One-on-One with Charles Tilden of Delta Will

Delta Will (Charles Tilden second from right) Photo by Jen Squires
Delta Will (Charles Tilden second from right)
Photo by Jen Squires

by Michael Thomas

A lot has changed for Delta Will since the project’s inception—an alien has come and gone, Delta Will has become a band, and the sound has evolved.

Since the release of It All Glows, the project, which was initially just Charles Tilden, has expanded to include drummer Lowell Whitty, synth and bass player Brandon Johns, and guitarist Milan Schramek. Initially the latter two were recruited just for the It All Glows EP release show, but it quickly became apparent that they should continue to work as a band.

“I’ve really enjoyed not having to worry about producing so many of the sounds going on at once,” Tilden says. “It gives me a lot of freedom to just focus on what the song means to me and performing it, rather than looping every single layer.”

Though Tilden is still the primary songwriter, the actual process of arrangement is now more of a group thing. Tilden enigmatically describes Whitty’s approach to drumming as “Lowell-ifying,” while he says Schramek has strong ideas for structure while Johns is a “sonic crafting master.”

As the band has expanded, so too has the Delta Will sound. It’s now notably less rooted in blues, but Tilden doesn’t see the change as a major uprooting of what he’s done so far.

“I’m constantly just making music based on what it is I would love to hear in a record,” he says. “Music I’ve been listening to hasn’t changed drastically in that period of time since Delta Will started. I think I’m just tapping into influences I hadn’t when I started.”

Delta Will’s new, more advanced sound will be more apparent on the band’s first full-length record, expected sometime this fall. He shared two early mixes from the LP with me, “A Dream” and “Manic Pulse.” The former is anchored by propulsive drumming and a sustained, spacey synth note.

“I just had this one very central feeling about being awake but feeling as though I was floating through a dream in the middle of the night,” Tilden says. “It’s a sensation I feel a lot being a bartender, coming home really late at night, I feel like the empty city streets often feel like a really dreamlike place. I started writing it with a drum machine and singing different vocal ideas until one stuck.”

Meanwhile, “Manic Pulse” is one of the first songs Tilden wrote from scratch using a computer. He got the idea when in Montreal and looking at the Allen Memorial Institute, now a world leader in mental health services but formerly, like many institutions at the time, a place with strange practices.

“I’d been thinking a lot about mental health at the time anyways, trying to put myself in the mind of someone who had a loss of identity as they come to terms with mental illness,” he says. “Really strange ups and downs of someone who has schizophrenia and the unbelievable power that they feel at some times and helplessness at other times.”

Also new for the band is the departure of the alien entity known as Delta Will. Tilden tells me he went back to his home planet, but has given the band his blessing to continue to making music.

Though some big show announcements are coming up soon, Delta Will right now has their eyes on Feb. 13, where they’ll play in the 15th annual Wavelength Festival. But rather than their own music, they’re going to be covering the music of the Canadian great, Caribou. When Wavelength co-founder Jonny Dovercourt asked Tilden if there were any artists he’d like to cover.

“I did think Caribou right away, which was our ultimate choice, but I was also really into the idea of doing Sandro Perri,” Tilden says. “They’re very different from each other, I know, but they were both local heroes of mine.”

In the end, it came down to what would be a little easier to learn in time: “Sandro Perri’s music is so intricate, so many chord changes, so many little things that we weren’t sure we’d be able to do justice to.” It also helped that Sean Dunal (Sexy Merlin) will be guest drumming for them and is also a huge Caribou fan.

Recreating the Caribou sound has been challenging but fun. “In terms of recreating the sounds, Brandon is great at achieving very specific synth sounds,” Tilden says, “And I’ve been having a lot of fun digging into where Dan Snaith gets his samples and recreating my own versions of those.”

Delta Will is embracing the theme of Wavelength 15 in choosing which songs to cover.

“I’m a huge fan of even the earliest recordings that Dan Snaith made, especially the Up in Flames LP. The record is phenomenal,” He says. “We’re gonna cover that, we’re gonna cover something in the middle era of Caribou’s career and we’re going to cover something really new as well.”

See Delta Will (along with a slew of other excellent bands) on Feb. 13 at Sneaky Dee’s for Day 1 of Wavelength 15.

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