Talking Beer with Delta Spirit's Jon Jameson

Music Features Delta Spirit
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The other night Delta Spirit’s Jon Jameson met Paste on the Internet to share a couple of craft beers and some discussion. The piano-slamming Americana crew semi-recently relocated from San Diego to Brooklyn—recently enough that their Facebook page read Long Island at time of press, meaning Jameson and Paste’s reporter shared pixelated company while only a five-minute bike ride apart. They made do, talking his impending entrance into fatherhood, East Coast vs. West Coast and of course, funky yeast strains.

Catch Delta Spirit at Paste Untapped, our indie-music + beer festival, in Dallas on Sept. 7.

Paste: What made you wanna choose Shiner Ruby Redbird to drink today?
Jameson: This is my favorite summer beer. What do you think?

Paste: It’s pretty good. It’s the first time I’ve had it. Really clean.?
Jameson: It’s kinda like “beer soda.” It’s so light and refreshing. It has grapefruit juice and ginger in it, and it’s such a light beer. For super beer snobs, forgive me for what I’m about to say: but me and my friends put it over ice, and it is so good.

Paste: I’ve never done that. [Writer’s note: …which is a lie because I did that in Thailand, as everyone else does when it’s 105+ degrees out, but Chang beer isn’t—in my opinion—worth bringing up in this good beer discussion.]
Jameson: Well, it’s better in the can, actually. We have the bottles in our studio space… but those get a little harsh, sometimes. The grapefruit kinda attacks you too much, but these are really nice. I love it. It’s my favorite.

Paste: Seems like it’d be a really good daytime drinking beer. It’s not too alcoholic, is it?
Jameson: Nah, I think it’s like 4 percent [ABV]. It’s like a Bud Light or something.

Paste: Hmm. Not so bad. So how’s it been in Brooklyn since you moved? It’s pretty new, right?
Jameson: I’ve been here for two years; the other guys came a little after that. [Our new guitarist] has been here for six or seven years.

Paste: What made y’all wanna make the move?
Jameson: … We were [in California] most of our lives and for various reasons, decided—we wanted a change. For me with my wife, she got a good job out here. Some of the other guys just wanted to try something different. It just kinda happened all of a sudden.

We recorded [our self-titled release] in upstate New York and that helped lock it in—the last album we made in this converted church studio kinda near Woodstock. We came out for that and were like, Hey, let’s make it happen. We decided to move. It’s been fun.

Paste: Have you guys recorded a fourth record yet?
Jameson: We’re starting to work on that. We have a studio space at the top of Greenpoint. We’re just starting to put it together.

Paste: That’s exciting.
Jameson: We had a little bit of a hiccup because it’s right on the canal there, right by the Pulaski Bridge, so it got flooded really bad during Sandy with five feet of water. That was a bummer, but we had insurance and it paid for a portion of things. So now it’s back together. We bought a bunch of new gear so now we’re starting to make it happen.

Paste: Obviously East Coast and West Coast are super different. How do you think that has impacted the sound of the band? I always thought even though your work is very Americana, rootsy in a way, there’s a little bit of a surfer twang to it that’s West Coast.
Jameson:: I don’t know if we’ve lost that completely or lost our California-ness. Weirdly enough, we have so many friends who moved here from California or just tour New York so much—it kinda has been the easiest cross-country move I could have imagined. We already had built-in friends, knew the area somewhat, found a place to make music relatively easily—it all fell into place in a really simple way. We’ve toured so much the past seven years, it just feels like now we live in a different part of town, weirdly enough.

Paste: How do you like your spot in Greenpoint?
Jameson: It’s great. It’s kind of amazing we were able to find a spot that’s big enough to record [in]… there’s so many bands that practice in these tiny, cramped closets and we have an amazing place. We’re pretty lucky with that. … Living here is fun, it’s easy to get around. One of the ways I’ve stayed Californian is I have a car and I drive up there. That’s about the laziest Californian thing you can do.

Paste: Oh my God! From Williamsburg? [The distance between the neighborhoods is about a mile and a half.]
Jameson: I know, it’s lazy. But [the other bandmates] sometimes make me pick them up, so it’s not just me.

Paste: Tell me about some other beer you’ve really been enjoying lately.
Jameson: A beer I really liked during the spring was this beer called Lagunitas Sucks. They normally make this beer called Brown Shugga’ and they messed up the order, didn’t have any brown sugar so they made this other beer kind of on accident. It ended up being amazing and everyone loved it, freaked out about it. It’s really good, so me and the guys were stalking places to find that. Every once in a while we’d find it at a Sunaco and we’d buy three packs of it, bring it to the studio. That was my favorite beer for a while there.

This one (holding up Lagunitas A Little Sumpin’ Wild Ale) is interesting because it’s a wild ale. You can really taste it’s a weird strain of yeast. It tastes more like someone’s homebrew or something that was bottle-conditioned. You can taste it. It’s wild.

Paste: Let’s try that one.
Jameson: Yeah, alright.

[cracks bottle open]

Jameson: Very different beer than the other one.

Paste: I like it. I definitely taste the little twang you were talking about. Taste a bit more homebrew-y. Is it a different kind of hops they use in it?
Jameson: I think it’s the wild yeast that they do. Which is what they do to make sours. This one isn’t quite as sour but it has that wild yeast strain. The thing about wild yeast is that it’s harder to control the flavor, so you may be able to try a different bottle and it might taste different. There’s a few different strains. One’s called Brettanomyces. That’s what a lot of sours people like… but I don’t think that’s in this one. They don’t specify what it is.

Paste: What’s something you notice right away when you try a new beer?
Jameson: I’m trying to grow [in] what I appreciate about beer and talk about it better. Even though I really appreciate a good beer, I’m not the kind of guy that can talk about all the tasting notes perfectly right. But I tend towards hoppy beers. I also like sours and… classic, really good lagers. And a lot in between there. But I’m always up for trying something new.

That’s one of the fun things when we go on tour. We always try to include on our rider “local beers” so they don’t just give us the same thing every time. Even though we love Sierra Nevada, for a while we put on our rider, “Please, no Sierra Nevada.” Whenever we would put “pale ale” we’d get Sierra Nevada every night and it’s really great—it’s a great beer—but we wanna try different things in different cities. That’s one of the cool parts about touring, you get to try all these local things we might not be able to find in New York or California.

Paste: What have been some of your most happy discoveries with local beers on that rider?
Jameson: I’m forgetting exact names, but I feel like when we go through the Midwest—like Wisconsin and all those places—[they] have really great beer. And a lot of weird brands you wouldn’t have heard of. I think Great Lakes is one of them. Colorado has a lot of great beers… Left Hand is one of the breweries out there. A lot of times [good beer spots] are really random. I could probably document it better. I should document it better. I feel dorky doing it so I don’t do it as much as I should.

Paste: That’s how you learn, though!
Jameson: I know, right? I need to dork out even more.

Paste: Is there any kind of beer you simply are NOT into?
Jameson: There’s a few. Not into brown ales—just too sweet for me. I tend to not be into stouts or porters, just ‘cuz [they’re] too heavy. Occasionally something like a Guinness is great. But I [generally] don’t head towards those kinds of things… I like lighter things. Scotch ales are kind weird, too. I’m not a huge fan. But I’m sure [some] people do all those really well. Those are the flavors I don’t tend to go for, usually. I got for lighter, crisper, hoppier, fruitier, like a sweet-sour or funky sour—something like that.

Paste: How do you feel about being involved with the Untapped Festival? How is this going to be different from other festivals that you played before?
Jameson: We played a show in Dallas and my friend—he runs a big merch company there—told me about the festival because he knows I’m into beer. He just happened to mention it and I thought, “Hey, that’d be cool to do sometime.” A week later we got an offer. We’re really happy to be able to do it. It’s gonna be really exciting. It also happens to be two weeks before the due date of my first kid, so.

Paste: Oh my God! Congratulations!
Jameson: Thank you very much! So it’s also a little bit scary. I will be drinking beer and ready to fly back at any moment. But it’s gonna be really exciting. We’re gonna have fun.

Paste: So what else is on the dash for Delta Spirit this summer?
Jameson: Mainly it’s just doing shows like this where we have fly dates on weekends, play little festivals. And then the main focus is just making the new album. We’re hoping to get it done by the end of the year then hopefully out next spring or summer. …the sooner the better.