Delicate Steve, a.k.a. 23 year-old Steve Marion, wrote all of the songs for his debut album Wondervisions in under two months and recorded most of the instruments by himself in his bedroom. Now he and his band are about to embark on a two-month continental tour with Akron/Family—the first show of which was last night at the Knitting Factory. We spoke to Steve about how he learned to play so many freaking instruments, what it takes to connect to his “source,” and, of course, how delicate he really is.
The L: So this is your most extensive tour yet. How do you feel about it?
Delicate Steve: Yeah, it’s awesome. I mean, so many things have been running through my head. It’s just so cool to have the opportunity and be able to do this. It’s so cool. And it’s crazy at the same time too to be gone for like, pretty much two months straight. And yeah, it’s wild. Just trying not to take it for granted, because it is really cool. It’s awesome.
The L: When we spoke at your album release show you said that part of the challenge in touring would be trying to connect to the music onstage in different ways each night. Could you elaborate a little on what that’s like?
Yeah, it’s just like trying to keep all of us engaged in the songs. I think we play the best when it feels like we’re all kind of communicating with each other and not just kind of playing the song like a rehearsal or something—or just playing the same parts. So when there’s some interplay between all of us is when it’s really good, and I think that’s when people enjoy it the most too. So it’s kind of definitely up to us to kind of connect to the music and engage. And when it sounds good onstage it’s also really way more fun. We’ve been lucky to have really good monitors and stuff like that at some places. So it’s always nice when you can hear everybody in the band, which is something that doesn’t always happen.
The L: The way you describe it it sounds almost spiritual, like trying to connect with everyone onstage. It doesn’t sound like something you can master through practice.
Yeah, I mean, it’s like just trying to be aware that you’re all there, playing, like, at that moment, and to really be present with what you’re doing. I think that’s an underlying thing which is also spiritual, things to do with meditating, and being there all the time. So yeah, I think when we’re all aware that we’re playing the songs onstage and we’re not caught up in excitement or anxiousness, yeah, that’s when it’s the best and that’s when it is kind of like a connectedness feeling, a spiritual kind of thing I guess you could say.
The L: That’s pretty deep. Let’s talk a little bit about how you got here. How many instruments do you play?
I play guitar. I played in bands playing guitar all my life. I used to play piano when I was a kid. And then I really liked electric guitar so I switched over to that when I was a teenager, and like, whenever I had a chance to pick up a bass or play on the drums or just play keyboards or piano or something about that I would try to play as many of those instruments as I could. I dunno. I was watching a Youtube clip, an interview with John Lennon and he was like, you know, just like getting himself and being an artist and he was like “If you give me, like, a tuba, you know, I’ll play it. I’m not just gonna sit there with it.” And I guess that’s how more I would feel. I’m not like, a master at anything, but I would like to try to make something sound good with whatever instrument I had.
The L: Do you have any goals for yourself as a musician, or an artist, and have they changed since you started recording your album?
It’s always just trying to express myself, being interested in what I’m doing and really like it. But I really want other people to like it, which is kind of a goal when I’m making stuff. If I think I’m getting too…I don’t know what the word is…too overindulgent with a song then I think that would take away from trying to make that as universal as possible, or really capture a feeling, then I would back off a little from what I was doing. But I think when I’m really expressing myself I’m also making something that I think a lot of people enjoy at the same time. So I’m sort of thinking about myself and who would be listening to it at the same time when I’m making a song.
The L: So tell me more about the process of recording this album. When did you originally write the songs and how long did it take to record it?
I remember very specifically that I went to Washington DC to visit my friend, October 22 two years ago, to see the Dirty Projectors together. And I had did my first ten mile run—I was training for a half-marathon in January—did that in the morning and then I was on this really good, just high. And my friend, he was working, so I went back to his apartment, he had a guitar there, and I was kind of fooling around—that’s when I came up with that little “Attitude/Gratitude” kind of riff and then my friend Christian called me and I was like “I’m gonna make my own album,” ‘cause we had made albums before under his name and that kind of thing. So I remember conceiving of making an album, and then I saw the Dirty Projectors that night and was like blown away and that really pumped me up. And then I think October and November I think I just kind of wrote, and made the songs up as I was going along in that period.
The L: And on the album—the three “source” tracks. Could you explain the concept behind those?
At the time, I was—the whole source thing was, it sounds really cheesy, but I just remember my yoga teacher, his name was Dave Bryson and he would, at the end of class, he would say all this kind of stuff that was very yoga-y, like “Connect to your source.” And I was going through a period where a half of me felt like that was really cheesy, all that kinda talk was really cheesy, and the other half of me felt really good trying to do that. I don’t really remember entirely, but at the time making those tracks had to do with that, and I wanted them to be where people could take them as something really silly or as something else. So that was where that whole thing came out of.
The L: You know, listening to your album and your music live, your guitar has such a strong personality. If you had to describe that personality, what would you say about it? Would you describe your guitar as the direct line to your “source”?
I would say that I like to listen to like, soul music and soul singers like Otis Redding and all that kind of stuff, and Aretha Franklin, and sometimes I try to play like that, or try to play like somebody’s singing like in gospel-sounding music. I guess in a nutshell when I’m—when we all feel like we’re really there—that woud be how I describe my style I guess at some points. It’s kind of lyrical. I try to sound like a singer with the phrasing and all that kind of stuff.
The L: Hae you been working on new stuff?
I have, yeah. Since kind of like a year ago I’ve been making new tracks. I finished the Wondervisions album two Novembers ago, and then January 2010 I started to work on new music. So I have a bunch of stuff piling up right now that I’m trying to construct into an album, and just kind of tweak it.
The L: Was that you in the “Wondervisions” video turning the basketball on your fingers?
That was definitely not. That was—I hate to ruin this if people thought it was Nat [Baldwin] or me—but it was the director, Carlos Perez. He just like, pulled that off. Actually, when I picked them up in Jersey City earlier in the morning I had a basketball with me. I passed it to him and he did it, and that was really cool, and he was doing it while we were shooting. And neither of us could even come close to doing it and we were both totally thinking that it should go in there, so that is the hand of Carlos Perez.
The L: Well, I’m pretty much done with my questions—is there anything else you want to talk about, something you wish I had asked?
Um, I would just love to talk about how…delicate…I am.
The L: Oh, tell me! How delicate are you?
Extremely delicate. That’s pretty much all I’m gonna say about it. That question gets asked a lot. Thank you for not asking that question, actually.