Deli Hours: Behind the band
By Alena Rubin
This month, I sat down with Deli Hours’ Otis Gordon ’20, Lauren Juzang ’20 and Jasper Richards ’20. The music group first played together during freshman year retreat and have been best friends and bandmates ever since. We discussed the songwriting process, inspiration for their music, long-term goals and their advice for other young musicians.
AR: How did Deli Hours get started?
OG: On the ninth grade retreat, one of the nights was a chill sesh, and somebody brought a guitar. We were sitting on the beach, and we had never met each other— well, me and Jasper knew each other through jazz band—but we had never met Lauren because she was a new ninth grader, and we started playing together.
LJ: And then there was one day at the Middle School, I think you guys were playing something, and I was sitting there trying not to be awkward—
OG: Because you were super nervous.
LJ: Yeah, I was so nervous because they were so cool. And then they were like ‘Oh, can you write something?’ and I said yeah, and we did our first song.
AR: How did writing that first song and putting it together happen?
JR: I think Otis and I made the cord progression, and Lauren singlehandedly wrote the lyrics. We still haven’t released it yet.
AR: Why isn’t it released?
OG: It’s funny, we had like nine songs, and we recorded one more and that’s the one that we released even though we had a lot more. It’s sitting there, I don’t know if it’s ever going to be released.
LJ: I wrote the verse, and then later on they said to come to Jasper’s to record because he has a nice little setup for recording. The lyrics still weren’t finished yet, and I ended up staying up until like 2 a.m. that night to finish them. I was really nervous going to his house because I was like, ‘I barely know these people,’ but it was fun.
AR: So what was the dynamic? Were Otis and Jasper good friends before Deli Hours?
JR: Otis and I were friends from Jazz band. We both played guitar for the middle school jazz band so we had every third period together.
OG: We would always make little chord progressions together, but we never had a singer.
LJ: Hi guys.
OG: Fate brought us together.
AR: How would you describe your dynamic as a group?
LJ: I think we just kind of get each other, musically and kind of emotionally. If we go in and say, ‘let’s write about this,’ we all just get it and know what we want.
OG: Except me. I put out lyrics and they shoot me down all the time! I try to get one lyric in and—bam!
LJ: Oh yeah, we do. All the time.
OG: Yeah, when we’re together it’s a very easygoing atmosphere. You can just be yourself.
AR: How do you think that level of comfort you guys have with each other affects the music you put out?
JR: It allows us to be able to express what we’re feeling in the music.
OG: Right, and I feel like it makes us not afraid to write songs about certain things that you might feel uncomfortable about. Like, you know, past relationships or something that’s going on in your life that might be hard to express with someone you don’t know that well.
LJ: Even going in with them during the first couple weeks that we were a band, it just felt, instantly, very natural.
JR: I also feel like our songs are progressively getting better as we’re getting more comfortable with each other. We’re starting to finally find our sound.
AR: How did you come up with the name “Deli Hours”?
OG: We were at Bergamot Station, the art station, and there was a cafe and it had "cafe hours" on it, but 'Cafe Hours' didn’t sound that good so we changed it to 'Deli Hours.' There's a band called The Deli that we liked, and we thought that was cooler and it fits our vibe.
AR: How do you guys promote your music?
OG: I think that’s something that artists all struggle with, especially high school artists. We have such a circle of friends and family, and that only extends to a point. But, I think what we’re trying to do is expand our audience because we don’t want to be constrained to that little circle forever.
LJ: On Spotify, you can check where people are listening, and there’s already people from random places around the U.S. and the world which is really cool, so I feel like if we just keep making good music it’ll happen.
JR: We just need to release some more.
AR: What are your guys’ favorite parts about working with each other?
LJ: Jasper’s food.
OG: Just kidding. I think the easygoingness of it all. I think sometimes my favorite part is starting with something that I don’t personally like, and then ten minutes later, through their ideas, it's amazing. I think that’s something I’d never be able to do on my own. I can only get to a point on my own, but collaborating with different people I think brings out the creativity that you can never expect from yourself.
LJ: I think being really comfortable with each other, but also we get stuff done when we need to. I like having that really good balance of laid-back but also pushing ourselves to make good music.
JR: I feel like we’re all kind of the same, like sense of humor-wise and personality-wise, so it’s pretty easy to work with people of the same nature. I just feel like it’s easy for us to put our feelings on the table and get stuff done.
AR: You’ve talked a lot about the ways you're similar, but in what ways do you think you’re different, both with regards to the music and the way you work?
OG: In the writing process I feel like there are times where we differ, but it’s all about negotiation and usually what comes out of the end is good.
LJ: We go back and forth a good amount on lyrics and stuff, but we work together.
AR: Do you guys have a specific sound that you’re going for? How did that originate?
JR: When it started, we asked, ‘Who are our influences?’ We had these artists that we both mutually listened to, and we were into the music from jazz band, and Lauren’s voice fits perfectly with that. I remember Otis and I went to a concert together, Slow Hollows, this indie band, and we were like, ‘Alright, we’ve gotta commit to this right now.’
AR: What artists do you get your inspiration from?
JR: In the beginning, bands like Hiatus Kaiyote, Slow Haul and the jazz scene in general.
OG: Also, sometimes we go to an art gallery, and we bring a guitar or two and we’ll do a little art tour and sit down and write some music. We want to go to the Getty Center to write music, but they don’t allow guitars up there. But hopefully we’ll find other places to write because in a room there’s only so much creativity you can draw on just from each other. Your music, I think, reflects your environment.
AR: Are you guys working on anything new right now?
JR: Recently we recorded another song. It’s not finished yet, but we got some good ideas out. We were planning to just keep writing and maybe release an EP or just keep doing singles.
OG: There was a period of time where we wrote so much, but now we’re focused on putting it out. It’s kind of 2 stages. But hopefully we won’t lose the writing stage.
AR: Where will people be able to find your new music when it comes out?
Jasper: Everywhere. Soundcloud, Spotify and Apple Music.
AR: What are your long-term music goals?
Jasper: I want to do a tour some time. Playing live is a goal of mine. Getting a decent following would be really cool.
OG: We’ve got time, we’re only in tenth grade, so hopefully by senior year we can gain traction and have that experience of playing in front of people.
AR: What advice would you give to other young people who are trying to get involved in music?
JR: I think the hardest part is starting. I mean, it’s still hard for us because you have so much stuff going on, but you just really have to commit to it. If it doesn’t go well, then at least you tried.
OG: Find people you like being with. If you’re playing with people you don’t like, then stop because eventually you’re going to settle on a group you’re happy with. And if it doesn’t work out, then you just made good friends. That’s all that matters.