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For Big Black Delta, Sky’s the Limit

Velvet Jones Celebrates 12 Years of Rock


Thursday, December 20, 2012

SPACE INVADER: Many words could be used to describe Big Black Delta’s music. The electro-rock project of Jonathan Bates, which comes to the Mercury Lounge this week, stirs up adjectives like “epic,” “brash,” “climactic,” and “eerie.” Ask its mastermind, though, and he’ll likely call it “transformative.” Bates formed Big Black Delta in 2010, one year after the dissolution of his former band, Mellowdrone. In between bands, Bates did some serious gear switching of the sonic kind, including stints as an audio system delivery man and as the lead guitarist for M83.

“There was a definite burnout period after [Mellowdrone] where I didn’t do anything musically,” recalled Bates recently via phone. “It wasn’t until I got a call from Anthony [Gonzalez] to be in M83 that I picked up the guitar again.” As Bates explained, it was touring with the electro-rock heavyweights that ultimately helped him fall back into songwriting and eventually start Big Black Delta. “On a tour like that, you have to be at sound check at 4 p.m. and be onstage at 7 p.m., but that was it. It was somebody else’s thing. And that’s part of what made me fall in love with music again. There are a million facets to it; you don’t have to base it off just one experience.”

Big Black Delta’s Jonathan Bates.
Click to enlarge photo

BB Gun PR

Big Black Delta’s Jonathan Bates.

While Mellowdrone’s music was markedly guitar- and vocal-heavy, Big Black Delta focuses more on creating soundscapes: big, booming electronic numbers that seem to build until they might burst. “When I first started writing this music, I was listening to a lot of classical music, a lot of Chopin. A new Crystal Castles record had just come out, and I was really impressed with that album, and Telefon Tel Aviv,” Bates explained.

On Big Black Delta’s latest, this year’s IF**KINGLOVEYOU EP, layers of guitars, synthesizers, and electronic drums get topped with symphonic harmonies and ecstatic cries, as well as Bates’s booming low-register vocals. The result is a bold offering that, like the band’s UFO-inspired namesake, unabashedly pulls from otherworldly realms.

“I decided that if I was going to put out music, I had to attach it to something that really makes me happy,” Bates said. “Something that’s always tickled my brain is UFOs and astrophysics and all these other things, but the actual band name came from watching this documentary with Dan Aykroyd about aliens. He was just frothing at the mouth talking about this stuff, and after watching a Ghostbuster talk about Big Black Delta, I knew that was it.”

Big Black Delta plays a 21+ show at the Mercury Lounge (5871 Hollister Ave., Goleta) on Friday, December 21, at 9 p.m. Call (805) 967-0907 or visit clubmercy.com for tickets and info.

FELIZ CUMPLEAÑOS: Also on Friday, Velvet Jones (423 State St.) celebrates its 12th anniversary with a rock ’n’ roll show like only they could present. Since opening its doors in 2000, the State Street staple has become Santa Barbara’s go-to spot for amps-cranked live tunes. Owned and operated by longtime music lover — and sometime tour manager — Craig Jenkins, the club has played host to some truly enormous acts in recent years.

“The original vision was to create a place built by musicians and for musicians,” Jenkins said. “The idea was always that if we catered to the bands and really made their experiences great, we’d be able to get acts that were far beyond our reach. … Bands that no club our size should have ever gotten their hands on, like Evanescence and Foo Fighters.”

In honor of the club’s 12th year, Jenkins has gathered a collection of music-making friends that includes Old Man Markley, Wild Roses (featuring Marc Orrell from Dropkick Murphys), Dave Hause (from The Loved Ones), and Donald Spence (from Versus the World), as well as a handful of special guests. The 21+ show starts at 9 p.m. Attendees are being asked to bring a present suitable for a child 12 years or younger in lieu of a cover charge. Call (805) 965-8676 or visit velvet-jones.com.

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