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Delicate Steve
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by: Dean Van Nguyen - March 14, 2011

Untitled Document

Delicate Steve is the pseudonym of Steve Marion. At least it is sometimes. Other times it can mean a number of different things, but more on that later. Hailing from New Jersey, Marion has emerged as one of the Garden State’s most exciting prospects. Blending trippy percussion loops with catchy avant-garde rhythms, he’s tearing up the pop rulebook, and creating a buzz that has been felt down the turnpike and throughout the five boroughs.

Releasing just a handful of tracks thus far in his fledgling music career, the 23-year-old Marion has spent much of his life sculpting his craft. He recorded his first “bedroom EP” on a four-track, aged 12, and now plays over 40 instruments, the first being the piano. “I took piano lessons growing up and then decided to switch to the guitar,” says Marion, who admits he is living a dream by making a living performing. “Playing music ‘professionally’ or having the opportunity to make a living from music is something I always thought about and pursued and I think in pursuing that I learned to be fulfilled by playing music for fun.”

These days he goes by the name of Delicate Steve, though the name has also been used to refer to his entire live band, or occasionally just to refer to his recordings. So who or what exactly is Delicate Steve right now? “At this point I would say Delicate Steve means a few different things,” he says. “Maybe ultimately it is a name for the music, which goes beyond who created it and who is playing it. When I made [the upcoming album] Wondervisions that was the name I wanted to use because I liked it, and it was just me composing and recording the music in my room. I do consider myself 'Delicate Steve', but in addition to that Delicate Steve live is a band it's a very real unified band. And we all know each other from growing up together and being in bands together and recording each other’s bands, and playing music together all the time. When we all play together live I would say that everyone playing the music is Delicate Steve.”
Hardly delicate, Marion’s music is completely self assured in its eccentricities. ‘The Ballad of Speck and Pebble’ for example is a funky upbeat stomper with some natty bass riffs. Single ‘Butterflies’ is built around a manic, skittish beat and mangled lead guitar. At first all the nervous tension can be quite jarring, but on repeated listens, it’s totally infectious. “I think it's an upbeat and motivating song,” says Steve of ‘Butterflies’. “The melody is strong which makes it catchy, and I think those are all good qualities in a single.”

Unlike most classic pop tracks though, ‘Butterflies’, like all of Delicate Steve’s music, does not utilise any vocals. For an artist embracing the genre, it seems like a disadvantage. But Steve rejects that idea. “I am trying to express myself through music,” he insists. “I think all musicians face the same challenge trying to really express themselves - on any instrument. I don't think lyrics are the thing that's getting the point across in songs that have words, to me it's about the feeling and how they're being sung. It's like if you were to watch someone cover some classic rock song nowadays, you are hearing all of the same words but they are probably missing the point singing it.”

With there being such a small and varied body of work to pick through for clues to what his upcoming debut album Wondervisions will sound like, fans have been speculating as to what direction Delicate Steve will settle on, if any. Released this February via the Luaka Pop label, I ask Steve what we should expect. “I'm not sure how to answer that,” he retorts. “It depends what everyone's expectations are. I would say maybe people shouldn't read too much about it and just listen to it. It's music that I made in my room. I had lots of fun making it and I'm really happy with it."

What is for certain is that the album will be a perfect document of Steve Marion at the time of its creation. Writing as recorded, he looked only inwards for inspiration, never looking beyond the song he was working on at that particular time. “Everything is done one track at a time. The song writing is happening as the music is being recorded. Sometimes I have ideas for a song or a part while I'm away from any instruments and it will sit for awhile in my head until I get a chance to record it.”

A video has been released to promote the title track of the album, which depicts a one-on-one basketball game between Manion and Nat Baldwin of Dirty Projectors. Shot with a stylish retro feel, the video is the perfect partner to the track’s old fashioned synth squawks. “I had an idea that the song ‘Wondervisions’ would go great over footage of people playing basketball. Around the same time I was trying to play some ball with Nat, and had just met [director] Carlos Charlie Perez. I talked to Nat about the idea of making a video of us playing basketball together and he was down, and when I pitched it to Carlos he was excited and had lots of good ideas for the vibe. He came up with the Hoosiers-themed style. We both felt the same about the video being done in a genuine and sincere way, so that it didn't come off like ‘here are two hip musicians being ironic in vintage clothes trying to play sports,’ Hopefully it doesn't come off like that.” Steve admits to being a huge Dirty Projectors fan (“when I first listened to them I felt so excited because I hadn't heard new music that gave me that feeling!”) and describes Nat as a “truly amazing basketball player.”

With the new album on the way, and a tour with popular experimental rockers Akron/Family also to look forward to in 2011, it’s onwards and upwards for Steve Marion and his group of Delicate musicians. “That's already good enough for me,” he says modestly. “I'm really excited things have been great so far.” With local fandom on the rise, I wonder if such reserved goals will soon require revaluation.


“At this point I would say Delicate Steve means a few different things,” he says. “Maybe ultimately it is a name for the music, which goes beyond who created it and who is playing it."

Delicate Steve

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what it is

Smart and Infectious Avant-garde Pop