O. Deletron is your favorite ’90s band that never existed. Building atop a foundation developed by indie rock pioneers Pavement and The Sea and Cake, the Fort Worth-based septet’s new EP, Subscription TV, captures the decade’s sonic zeitgeist without ever sounding derivative. O. Deletron’s debut record is at once intellectually stimulating and accessible. With a laser-like focus on clever songwriting, cofounders Aaron Bartz (vocals) and Jason Flynn (guitar) — both of Tame … Tame and Quiet fame — crafted each track with surgical precision.
Songwriting isn’t the only item on this EP’s menu. Each song is accompanied by grainy home videos that Flynn shot on an 8mm camera years ago. The faces of friends of yore flash onscreen before ebbing into oblivion. Subscription TV’s throwback aural and visual aesthetic is one that the band worked hard to craft.
“It’s kind of like looking back at the past and hanging out with your friends in your first apartment,” Bartz said. “That’s the emotional tie that I make when I watch it.”
While these musicians covet a retro aesthetic, they’re not stuck in the past. Lush, crisp production lends a hand to Subscription TV’s warm, swirling soundscape. Each of O. Deletron’s seven members, Bartz said, is indispensable in crafting the band’s distinctive sound. There are even two keyboard players, one of whom, he said, “holds down” the rhythm while the other “does the bleeps and bloops.”
Bartz and Flynn focus extra attention on penning lyrics. Bartz does most of the wordsmithing, and Flynn adds input when necessary. The pair has an ongoing Google Doc to which they will upload new lines and stanzas as inspiration strikes.
“When I listen to bands I really admire, I feel like the lyrics are a huge focal point in the center of the music,” Flynn said. “I’ve never heard a bad song with great lyrics, but I’ve heard pretty good songs with terrible lyrics.”
With a serious penchant for poetry, Bartz wields his words like a literary pro in the EP’s anthemic closer, “At the Rate of a Flickering Film.”
“And the streetlights / Guide me while / The shadows grow and shrink / At the rate of a flickering film / That I’m living,” Bartz sings in his lilting, unaffected delivery. “Forgot all the words / To your favorite song / Perhaps you never knew them / And got them all wrong.”
Despite the gravity of their material, the seven guys in O. Deletron are hardly somber band dudes. They keep the atmosphere light by playing myriad practical jokes on one another. Last April Fools’ Day, for instance, Flynn informed the rest of the band they’d be welcoming a second bass player at their next rehearsal. Not everyone was aware of the date, and a chaotic ruckus ensued. Not having any merch to sling at their first show, each member brought an unwanted item with them and slapped an O. Deletron sticker on it. It was part performance, part art installation, and part garage sale, Flynn said. “The music can be serious sometimes,” he added, “so I think it’s really important to have that humor side to it.”
Much of Subscription TV was recorded at Flynn’s home studio, but The Fibs’ Robby Rux tracked drums and bass at Cloudland Recording Studio. After Flynn and O. Deletron keyboardist Tyler Walker mixed the material, they shot off the EP to Jordan Richardson (Son of Stan, Ben Harper & The Relentless 7) for mastering.
On Friday, the band will play its EP release show at The Tin Panther. Sur Duda is set to open, and The Baptist Generals’ Chris Flemmons is slated to perform a solo set. Concertgoers can purchase O. Deletron’s debut EP, although not in a conventional format. Subscription TV will be for sale only on VHS, in addition to being available for digital download.
O. Deletron is already working on recording its first full-length album, Hold Music, which Bartz and Flynn hope to release later this year. Until then, the guys hope that their audience enjoys listening to Subscription TV as much as they enjoyed making it.
“I hope that it grabs everybody the same way that it grabs everybody in the band,” Bartz said. “That’s why we have this band.”
9pm Fri w/Sur Duda and Chris Flemmons at The Tin Panther, 937 Woodward St, FW. $5. 817-720-6868.