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The Sound

Family life


Delta Rae plays Wooly’s on Wednesday, July 9.

Delta Rae plays Wooly’s on Wednesday, July 9.

Family is important to Delta Rae. It’s a concept that permeates the band, in just about every conceivable way.

It starts with the fact that the band is built around a core of three siblings: Ian, Eric and Brittany Hölljes. Then there’s the band name, Delta Rae, which is pulled from a story the Hölljes’ mother wrote. But even in the portions of the band that aren’t writ in blood, the feeling of family runs deep.

“We’re all very close,” said Delta Rae bassist Grant Emerson in a phone interview. “Even when we’re home and done touring for a bit, we spend time together.

“Even today,” he continued, talking about the band’s tour stop in New York, “we all went our separate ways for breakfast, and five of us wound up at the same place.”


When you’ve got a family as large as Delta Rae — aside from Emerson and the Hölljes siblings, there’s vocalist Elizabeth Hopkins and drummer Mike McKee — it makes it easier to share the load of hardships that naturally come from being a young band finding its way.

And make no mistake, Delta Rae is looking to forge its own path. Their sound is built around the one-two punch of vocalists Hopkins and Brittany Hölljes; that difference in vocalists — Hopkins is more soulful, while Hölljes can deliver a bigger punch — gives the band the ability to be more dynamic with their sound.

Further expanding their repertoire, Emerson picked up the upright bass after joining the band and switches between it and an electric as needed.

“It was necessitated by a holiday show,” Emerson said of learning the upright. “We were going to have a violinist and a cellist join us, so I wanted to learn upright for that show because I didn’t want to look like an idiot playing an electric bass with those classical instruments.”

Now that he’s learned it, he enjoys the additional freedom.

“I can have the ability to play a little more classical style,” he explained. “It helps me be more emotive and to match the intensity of the sound of all the voices. Bowing the upright is one of the most powerful sounds. It helps me emotionally find the song.”

After self-releasing an EP in 2010, the band began work on what was to be a self-produced LP. Before it was finished, however, the band signed with Sire Records. Even though the band approached the deal with excitement, there was doubt as to what Sire would do with the nearly completed, full-length album Delta Rae had brought with them. There turned out to be no need for concern.

“There were no amendments made,” Emerson said. “We submitted it, and everything was set in motion to get behind it. They were sort of just said, ‘Oh, it’s done? Let’s get it out.’ (The experience) was contrary to everything we’d heard.”

That album, “Carry the Fire,” features both “Bottom of the River” — a tight, haunting song whose music video picked up nearly three million YouTube hits — and “If I Loved You,” featuring Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham on guitar.

Now, Delta Rae is busy working on its follow-up LP while continuing to tour and getting ready to play a set at Lollapalooza this summer. It’s a busy schedule. But any road is made easier when you love the people you’re with.

“After Lollapalooza, we’re all taking a vacation for two weeks. We’re all pretty excited for that,” Emerson said. “In my early days (in bands), I was just very professional and would only talk about ‘band stuff,’ but now I realize that this is my family.” CV

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