When I first heard the band Deli Hours, I was at UCLA’s Botanical Garden beer nights with a friend. It was a warm, sunny Los Angeles day and the sunlight was filtering through the biome-specific foliage.
As my friend and I walked to a little amphitheater, we heard the jazzy, melodic sounds of an unexpectedly talented duo playing at the event. For the next few songs, we settled on the grass, impressed by Otis Gordon on guitar and Lauren Juzang on vocals in the middle of the hazy summer afternoon.
The jazzy complexities of “Why Are You So Mean” and dreamy vocals of “My Baby” seem impossibly polished for such young performers, and it was an incredible performance.
Fast-forward to a few months later, after Kingdom of Pavement had just started our open mic nights. I remembered the band, and they opened as featured performers for our second ever open mic night, and brought along the full band: Lauren and Otis were joined by Jasper Richards on bass, Jakob Adler on drums, and Grace Burton, who plays trumpet and also is the band manager.
What followed was an electric, mesmerizing performance that got everyone out of their seats, and is one of the highlights from our 2019 open mic nights.
So, on a sunny November day a few months later, I sat down with the band at their deli of choice to chat with them about origin stories, the pressures on young musicians in LA, and how they created their unique, alt/jazz sound.
Music on the Colorado River
The band’s origin story starts at 10pm on the banks of the Colorado River in 2016. The group were all on a field trip for their school, and had spent the day kayaking.
Otis starts the story: “We all didn't really know each other, but we were sitting around, talking and someone brought a guitar so Jasper and I took turns playing it. Then Lauren started singing, which is how we met her for the first time.”
Lauren chimes in: “I really just wanted to be friends with you guys so badly, so when you guys liked me and my singing I was like ‘Ahh!’”
When they got home from the trip, they knew they had to do something with their combined talents, so Otis and Jasper (friends since their first year in jazz band together in 8th grade) invited Lauren over to Jasper’s house and they began recording songs in his living room.
All of Deli Hours’ songs have since been recorded in Jasper’s living room, using a simple setup with a MacBook and a few microphones. The barrier to entry in the music industry is lower with better technology and less of a need for studios to record for new artists, but that also means there’s a lot more competition competing for music listeners, and rising above the clutter of the internet is that much harder.
From there, the band recruited Jakob and Grace and acquired their name when they were at Bergamont Station. They saw a sign that read, “Cafe Hours.” They liked the name, but changed it to Deli Hours.
On Process and Pastrami
The band collaborates on all parts of the process, with Lauren often writing lyrics.
“I’m a perfectionist,” Jasper admits.
“Such a perfectionist, it’s crazy!” Lauren teases.
Of In My Dreams, Jasper says, “I was, like so nervous to release it because I had a girlfriend at the time and it was, like, kind of about her, kind of not. And I was nervous that she was going to know.”
The band creates all their own social media and promo material, and had one clever image of the band sitting on a pastrami sandwich.
“For My Baby, we messed up the release date,” Otis says. “We were promoting it, and then it turns out it takes eight days for a song to go live on Spotify and everybody was like “where is the song?”
“Oh, remember the cover art for that?” Jakob says.
The had a friend sketch a telephone — but went through endless font options since the band couldn’t decide on the best font. In fact — they still haven’t decided. “We had like 20 different ideas of every different color and every different font. And we just had so many different photos and everyone was like “No, it has to be this one, I will not compromise,” Grace says, laughing.
Other than font pickiness and Jasper’s perfectionism, the band maintains a relaxed, chill attitude when it comes to their approach to their music and careers. If people like their music — great, if they don’t, that’s fine. School is demanding, so they try not to bring that kind of pressure to their music.
Hustling in the Los Angeles Music Landscape
“We’d be nothing without Grace,” is the consensus within the band. In order to land their first gigs, Grace sent hundreds of emails and follow-ups. They played at Aviator Nation in Manhattan Beach, but The Mint was their first major LA gig.
Because the group is so young, they once played at a 21+ Battle of the Bands held at a bar and were forced to stand outside until they could play. (They played well at the battle — to the point where they were planning how to spend their $1,000 prize money before realizing they hadn’t made it past the first round. The LA version of counting your chickens before they hatch.)
But the LA music landscape is tricky to traverse. “A lot of places are pay-to-play,” Otis says. This takes advantage of young artists who don’t have money to spend on that sort of things.
The pressure to have huge social media following is also huge: despite being in the younger generation, the band isn’t a fan of this pressure. “It’s about the music for us,” Lauren says, even as the band understands maintaining a presence online is part of the game.
“Hitting 1,000 streams was the best day ever,” Lauren remembers. But that number seems small now, and the band has surpassed over 90,000 streams in over 77 countries.
The band has a presence around Los Angeles now, too: Deli Hours has played at notable venues such as The Mint, The Whiskey, The Last Bookstore, and Poppy.
Despite Grace’s excellent leadership and ability to get the band booked in awesome venues, she laments: “if these venues are only booking established artists, they’re going to miss a lot of talent.”
She’s right: if I hadn’t gone to that botanical garden on a sunny LA day, I would have never discovered Deli Hours, and now they’re easily among one of my favorite bands. Part of the reason why I started Kingdom of Pavement was because of this: your favorite musicians are out there, and we’re trying to help you find them and get to know their stories.
While the members of Deli Hours have post-high school plans — Grace to study astrophysics, Otis to study psychology, Jasper and Lauren considering NYU’s music program — Deli Hours still plans to do a PCH tour and play up and down the coast over the summer, and they have a new album coming out.
As I say goodbye to the band as they head out to play at a voter registration event, I linger at the deli, thinking about how the infrastructure in Los Angeles could shift to support rising artists. In the arms race of social media, vote with your attention and signal boost the creators who you love.
In 2020, pledge to support up-and-coming musicians. Follow Deli Hours on Instagram at @DeliHours, stream their music, and make sure to make it out to their next show.
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