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Folk rockers Delta Rae defend their work and major-label contract

Thick Skin

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Delta Rae, the young folk rock band hailing from Durham, N.C., has been the subject of slings and arrows from the press since shortly after their inception in 2009. Here you have a group of good-looking young people performing electrically charged folk and seemingly riding on the coattails of Mumford & Sons, who were at their peak in popularity at that time. The genre had crossed over onto the pop charts, and like-minded bands had to fight for relevance in the indie world.

Things became especially heated for the band in print and online in 2012 when Sire Records released the band's first full-length album, Carry the Fire. In the eyes of many indie-music fans, Delta Rae were simply posers who'd landed a major-label contract before paying their dues. Vocalist Elizabeth Hopkins is aware of the reality of the situation.

"I think that if you sign up to do a job like ours, in the public eye, you have to accept that everyone is going to have an opinion, and it's not all going to be good," she states soberly. "I think any art that is interesting is going to divide people, and the same people are going to hate you for the reason that other people love you. We have always just tried to stay conscious of that fact. I cannot think of one band anywhere in the world that everyone I know likes. I think it's just par for the course and something that comes with the territory.

"It's funny looking back on it now," she continues. "Because yeah, there will always be people that resent you for going to a major label or selling out, but things aren't that much different for us now than when we first started out. We are the same people we've always been — and Warner Bros. has tried to help us out in any way that they can. It's still just six people in a van loading our own instruments and playing a show, and [we're] gracious to the folks that show up to hear us. At the end of the night, we load our equipment back into the back and then travel to the next town to do it all over again."

For all of the security that many assume working with a major label gives a band, there is just as much trepidation. It isn't rare for Warner Bros. to fire a band they feel are taking up more resources than they're worth. For all of their promise and photogenic appeal, Delta Rae is still waiting for a hit to materialize. There has been precious little airplay for their singles so far, and no matter how positive the band members are about their future, it must cross their minds that the clock is ticking.

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"Our relationship is great," Hopkins says. "We have been able to execute issues that we've had that would have taken much longer if we were still on our own, like the video for our song 'Scared.' We were able to work with wonderful partners thanks to Warner Bros. They've offered advice at the moment that we needed it. When you are living on the road, it can become like a bubble. When we were working on the new album [After It All], we couldn't tell what was good or bad, because we were just too close to the project. Warner Bros were able to offer really solid advice to us on that."

The South remains Delta Rae's strongest hotbed of loyal concertgoers, so they'll stop once more in Charleston with the knowledge that, even if the venue isn't packed to the rafters, they are on friendly ground. Charleston is a city the band has held close to their hearts for years, as it was one of the first cities outside their home state to fully embrace the band. And they were rocked just like everyone else by the horrible tragedy that occurred last week at Mother Emanuel AME Church. As a means to express their outrage and sadness at the situation, they wrote and recorded a protest song, "All Good People".

The members of the band are quoted in the press release for the song as saying, "All good people must raise their voices. We need to protect every member of our community from hate and racism ... These actions do not represent our values."

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