The front porch of the house Deli Kings practices in each week gives you a pretty good idea of what the band is all about. On any given Tuesday night, a passerby can witness the band hanging out amidst beer cans and an overflowing ashtray. Jokes are tossed around before practice commences. The singer, perched on a stool, devours a pastrami sandwich.
Deli Kings is a band with an appreciation for parties and various meats. But they earn respect in Richmond’s music scene by serving up loud riffs that fall somewhere on the menu between glam rock and, as bassist James Manogue puts it, “garage rock with a pop twist.”
The five-piece had its start in early 2018. “I had a bunch of songs and I just wanted to get it together,” singer Nick Morrison said. Previously in a band called The Hoodoos along with drummer Nate Kidd, Morrison joked that he was playing a show when he “looked to the back of the crowd and saw James, saw Nicky.” Nicky Michon now plays guitar for Deli Kings alongside Manogue. Rhythm guitarist Gray Stephenson joined the band after the first couple of shows, solidifying the lineup.
A band with as many members as Deli Kings obviously draws inspiration from a wide range of artists. The bands that they listen to change on a month-to-month basis, according to Kidd. Morrison cites everything from Ariel Pink to the Rolling Stones as having influenced the band’s sound.
That Deli Kings spend time listening to a multitude of different bands is evident in their sound. On their debut EP Cold Cuts, listeners are treated to the incessantly groovy “Bums ’n Clowns,” featuring a guitar lick that’s an absolute pleasure to have stuck in your head for days on end. This delightful tune gives way to “Runnin’ From the Dogs,” a hard-hitting rock song that has provided the soundtrack to countless mosh pits in basements throughout Richmond.
“In a Room (Makin’ Love),” released last December, marks a musical shift for the band. Unlike their other music, a chirping synth line drives the melody of this laid-back single; Morrison said that he would like to continue using a synthesizer in the band’s future music. The song shows a side of Deli Kings that is more in tune with pop sensibilities.
On “My Sugar,” the band’s latest single — which RVA Magazine is premiering below — Deli Kings keep plenty of room for guitar riffs that could easily fit onto Cold Cuts. But like “In a Room,” they maintain their newfound pop sensibilities. “It’s setting the tone for our future pop sellout,” Michon joked.
With a lo-fi tinge to the recording, “My Sugar” offers a little bit of everything that has made Deli Kings a band worth listening to, while keeping things new and refreshing.
Outside of their recorded music, the band is perhaps best known around town for their high-energy live shows. “It’s a party,” Kidd said.
Morrison echoed the sentiment. “I don’t really think about wanting to play music for people to say, ‘Wow, that’s so interesting,’” he said. “At this point I kind of just want it to be fun.”
It seems like the band will stop at nothing to create intense, memorable experiences for their crowds. At their first house show, they performed wearing white aprons smeared in fake blood, giving the appearance that they had just gotten off their shifts at the local deli.
“We all put on an effort to look the part; wear little outfits, put on makeup, and make a visual impact,” Stephenson said. “You see a million bands with just regular people playing. You want to set yourself apart from them, visually and musically.”
Deli Kings is sure to keep up their impressive live performances as they are currently working towards releasing their first full album. “We have like nine songs,” Morrison said. “It’s going to be recorded way nicer, and I think the songwriting is better than the other stuff.”
Michon said the drum and bass parts of the new album were laid down at The Virginia Moonwalker, a studio in Mechanicsville that’s worked with local artists such as The Milkstains and Camp Howard. The album will include some new sounds for the band. “We are definitely trying to add some more instruments that we don’t even know how to play,” Morrison said, noting that horn parts will likely make it onto the tracks.
They’re also working on putting together a tour sometime in September. It won’t be their first time on the road, as they played a handful of shows along the East Coast last October. “It’s always good to be outside of your scene,” Kidd said. The band agreed that being able to perform out of town has been one of the most rewarding parts of making music.
Regardless of your taste for meat, Deli Kings dishes out loud tunes that everyone to enjoy. They will be performing on Wednesday, July 24 at Cary St. Cafe with The Mad Doctors (details here) and on Thursday, August 15 at Wonderland with Frankie & The Witch Fingers (details here). Check ’em out.
Top Photo by David Morton, via Facebook