The word alone makes them laugh. O. Deletron, a Fort Worth-based band comprised of seven music veterans, has heard the word “supergroup” thrown around, but the musicians are not too keen on that descriptor.
“I find it a little humorous,” pianist Thomas Horton says. “If you go to our shows, you’ll see that we’re not exactly a powerhouse as far as turnout goes.”
Or, as another band member puts it, to guffaws from his bandmates, “Isn’t a supergroup just a bunch of assholes who were kicked out of other bands?”
The “s word” aside, the members of O. Deletron admit that seven can sometimes be a crowd. There’s lead singer Aaron Bartz, Jason Flynn on guitar and backup vocals, Patrick Higgins on bass, Jeff Williams also on guitar, “resident noisemaker” (Higgins’ coinage) Tyler Walker adding synth and sound, drummer Ricky Del Toro and Horton. Many of the musicians have played in bands together before, albeit in much smaller groups.
“I’m used to playing loud, bombastic punk rock music in a band that is never bigger than a trio,” del Toro says. “So it’s been a learning process.”
And there’s the matter of scheduling.
“The logistics can be a challenge,” Higgins adds. “And, you know, seven people means seven egos.”
But the group, which recently released its debut EP Subscription TV, has found a groove, with a throwback to the late '90s indie and post-rock bands that they loved.
“It’s new, it’s different, but it’s also familiar,” Higgins says. “I want something a little weird, but it’s gotta serve a purpose beyond just being different; it’s gotta create a feeling.”
One of the feelings synonymous with the band’s work thus far is nostalgia. Before Flynn, a drummer for the band Tame...Tame and Quiet, moved to Denton over two decades ago, he and his friends filmed a bunch of footage of themselves hanging out and goofing around in Chicago. Decades later, he revisited that Super-8 and video footage and composed accompanying music for him and his cohorts’ charades. Bartz added the lyrics, creating a dreamlike sound replete with reverb and moody, meandering melodies.
“It started out as a little experiment, then became a concept,” Bartz says. “Now, everything we work on is based on some concept.”
Flynn and Bartz added Higgins on bass, and the band began to grow as the trio added a drummer, a guitarist and more friends from the music scene, until they finally reached seven. For April Fool’s Day, Flynn texted the group and joked that he was adding yet another band member.
“I fell for it,” Horton says, laughing bitterly. “I was ready to quit.”
He didn’t, and the members O. Deletron (which takes its name from a rare form of Pacific Ocean squid) have started to enjoy the value of seven artists. Higgins thinks it’s partly due to their common tastes.
“Everyone is really into the songs Jason was writing,” he says. “It was refreshing for us, because it’s that turn of the century, early 2000s stuff that we all really love.”
Higgins points to bands like Chicago’s Gastr del Sol, a '90s band that defies classification and has had a big influence on O. Deletron’s forthcoming record. Like Gastr del Sol, the band plays fast and loose with the standard song format.
“We’re really into the idea of music being art,” Higgins says. “We want to be a little more loose, a little more expressive while still being accessible. So it may have that pop format of verse chorus verse, but we’ll experiment with the sound in and around that format.”
Their debut output is rife with that experimentation, as is their merch table, for which the band has adopted a garage sale format. They bring secondhand items like old art, odd statuettes and iPods, use a labelmaker to slap the band name on everything, and put it up for sale for what they call “a collective of beautiful shit.”
“We didn’t have any merch, and we didn’t have any music, so it was a way to get funds with our sense of humor,” Horton says of the offbeat strategy. “And we’ve sold more merch than I have in any of my other bands.”
Higgins admits that sense of humor — and their music — may not be what everyone is looking for.
“We’re only writing for ourselves, and that’s kind of freeing,” he says. “No one listens to the music we like anymore except for old guys like us.”
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The youngest member of the group is 40, many members are married with children, and O. Deletron boasts over a century of combined music experience in Arlington, Denton and Fort Worth punk, rock and pop bands. That may be why the “supergroup” moniker is tempting, but the septet has no illusions about their band conquering the world.
“Life kind of runs its own plan for you sometimes, and you end up in a place where you just want to do music because you have to do music,” Higgins says. “Like every other artist, we want validation, but we’re just doing this now because we love it.”
For the bassist, it’s a return to music after an extended hiatus, and for others, O. Deletron is just one of the many bands in which they play. Yet for everyone, there is something different about this band — and the size is a big part of it.
“We’re reaching the point where everything is very organic, and everyone is bringing their own flavor to it,” Horton says. “There’s something remarkably fun about the fact that seven people can get together and create something that works.”