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into [The Is­ley Broth­ers’] ‘ Shout,’” he said. “And when we went ‘a lit­tle bit softer now,’ the Cam­bridge au­di­ence didn’t want to get down. So I jumped out in the au­di­ence, sweat­ing, al­most pass­ing out, and ev­ery­body got down. And when we got up, it was ab­so­lutely in­sane. Com­plete car­nage.”

Vasquez’s back­ground in busk­ing helped pre­pare him to con­nect with au­di­ences in this way. “You kind of fig­ure out what works when you busk, and it’s a lot like play­ing in front of peo­ple in a band. It’s dif­fer­ent, but you’re just try­ing to get peo­ple’s at­ten­tion. [With busk­ing] you’re just try­ing to get peo­ple to put money in a hat or just en­joy it. Play­ing with a band, the at­ten­tion that we’re try­ing to give and to get is to get ev­ery­one to pay at­ten­tion to each other, like in the whole room. And once you get to that point, ev­ery­body’s hav­ing fun. There are those peo­ple with their arms crossed, or on their cell­phone the whole time, or hav­ing con­ver­sa­tions. If you can do your best to get ev­ery­one to rec­og­nize that they’re all in the same room with ev­ery­body else, from there you can re­ally, re­ally have a lot of fun.”

It was while busk­ing late one night sev­eral years ago that Vasquez met drum­mer Bran­don Young. He had taken to busk­ing be­cause he shared a two-bed­room apart­ment with his par­ents and two sib­lings, and there was nowhere in­side to play mu­sic. Young — along with Delta Spirit bassist Jon Jame­son — was a mem­ber of San Diego emo band Noise Ratchet. Vasquez said it’s dif­fi­cult to trace the ori­gin of Delta Spirit, be­cause all the mem­bers have been friends for so long, but the short ver­sion of the story is that they all de­cided they weren’t happy with the mu­sic they were mak­ing and wanted to do some­thing to­gether. The Noise Ratchet mem­bers even walked away from a record deal with Rick Ru­bin’s Amer­i­can Record­ings la­bel to make this hap­pen.

Once the band was formed, they played San Diego, Los An­ge­les, and Orange County sev­eral times a week — all while hold­ing day jobs. Vasquez re­mem­bers how he had been work­ing in spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion at the time and would es­sen­tially live out of his van on some nights af­ter a show — get­ting up at 6 a.m., get­ting dressed, and clock­ing in. This hard work paid off in 2006, when the group went on a suc­cess­ful tour with the Cold War Kids and re­leased their first ex­tended-play record, I Think I’ve Found It. The mu­si­cians were able to quit their jobs and de­vote them­selves to Delta Spirit full time, which re­sulted in the well-re­ceived 2008 al­bum Ode to Sun­shine.

Their most re­cent record, His­tory From Be­low, kicks off with Vasquez prac­ti­cally shout­ing on “911”: “Say good morn­ing to my friends/Oh MY LORD! It’s six a.m./The day ain’t noth­ing but a sen­tence paid/You work so hard and noth­ing change.” The song be­gins like Vasquez’s rec­ol­lec­tion of wak­ing up in his van to hit the 9-to-5 but then skips over to a Woody Guthrie-es­que sum­mary of the plight of the Amer­i­can worker. The band scorches along with elas­tic gui­tar riffs, Beatle­sesque har­monies, and a freight-train rhythm. From this track, His­tory From Be­low cov­ers bal­lads and barn­burn­ers, love songs, and po­lit­i­cal ma­te­rial in a rootsy tone sim­i­lar to the Jay­hawks’ best work.

Delta Spirit is some­thing of a demo­cratic band. Nearly all the mem­bers have ex­pe­ri­ence as drum­mers in other bands (“We could form a drum line if we wanted,” Vasquez jokes). Sev­eral of them have song­writ­ing chops. Vasquez and multi-in­stru­men­tal­ist Kelly Win­rich don’t even bring fin­ished songs to the group, be­cause much of the writ­ing process comes from jam­ming. With so many drum­mers in the group, the writ­ing of­ten hap­pens, as you might imag­ine, from the groove on up. They also spend many evenings play­ing on porches with mu­si­cians from bands based nearby, por­ing through song­books of the likes of Tom Waits or Neil Young.

It’s the com­mu­nal spirit and sense of ex­plo­ration that make tour­ing so en­joy­able for them. Vasquez has this ad­vice about break­ing up the dol­drums of life on the road for months at a time: “When you get sick of a ho­tel room, don’t be afraid to go on an ad­ven­ture. I have a lot of friends in a lot of cities, so I never usu­ally stay in a ho­tel room. In New York and down in the South it’s re­ally fun. I try to go out, not all the time, but I try to make mo­ments with my friends, es­pe­cially on tour with the guys that you’re tour­ing with in other bands. Jump in some­one else’s van and ride seven hours with them, talk, get to know them. You can go on a two-month tour and not get to know peo­ple if you just stay in your van the whole time.”

When pressed on whether tour­ing is re­ally that much fun, Vasquez brings up that hour of the morn­ing once more. Ap­par­ently there are some byprod­ucts of hard work that you can’t avoid, no mat­ter how ex­cit­ing ev­ery­thing else is. “It gets tough when you play six days a week and you get one night off. Then you drive seven hours a day, and you wake up at 6 a.m. ev­ery day to do ra­dio. That’s tough. But you can have the funnest night play­ing mu­sic and hang­ing out with your friends, and you have an op­por­tu­nity to do that ev­ery night.That’s awe­some.”

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