Kate Gerrard is the singer-songwriter and frontwoman of Americana Brighton band The Delta Bell. They’ve just released their second album ‘Hold Fast the Fire’ and we caught up with Kate to ask her about the band and the songs on the album.
The Delta Bell comprise Kate on lead vocals and guitar, James Brandenburg on bass, Bob Baker on drums, Andrew Blake on guitar and Beth Chesser on backing vocals. The album is released on the Random Acts of Vinyl label on beautiful sounding vinyl (and digital download). It’s a great album of what the band call ‘post-Country’ (rather than alt-country) and builds on their excellent debut ‘Bow out of the Fading Light’ from 2015. It still sounds country, but more like an Americana band who grew up listening to the Velvet Underground, a description that gets a resounding “Yes!” from Kate.
“We definitely tried to scuzz it up! We wanted it to sound scratchy and imperfect.
“With country music you are always running the risk of sounding cheesy so we made a conscious decision not to do that. We love country music, but we’re all Indie kids as well.“
The ten songs on the album were recorded live at Church Road studios in Hove in just two days, and to get the band that tight they hired a house in the countryside by the coast to rehearse, which Kate likened to the movie Spinal Tap, although she says there were more games of scrabble than bottles of spirits involved.
Opening song ‘Berlin’ was actually written a decade ago in Norwich where Kate grew up, after she had returned from her first trip to the German capital. She played the song a bit but she didn’t think it worked as a solo number and she forgot about it until she played it again relatively recently and decided it would work with the band. The song captures that sense of “being a bit lost, feeling tired of life.” (Kate was only 24 when she wrote the song). “The line ‘it feels like such a long time since I felt like a child’ reflects the pressures of being a grown up and having to make decisions.” It also has a big sound, aided by a classy added string section.
Second song ‘Lonesome song’ is a really touching song, full of heart and emotion. But Kate says “I wrote it in twenty minutes. I just sat down with a guitar and there it was.”
‘Little Girl Lost’ seems to pick up on the theme of vulnerability, but Kate says it’s not about that at all. “This is going to make me sound like a really bad feminist, but it’s a bit of a bitchy song.” It’s directed at someone who’s behaving like a little girl and the song is telling them to pull themselves together, although its subtle harsher edge doesn’t come across directly. “It’s not like saying they’re f++king things up, it’s just telling them to pull themselves together.”
‘Rain on Love’ is a song Kate describes as a power ballad. “I think I was just feeling really sorry for myself. It’s kind of one of those songs. It’s grown on us all and a few people have said it’s their favourite song on the album.”
Fifth song ‘Catacombs’ was written about 3 or 4 years ago for her boyfriend, although it’s a maudlin song. “Some people might say I’m intense!” she jokes. The imagery in the song comes from some horrific Sicilian myths about the bodies buried in catacombs, which hardly sounds like material for a love song but this emphasises the album’s battle between romance and edginess., or country and indie-rock.
The song ‘Modern City’ is the least country and most VU-inspired song, with some driven Mo Tucker style drumming (Kate says she banned Bob from playing cymbals). It was written on the plane to Berlin and is another love song, about “when you are just feeling worn out with love and life and someone comes along and rebuilds you.”
Their producer Paul Pascoe called the next song ‘Golden’ a thinking man’s Bond theme (possibly due to the strings at the end). The song came to Kate in a dream and she recorded the chorus into her phone in the middle of the night and then went back to sleep. It’s mainly about “enjoying your life with someone who is awesome“.
‘Killing Heart’ also has obscure origins. “I have a sneaking suspicion it is about the Ugandan President,” Kate says, written at a time when she was working for an HIV charity and thinking a lot about how people can oppress other people.
‘Ride Out’ was “inspired by broken rollercoasters” or “about the end of love, the end of relationships.” It’s the image of things made for fun that break down.
The last song is ‘These Days’ although Kate says she hadn’t heard of the Jackson Browne song of the same name. It’s a song about “people who have no hope of getting out of a situation and there’s nothing you can do to help them. All you can do is hope.” It’s just Kate and Beth playing on this track. “We tried it with the band but it didn’t work so we stripped it all right down.”
The album ‘Hold Fast the Fire’ is launched in Brighton on the 16th November at the Pelirocco Hotel and there’s also a London launch on the 18th November at Biddle Brothers in Hackney. Both gigs are free entry – but come to buy the vinyl!
You can hear or order ‘Hold Fast the Fire’ at the bandcamp link below