The statement is as follows: "Please do not buy our album. It's not for sale. We are not merchants. We prefer a non-monetary exchange. We want to know who you are. We would rather have a story or a poem or a photograph or a song than a $10 bill. This is communication."
Deelay Ceelay are certainly not the first musical endeavor to part with a recording for free, but few, if any, have done so with such style and purpose. The local duo's website (deelayceelay.com) is a both a visual wonder and a vehicle for well-penned band propaganda. It's also where you can obtain their debut EP, Thank You, without prying open your wallet to do so. There are no less-than-subtle nudges toward PayPal donation, or an In Rainbows pay-what-you-can model; this is music unthreatened by commerce, or as they put it, this is communication.
"I think a lot of what we do in this band is informed by what we didn't like in our older bands, specifically in terms of being merchants," explains Chris Lael Larson. "We'd tour a bunch and get in this dynamic where we'd play a show, get off the stage, and the first thing that comes to mind is 'What did we sell?' I came to really resent that."
So when Deelay Ceelay debuted last year—fittingly at the TBA Festival—they were armed with a smartly packaged CD/DVD, and no intention to be a slave to their merchandise table. While not all bands have the financial freedom to part with a recording without seeing a dime in return (both Larson and Delaney Kelly are employed full time, a rarity for artists in this economy), the duo wanted to break away from the unseen pitchman pressure of using live shows as medium for slinging product, and for the focus to be primarily on their art.
Less performers than components in a multi-platform presentation, the music of Deelay Ceelay is a natural extension of the instrumental gauntlet previously thrown down by early recordings from Hella and Ratatat; a free-form exploration of sounds not hindered by vocal direction or the traditional build and break of most post-rock acts. Equal parts film and music, their live show is a wondrous, percussion-heavy visual assault of dual live drummers, copious samples, and an over-stimulating series of flashing video projections that blanket the band while they perform. These visual elements feature a vast array of swirling Day-Glo kaleidoscopes of repeating shapes and patterns, a video companion that impeccably intertwines with the band's frayed electronic sound. All these elements come together seamlessly when the band sends "Sloop John B" to the bottom of a hazy sea of cracking electronics and live tribal drumming, in a seemingly simplistic Beach Boys mashup that utilizes the band's tenacious percussion to add a new layer to the classic song.
There is no denying that Thank You is absolute in its title and intention. It's both a heartfelt offering to prospective fans, and a devoted love letter to the chain of artists that have influenced the band's musical direction. "Having been in this music thing for a while, there are so many people whose work has inspired or influenced us," Larson says. "So that became the concept of the album: 'What do we have to give back?'"