Delay returns with a new sense of freedom and ‘Songs for Money’
Brothers Austin and Ryan Eilbeck joined drummer Jesse Wither for sessions that yielded the long-running band’s new album, out Wednesday on Salinas Records
Delay last performed together at a 20th anniversary show at Ace of Cups in 2017, and, in the immediate aftermath, twin brothers Austin and Ryan Eilbeck considered it could be the last time the band members shared the stage under the name.
“It was kind of a feat to put it together and make it happen,” Austin said of the show, preparations for which included trekking to rehearsal in Madison, Wisconsin, where drummer Jesse Wither now lives and works as a teacher. “I think in my mind I understood then that maybe the phase of touring every summer and releasing a record every year was not the priority. … But I was always hoping for a good excuse to rope everybody into doing something.”
“I think Austin and I are both schemers,” said Ryan, who joined Austin for an early December phone interview. “So, if somebody had asked us if we were going to do [Delay] again, we probably would have been like, 'No. We’re doing other stuff in life.' But honestly, there was probably a shred, or some little spark that we would do it again, which is true in both Austin and I.”
It was especially true in Austin, Ryan continued, saying that over the last couple of years his brother repeatedly sent the same demos for the songs he envisioned populating the next Delay record.
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Both brothers managed to keep plenty busy in the downtime. Ryan launched the solo project Natural Sway, for which Austin plays drums, following with a string of excellent, shape-shifting records in addition to completing the audio engineering program at the Recording Workshop in Chillicothe, Ohio. Austin, meanwhile, continued to write songs voraciously, though he struggled with what form they might take, since everything he managed to workshop felt to him like a Delay song in waiting.
“It was super frustrating. In a lovable way, I was mad at Jesse and Ryan. I was mad at Jesse because he moved, and I was mad at Ryan because he kept writing his own damn songs,” Austin said, and laughed.
In an attempt to uncover a workaround, Austin met and rehearsed with Joe Camerlengo and Lisa Brokaw, who play together in Van Dale and Blanket Boys, a collaboration he described as a fruitful but ultimately failed first attempt at launching a band post-Delay.
“In that practice space, and with those people, it was my first step in trying to do something new, and my songs just weren’t happening at all,” Austin said. “It was like, oh, this type of song calls for people who know the vernacular of my songwriting. … I just didn’t have anywhere to put them other than Delay.”
So, in 2021, the Eilbeck brothers coordinated their work schedules with Wither’s May spring break from school, booking studio time at the Tone Shoppe in Cincinnati, Ohio, with the idea of getting together and recording as many of Austin’s long-gestating songs as possible, the oldest of which, “Switter Beat,” originated in 2016.
“And we were like ... if we get five songs, cool. If we get 11, even better,” Austin said of the sessions, which yielded the 12-track album Songs for Money, which releases on Salinas Records on Wednesday, Dec. 8. “It was very low pressure, low stakes. Let’s get together because we enjoy making music, and let’s see what happens.”
The enthusiasm with which the Delay bandmates entered into the studio carries over into the album’s revved-up introduction, the musicians bounding into pop-punk opener “Roman Candle, Both Hands” and continuing the relentlessly caffeinated pace through the gently menacing “Fire” before finally pulling back for the more patient “Sister.” “Doin’ Mints” follows, a beautifully ramshackle turn on which the song’s narrator takes “long walks with all of [their] mistakes,” the track’s unhurried pace matching them step for leisurely step. But the record’s inspirations are best captured in the album-closing “Friends’ Band,” a bouncing, playful ode to the pleasures that can be uncovered in the simple act of creating music, which is an idea both of the Eilbeck brothers have returned to more in recent years.
“For me, [songwriting] is really a ritual and a practice that keeps me grounded,” said Ryan, who, like Austin, traced part of this drive through his bloodlines and to growing up with a father, Nevan Eilbeck, who is also a prolific songwriter and musician. “I feel like I’m really lucky because of my relationship to songwriting. It’s not my livelihood, as in income, but it is my life, and it is what keeps me alive.”
“At least for me, I’m more invested in Delay as a life passenger. This thing is going to be with me my whole life, in a good way,” Austin said. "But now, instead of saying, ‘This thing needs to go somewhere,’ it’s more like, ‘This thing doesn’t need to go anywhere. It just needs to bring us joy.’ ... It’s different when you’re not constantly trying to write an album. Instead, you’re just allowing yourself to write songs, and when it’s the right time it’s like, shit, we should do something with these. I think there’s more freedom to the art we’re making. We’re just a little more free to do it how we want to do it.”