in Columbus for a handful of years now, we’ve only been exposed to more and more music. Austin and Jesse both work at the bar/venue, Carabar. I work at Used Kids Records. We’ve willingly grown more distant from Green Day, though I’ll never cut the ties. There’s always been a music scene of people pushing their art here. There’s a rich history of great bands. From Stache’s, Bernies, Bourbon St., to The BLD, Skylab, Legion of Doom, Neil House, Monster House – a lot has happened here. Check on what’s been recorded and / or pressed at Mus-i-col. Columbus Discount Records, OKra, Anyway, Spoonful, Superdreamer records. Enough stuff to push this onward.
We’ve become more comfortable as a band and writers, confident to experiment and go outside of what people may expect from us.
What is a major influence on your writing that may not be obvious and what do you take from it?
My Dad, Nevan L. Eilbeck’s song writing. He can find a song in anything. His grasp of melody is simple and memorable, humble and not too flashy. I’m pretty into that.
Delay’s latest release is Circle Change, out now on Salinas Records.
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