Deleted Scenes‘ approach to crafting songs is as old-school as it gets. They tour incessantly, testing new songs out on the road. They let their compositions breathe and develop- well before ever pressing record. Their debut album, Birdseed Shirt, was two long years in the making, and I was fortunate enough to see and hear their entire process from initial drafting to finished recording.
Never relying on studio trickery, each band-member is very proficient on his own instrument. Hell, frontman Dan Scheuerman is known to do at least 15 minute vocalises before every performance, much to the chagrin of his fellow bandmates.
But if you can believe it, Deleted Scenes‘ instrumental chops come a mere second to their notable talents in song-writing. Though they are meticulous in crafting every detailed aspect of a song, they can also recognize when something becomes too esoteric or abstract. They have the sense to stop themselves before going too far. Deleted Scenes manages to strike the elusive balance between technical flair and pop sensibility. Their progressions and melodies are well-thought out, but never forced. Yet their performances retain a natural whimsy and authenticity. Theirs are classic songs that demand more than a single listen before various layers emerge.
A good deal of the songs complexities are owed to Dan’s lyrics, and his strong sense of narrative conflict. Some of that tension, which he addresses in several songs, stems from growing up deep within suburban Maryland. And although Dan would likely disagree, I maintain that his religious upbringing must underlie the palpable anxiety evident in the semi-autobiographical subjects of his songs.
Deleted Scenes’ newest record, Birdseed Shirt, soon to be released on What Delicate Records, tackles many of these themes. “Take My Life,” considered the album’s centerpiece, explores the inherent struggle in, well- our lives. Without straining the well-worn theme, the song conveys the earnest sense of hope that compels us to keep trying, despite whatever obstacles. This seems particularly relevant in our country’s current moment, and its impending sense of doom. The song is somewhat reminiscent of McCartney’s “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”, where Macca writes a catchy pop tune with dark and sinister, yet cheeky lyrics. However, in Dan’s case, it’s sincere and devoid of any irony. I’ve always been a fan of juxtaposing such opposing elements, in part because it is so difficult to pull off. Listening to this song reminds me of the first time I met Dan as he handed me a demo of their first ep–a sharpie-laden CD-R in a ziplock bag. There is a sense of unease and nervousness about what he’s doing, but he knows he still has to trudge through and keep going. Because beneath the scribbles, there is something quite breathtaking and beautiful.