“What would Flea do?” Funny enough, that thought informed David Supica’s propulsive hook on the single “Heavy Hammer,” a barrelhouse rocker that hits as hard as its title suggests. Supica co-founded the Delta Saints while earning a music degree at Nashville’s Belmont University in the late 2000s, and he’s an underlying force for both the band’s music and its business. He eschews fancy flights in favor of maximpact smackdowns with the Saints. They’ve collectively developed a traditional blues sound into something much heavier, more tripped-out, and with more funk in the trunk. Their sophomore release, Bones, really gets under your skin.
How does the bass factor into the Saints’ songwriting, and how did you home in on “Heavy Hammer”?
We always write music as a five-piece—it’s a 20 percent split all the way around. The battle of influences can be frustrating, but that conflict makes the band dynamic and takes us different places. I believe that creating interesting rhythms sets us apart from the average indie-rock or blues band.
While trying to write a single, we had the chorus idea for “Heavy Hammer” with its screaming guitar and badass drumbeat. I did the bass player thing and supported them with something simple; I view the bass as a kick drum with strings. We were stumped on a verse. I’ll often put on my jazzy hat and make a harmonic suggestion, such as a key modulation. But in this case, I took a step back and tried to channel Flea, which sounds cheesy, but it worked! The first thing I played turned out to be the driving rhythm behind that song.
It’s an exciting 16th-note motif with a couple of stuttering glissandos that imply a slide-guitar riff.
Playing along with a slide guitar has obviously influenced my bass playing, but glissando—that’s the thing we bass players have that can move people. That is our trick. When you slide down the fingerboard on a bass, it makes people go, “Whoa!” I’m prone to overusing it on that song live, because it’s fun and effective, but I try to reserve it for a moment that says, “This is hitting!”
The basic tracks on Bones bristle with energy. “Berlin” somehow successfully blends chicken-picking with alternative rock.
We cut the rhythm section live, because that’s truly what we do best as a band. I’ve found that laying out completely and then coming in at the top of a verse or chorus is one of the most effective tools for creating effective bass lines. “Berlin” was significant in the development of the Delta Saints because it was the first song we did after our harmonica player left. We got Nate Kremer on keyboards, and it expanded the harmonic and sonic palette immensely. That’s probably the biggest difference between Death Letter Jubilee and Bones.
The track “Bones” has a hypnotic, loping bass line. What inspired that song?
We had got into Bombino and this Tuareg music coming out of Africa. I love that 6/8 feel, and I was excited that the rest of the band got excited about that rhythm. It’s a simple bass line of octaves and 5ths, but I love the way it fits with the drums, and I’m proud of the way it bounces.
Delta Saints, Bones [2015, Loud & Proud], Death Letter Jubilee [2012, independent]
Bass Elrick Gold Series 5-String
Rig Orange AD200B head, Orange OBC115 1x15 cabinet, Bag End Q10BX-D 4x10 cabinet
Effects JHS Colour Box
Strings D’Addario EXL160 Medium Nickel Wound