Del Water Gap is an alt-folk band based in Brooklyn, NY, formed during Hurricane Sandy by S. Holden Jaffe (lead vocals, guitars, harmonica), Charles Schlinkert (drums, percussion), and William Evans (bass, piano, background vocals). They have a brand new A/B single of two tunes recorded at the unmarked Converse Rubber Tracks studio in Williamsburg, “Cut the Rope/Lamplight.”
These songs mark a departure from Del Water Gap’s beginnings as a hushed acoustic alt-folk project, with luscious horns, electric organs and forceful performances from Schlinkert and Evans on bass and piano.
The hooks are singable, the grooves are groovable, and the highlights are the chorus to “Lamplight,”
Every time your father beat you down
You told him, “Dad it won’t be long,”
And as your tiny body slept that night, I had my lamplight burning strong
and the perfectly Jackson Browne-influenced piano vs. pedal steel dueling solos at the end of “Cut the Rope.”
I had a chance to speak with Holden and Charlie on the phone this week, and they revealed the mysteries of their band name, what it is that influences their music, and, most importantly, where to find the best steak and eggs in America.
A Q&A with Holden and Charlie of Del Water Gap
First off, as someone who’s done a lot of canoeing on the Delaware River, why did you choose the name Del Water Gap?
Holden: Well, actually, I I’ve never been there. I was in a band in high school, sort of a proggy jam band called Great Blue Heron based out of Montclair, NJ. One day we were driving to a show and on the back of a the big white box truck in front of us, in sharpiem someone had written “Del Water Gap. I saw it and I thought it was nice, and I’d been trying to think of band names at the time. That’s how it happened.
It seems like you’ve played a lot of really cool shows this year what’s your favorite recent show you’ve played?
Holden: Charlie take it away.
Charlie: I love every show we play for every different reasons. The bigger shows are a lot of fun, like when we played Bowery Ballroom–that was amazing–but there are so many other small shows that are wonderful for their own reasons. We played a livestream recently, that was really fun. We got a lot of fanbase interaction going on. All the college shows are a total joy, too! We’ve done house parties we’ve done bars, we’ve done frat houses.
Is it just the three of you guys live?
Charlie: Sometimes it’s just us three, but we also play with a great guitarist named Kit Conway who’s in a band called Stello. He splits his time between us and Stello, and we have a horn section for the bigger shows like at the Bowery and one at the Highline a couple years back.
Follow up question. Do you have a favorite venue in New York? Both to see and to play music.
Holden: First and foremost Skinny Dennis off Metropolitan Avenue in Brooklyn. It’s my favorite bar. As a band we’ve gone there a bunch and sort of nicknamed one of our songs after it. They play great old stuff: Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash, and they have bands two or three nights a week from 9 PM to 2 AM. A lot of Nashville bands stop through there. They’ll play a real venue in New York City and then do a late set at Skinny Dennis. You get your beer, your peanuts, and your honky-tonk. It’s a great place to spend an early Wednesday morning/late Tuesday Night.
Charlie: The unofficial best bar New York City!
Is there anything nonmusical that’s influenced you a lot: art, literature, etc…?
Charlie: Non-musical inspiration? Hm…The autumn breeze in your curtains.
A lot of it’s definitely musical. The rest of it is the personal relationships I have. That’s the other source of inspiration, but everything comes back to music for me. I’ve never been the kind of guy who draws on books or poetry. I’d rather sit and listen to a full album than read a book. Holden reads a lot I’m sure, though.
Holden: Personally, Kurt Vonnegut is a huge influence on my songwriting. I haven’t read a lot of him recently, but he was my first favorite author. He was the first person whose books I read in succession. He has this great sort of tongue-in-cheek, dry humor. I’m only realizing in retrospect that he really influenced a lot of the attitude that I chase as a writer and that we try to portray as a band.
The other thing for me personally is travel. I love traveling alone–even not abroad, just driving a lot–it’s recently become such a part of our band culture. We’ve been on the road a lot and I think that having a constant flow of new places has absolutely affected our creative dynamic. Places we love that aren’t necessarily superficially very interesting, a lot of towns in New England like Milford, New Hampshire, Waterville, Maine, places that you have no reason to go but we end up there, and you find these little gems—
Charlie: Shoreham, Vermont.
Holden: Yeah, Shoreham Vermont! You find these gems: bars, restaurants, people, lots of local people take care of us when we’ve been out on the road. We slept on a yoga studio a few weeks ago in New Hampshire! In Shorham we have a diner out there called the Halfway House, about an hour south of Burlington. We stopped there about a year ago and had a great meal and connected with some of the local people and then went back this year and they remembered us.
Charlie: Best steak and eggs in America.
Holden: It’s a guaranteed seven course meal.
Charlie: under $20.
Wow, now I’m hungry. Last couple questions. What’s your favorite Christmas song?
Charlie: Hm. Favorite Christmas song. I don’t know. I can tell you my favorite Christmas movie, though. It’s Die Hard.
Holden: My favorite Christmas Song is “Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel.” I’m not sure if that’s the official name… Maybe it’s called “My Little Dreidel” or “The Dreidel Song” You’ll have to do some fact checking to get the real name of that.
Last question: What’s one lyric that stands out to you when you think of the band and where you’re headed and where you’ve been?
Now, more than any dream I’ve dreamt