Ruta Smith

Charleston-based musician CJ DeLuca is perhaps best known for his work in the punk and post-hardcore world as a member of two locally celebrated groups: Drunk Couples and Florida Man. However, a little over a year ago he started dabbling with more contemplative themes as a songwriter, an exercise that led him to create six haunting tunes comprising his solo EP, Resilience, out on May 4.

Fans of DeLuca’s earlier, darker output don’t need to panic. This endeavor merely marks an extension of the musical space he normally inhabits. “Heavy music will always be first and foremost in my heart for the sheer intensity it creates in a live setting,” DeLuca explains. “There’s no other energy like it. But I’ve been slowly developing an appreciation for music that is sonically soft or sedate, with a heavy vibe lyrically, and I wanted to see what I could come up with in that vein.”

The title of the record is indicative of DeLuca’s own determination, but it also knowingly reflects the time in which it arrives. “A common theme in the music I’ve written over the past few years has been ‘courage in the face of adversity,’ more or less. This batch of songs is no different. Given the timing of everything going on I thought it was appropriate, and I was hoping it might inspire other people to have hope when they are feeling hopeless.”

The sparse volume indeed makes for an interesting and insightful listen, especially with it being bound up in the current state of affairs. Not surprisingly, this particular body of work holds a special meaning. DeLuca says this is the first time that he’s ever put out music that is completely his own.

“It’s a big step outside of my comfort zone that is both terrifying and exciting at the same time,” he says. “Speaking in very broad strokes here, this collection of songs is all about staring the darkest moments of your life in the face, accepting them for what they are, and pushing forward.”

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DeLuca’s exquisite compositions, like “The Mirror,” and “The Devil’s Snare,” exemplify what he’s talking about. They reveal a level of depth and introspection that seldom materializes from punk sources. And while there’s less fury in the lyrics, there is plenty of ambient noise enveloping DeLuca’s plaintive vocals. “As far as this stuff is concerned, in terms of my influences, there’s a little bit of Chelsea Wolfe, a dash of quieter Danzig moments, some Tyler Childers, King Dude, Neurosis, and a little American Football. I was trying to tap into things that I like but have never really emulated until now.”

The recording process itself, DeLuca says, was a “super-chill” affair. “I did it all with my longtime friend, former bandmate, and brother-from-another-mother, Nate Dominy of Prayer Group, on his Tascam tape recorder at his house in Richmond. Being that it was mostly acoustic it was one of the more simplistic and smooth recording sessions I’ve ever been a part of. Plus, Nate and his wife Rachel are absolutely phenomenal human beings and gracious hosts.”

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Eventually, there ought to be ample opportunity for DeLuca to perform these stunning tunes in intimate settings, but for now that type of in-person experience remains impossible. DeLuca says he’ll be ready to do some small solo tours “whenever live music is a thing again.”

In spite of this musical milestone, DeLuca admits that he is not going to rest for very long. After this, he’s going to turn his attention toward a new industrial music enterprise already in the works, and he promises to keep writing songs for all of his projects. “I’ve always been a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of person, for better or worse, so planning for the future is a challenge for me,” he says. “All I know is that I will keep doing the damn thing in whatever fashion I’m able, hoping that it affects as many people as I can connect with in a positive way.”