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'Bird' Brains: Deleted Scenes

DELETED SCENES HAVE been working on their debut album, “Birdseed Shirt,” for a long time – at least in indie-rock years.

Having recorded the basic tracks at Magpie Cage studio in Baltimore in September 2007, the D.C.-born quartet spent roughly 10 months mixing, tweaking and re-tweaking the album. In that time, three members of Deleted Scenes relocated to Brooklyn and two of them have come a few hairs away from completing graduate degrees.

Luckily, “Birdseed Shirt” was worth the group’s relative struggle to finish it.

The songs Deleted Scenes recently posted to their MySpace page are surprisingly ambitious – delicately psychedelic Americana that makes judicious use of musical gizmos and gadgets to instill an autumnal stoner vibe. Songs like “Fake ID” are steeped in blurry digital haze, as if somebody tried to play the Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory song “Pure Imagination” through a modem circa 1997.

But when they started up three years ago, Deleted Scenes was a little more straightforward. Their self-titled EP featured a few catchy but straight-laced country-tinged ballads. “I just looked at that as a demo,” explains multi-instrumentalist Fatty (aka Matt Dowling). “Those were all songs that Dan [Scheuerman, singer and guitarist] had written by himself right when the band started.” But after playing some shows, the writing process became more integrated and the songwriting started to go in a different – more unique – direction.

Photo courtesy The Deleted ScenesWhen it came time to record, the band realized that they wanted somebody to help them get closer to the ideas they were bouncing around, but didn’t have a lot of money. “[Producer J. Robbins] seemed down to do it, but we knew we didn’t have the budget to do a full record with him and have him mix it,” said Dowling.

So the band made an unlikely choice. They contacted Lynn – a surname-less Philadelphia-based musician who had written and recorded a lavishly produced surrealist pop album called “Sukey Jump” under the name The Rude Staircase while living in D.C. during ’04. [Full disclosure: I played bass on The Rude Staircase’s CD.]

“We just loved the production on that record,” said Dowling. “It’s definitely an odd fit, we’re pretty straight ahead indie-rock. And Lynn hates indie rock.”

But while Lynn came equipped with a ton of bizarre ideas to augment and complement the songs – strange pterodactyl scream effects, fizzling dub-delay – he hadn’t acquired a ton of technical savvy.

“Lynn isn’t an audio engineer; he doesn’t have that much experience,” said Dowling. “But he knows exactly what he wants. It just takes a long time to get there. For me, it was one of the most patience-testing processes I’ve ever been through.”

But when asked whether it was worth it to spend every weekend sweating over a mixing board in Philadelphia with a guy they barely knew, Dowling doesn’t hesitate. “Yeah, definitely.”

There’s no release date scheduled for “Birdseed Shirt” because no label has picked it up – yet.

“I’m confident somebody will,” said Dowling. “We have a few offers on the table that I don’t really want to disclose that at this point. I don’t see it not being released in 2008.”

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