Har·mo·ny (noun): The combination of simultaneously sounded musical notes to produce chords and chord progressions having a pleasing effect.
Our Swag Spotlight this week shines on Delta Rae, a six-person band that knows a thing or two about creating beautiful harmonies. The band members are siblings Ian, Eric and Brittany Hölljes, as well as Grant Emerson, Mike McKee and Liz Hopkins. Hopkins took time to chat with New York Country Swag about the band’s inception and their unique sound.
After meeting when they were pre-teens, the siblings and Hopkins formed a strong friendship in high school when they were in productions together and forged a four-part harmony in a vocal group. Remaining close all through college, brothers Ian and Eric decided to form a band and reached out to their sister and Hopkins to join, reuniting the old gang back in 2008. Eric, who had been in a band with singer/songwriter and producer Mike Posner, and who had written his smash top 10 hit “Cooler Than Me” when they were at Duke University, met drummer Mike McKee and held on to his business card for two years before reaching out and asking him to join their new band. McKee brought bass player, Grant Emerson in to meet the rest of the band and they just knew they had found their signature sound.
Rehearsing and perfecting their sound while living together in North Carolina, Delta Rae was formed. They officially played their first gig together back in October 2009. “It was a house that had been neglected so Eric was in there killing spiders and snakes and ripping down funky 70’s wallpaper and we rehearsed every single day,” Hopkins laughs about getting their start. Now living separately in Raleigh and Miami, the band meets in Nashville at least once a month to record demos, try out new songs and gather before leaving for tours. When discussing their songwriting process Hopkins explains “Little teams form and then we bring it to the group if it I feels right for Delta Rae. Ian and Eric are primary writers for the band they have been writing music together since they were seven and nine years old so they have a bond and groove when it comes to that.” she tells us. “Brittany and I are getting more and more into writing and we do have some cool songs coming from Brit’s perspective, so the women are getting into it.”
They work together to decide on harmonies or melodies, depending on the song and always decide as a group which songs they think will work best for them. “We’ve been together long enough that we know when a song is in our wheelhouse, and when it fits our four-part harmonies or southern gothic mysticism, that’s sort of where we live.” Their latest single, “No Peace in Quiet” was written by Eric after a horrible breakup. Realizing the song was just a little too personal for him to sing himself, he asked Liz if she would sing it. “I said absolutely, I really thought it would be something he would sing, but he has explained that it was too raw for him to sing a song that came from such a painful place so I said, of course, I’ll sing it and I love singing sad songs anyway,” she tells us. “I think also that song resonates with people on a lot of different levels whether it is a breakup or experiencing loss, many people have gone through that feeling of being alone but not wanting to be alone.” The haunting song showcases the band’s exquisite harmonies and ability to translate emotion into song. “I think a lot of times in this culture we are sort of socialized to not cry, or not feel sad. we get told to get buck up. But there is a time and a place to process your feelings and let it out and sometimes music is the way that you can do that, I’ve been very glad that we have a song that can be that for people,” Hopkins says.
Looking forward, Delta Rae is constantly writing and recording new music when they are not on the road and are looking to release a new project this fall. They will be performing Friday, May 18th at Gramercy Theatre. Click here to snag your tickets. If you are heading to the show you can expect a night of incredible four-part harmonies, lots of storytelling, and dancing. Performing songs from their most recent EP’s as well as throwbacks to their first two albums and maybe even some new music, you can look forward to a great night of music from such a talented group of people.
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