UK Artist With Southern Roots Releases Stunning Quarantine Video
By Dale Henry Geist, Editor
DeLila Black first popped up on my radar via Twitter. She got my attention by, well, being a Black, queer, UK-based country artist, which is unusual enough. But here’s where I gotta cop to something: I didn’t check out her music until this week. I’d have gotten to it eventually (my list is long) but the eruption of the Black Lives Matter protests and the conversation around them sent Black artists to the top of my list.
And that’s how I found this video.
Visually, “You’re So Common” is one of the most striking indy pieces I’ve seen created under the restrictive quarantine production conditions. Three musicians, all in black, each broadcasting from their own phone, patched together onto one screen. A dreadlocked, black-clad cowgirl with a whip in center stage, flanked by a bequiffed rockabilly (named Buckley) in the classic mode and another dread (Dez), rapping out the sparest of beats on the 21st-century version of a standup rockabilly kit.
That’s just the cover. Now open the book.
DeLila Black has a warning for you: “Make no mistake, whenever you’re awake, someone’s trying to take you down – so fight them.” In a voice that starts as a low growl and rises in the chorus to a snarl, Black, in no uncertain terms, orders you to wake up, see the demons that are pulling your strings and pushing you around, and cut yourself loose.
Though the video was released a month ago, it’s not hard for this white man to hear its message loud and clear amid the urgency – I’ll go so far as to say emergency – around racial injustice that we’re all now experiencing.
And that’s just a demo. She’s currently working on the single, under lockdown conditions, with producer Ian Caple (Shriekback, The Mekons, Tricky).
So Who Is DeLila Black?
Black’s bio says she has “roots going back to the mountains of Haiti and the hills of Tallahassee, Florida.” Her music is a genre mashup with wide-ranging influences that she calls “Country-Noire” or “Electro-Mountain Music.” Producer Tony Visconti (David Bowie, T-Rex, Paul McCartney) describes it as “Twin Peaks worthy”.
Black is using the demo video to raise funds for her Electro-Mountain EP, to be released this September. (Go here to support her efforts.)
I reached out to Black to get some of her thoughts.
DHG: What’s the genesis of the song?
I had been listening to a YouTube news show called “The Majority Report.” They used to play different songs between segments, some of which were recorded by their subscribers. I really liked the show – particularly when Michael Brooks was on – so I started working on a couple of things I was hoping would be played on the show. “You’re So Common” was the second of those.
My first idea was to take one of their catch phrases “Left Is Best,” create a type of anthem, and incorporate one of Michael Brooks’ monologues into it. The idea of an anthem carried into the second song, but I wanted it to be more visceral. I played “You’re So Common” for someone and they didn’t like it, so I left it alone for a while. I picked it back up when I started gigging last year and finished it recently. I liked it.
DHG: Did you also record the demo in isolation?
Yeah, the demo was recorded in isolation last month. I had been gigging with it – with (Justin) Buckley from The Life and Death on guitar and with Dez (Desiree Sanderson) on beats. I hadn’t recorded a demo because we started getting gigs so I didn’t have time – until lockdown happened!
Cool concept for the video. How did you get the idea?
We had a gig in London coming up a few weeks before lockdown. We were supposed to go on the bill with James Brown’s wife Tomi Rae Brown. Since lockdown cancelled all gigs, everyone took to Zoom. I didn’t really like how Zoom looked, so I asked Buckley and Dez to film themselves on their phones. I did the same and I edited it together, trying to present it the way we would at a gig. I liked that visual better than Zoom.
Any problems making the video happen? Seems tricky.
There weren’t too many problems with the video. We just performed to our individual phones while isolating in April. Did a few takes each. Buckley and Dez sent me the files on WeTransfer and I put them together. I really get into it though. I find it therapeutic.
The sound was trickier. We had to rerecord a few times. I was trying to keep a live feel but I didn’t have fancy equipment, just my old laptop to do everything on. The headphone socket is partially broken. It was murder during playback! I learned how to do all this stuff by watching YouTube tutorials. I was encouraged to try more things out when Tony Visconti started leaving nice comments about my video clips on my Facebook page.
Even though it was created before the current uprising, I relate “You’re So Common” to the Black Lives Matter movement/protests. Do you have any thoughts on that?
The sentiment behind the song is not new. There has always been one group of people hell-bent on subjugating another. The movement is not new. The struggle is not new. I sing the song with conviction. The violence we are witnessing today is not new. I don’t advocate violence but I do believe in self-preservation. What we’re witnessing is not only a racial issue. It’s a power grab. Those lunatics in charge harm white people as well. They just tend to get away with harming black people. Eventually they harm everyone.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Yes, I don’t know how long all this [Ed. – the protests] will continue but I’d rather it continue than to go back to the way it was, because for many of us, the way it was, was shit.
We’re all trying to figure this out. Be kind to the people on the same path. Let them talk. And for goodness sake – vote them all out!
Find our more about DeLila Black, including music and videos, at delilablack.com.