“Other people’s opinions about what we sound like is often not what I think we sound like,” says Bradley MacLean, of Charleston indie band The Dellortos. “Somebody wrote recently that we sounded like a cross between the Pixies and the Drive-By Truckers. I heard comparisons to Jonathan Richman and Elvis Costello … I heard Pavement and Weezer … to me, I always describe it as pop music in the classic sense. Like Big Star, early Cheap Trick, and that classic, guitar-heavy power-pop kind of thing.”
The singer, guitarist, and songwriter — formerly of popular ’90s ska/pop/punk group SKWZBXX — has been at the helm of the band for nearly five years with drummer Kevin Gaskins and a friendly rotation of bassists and auxiliary players. Gaskins’ wife, Sarah, took over on bass duties last year, replacing bassist Mimi Violette, who split town for art school in Savannah. The Gaskins couple play together in local pop/rock act Hayloft Saints as well. The overlap is typical of the tight community in Charleston’s rock underground.
“We all practice in the same space and we’re over there all the time,” says MacLean. “I’ve ended up playing guitar with the Hayloft Saints, too. Kevin Hanley [of The Specs and Chord & Pedal collective] plays drums with the Saints, too. He can play a bit of everything, so he’s played a bit of guitar and keys and expressed an interest in playing some through the year with The Dellortos.”
Despite who might be playing bass, keys, or a little extra guitar, The Dellortos stick to a twangy, jangly rock sound — a Telecaster pop-rock style that veers at times towards ’60s folk and pop, and melodic ’90s indie-rock.
“I’m pretty stuck on being a three-piece,” says the bandleader. “I’m a big fan. We’ve had good friends sit in and play with us — which was great — but it just didn’t have the same chemistry; you could just tell it didn’t feel the same. We’ve stuck with the trio thing through the summer and we’ll continue to be a trio next year.”
Last winter, MacLean and the band recorded a collection of catchy tunes at the Gaskins’ home studio and with local guitarist Harrison Ray (of April Invention) at his comparatively fancier home studio facility. Truly a low-budget/lo-fi affair, they utilized the talents (and equipment) of friends as best he could to assemble a set of tunes with a consistent sound quality. The results became an EP titled My Motorcycle.
“It was getting expensive, so we borrowed stuff and did it ourselves,” says the guitarist. “Kevin [Gaskins] is one of the most amazing audio engineers I know — on four-track and eight-track machines. I told him if we could record an EP on a four-track and make it sound as good as any of your own stuff, I’d be thrilled. We set up in his house and played straight with barely any overdubs. We knocked it out in three days or something crazy like that. We have it in limited supply! We’re not giving up on it. All it needs is a proper print-up and release.”
Propelled by tough-hearted arpeggios, barre chords, and crescendos, My Motorcycle contains such gems as “Last One” (a pounding love anthem), title track “My Motorcycle” (a slightly lo-fi/deadpan indie-rock satisfier), or the slow-shuffling “I Always Knew” (Chilton-esque from top to bottom).
“I like to use a lot of open chord stuff — the ringing notes and ringing chords — I tend to do that to use that to fill up the space. I think our band sound leans heavily on that. I mean, we don’t have any distorted Les Paul hard-rock stuff going on. The more we play and write, though, the more edge and bite we have. It just comes out the way it does.”