Want to know more about our Unboxed/DUMBO Summer Friday lineup? Luckily for you, OMA had the wherewithal to interview each and every one of the our multi-talented performers and participants. Today, we’re primed to introduce you to Bosco Delrey, a Brooklyn-based musician who Diplo quite aptly describes as “a sort of garbage can Elvis from New Jersey… teaspoon craziness, a pinch of rockabilly, and full cup of soul dressed in a leather jacket.” Pretty impressive-sounding, no? Well, get this: According to the musician himself, he was kind of a child prodigy to boot. Have we convinced you to come out and see him/rue your wasted youth yet? Yeah, we thought so.
Bosco Delrey (whose real name is Steven Orenstein and is in no way related to Lana) started gathering the Diplo-spun accolades after releasing his delightfully weird, ’50-tinged LP Everybody Wah on rapper/producer’s label, Mad Decent.
Lyrically, Delrey… Orenstein, whatever, is a mad word poet, weaving stories about runaway racecars that get mixed up with the mafia (in “My My Racecar”), a cadre of rowdy skeletons who throw a raging house party (“Glow Go The Bones”) and a really weird spin on breakfast in bed (“Lovely Sleepy Dead”). If you’re looking for straightforward love songs or gauzed-out lyrics hidden in the fuzz of ambient bedroom sound, Bosco ain’t the band for you.
Currently hard at work on his followup disc — while getting remixed by the likes of Mike D and Ad Rock of the Beastie Boys — Bosco Delrey took some time out to have a beer with OMA and talk about songwriting, expatriating to Paris and singing Elvis jams at age two. You know, when you were struggling to fingerpaint.
So I hear you’re going to be playing some new songs at this show. Are you working on a new record?
Yeah, I’m working on a new record. I’m going to go to Paris and try to finish it there. I have stockpiles of songs and then you see which ones you get bored with and which ones would be fun to play live and then finish. Buff ‘em up a little bit. Sing ‘em the right way.
So why do you want to finish the album in Paris?
I don’t know. I like it. I’m going to go and stay with [my girlfriend] there and — it’s kind up in the air whether I’m going to work with this guy or not — but I might work with some French pop dude. Help him on his record. I kind of like getting out of my usual environment to finish things. I went to Memphis for the first record, so Paris is the next logical place to go.
Most bands I know don’t finish their records in New York. I don’t know why. It just seems like if you’re going to finish a record it’s going to be this climax of all this work and if you’re just like, ‘All right, I’m done!’ and now… ‘I’m home’ [it's a letdown]. You turn off the laptop and you kind of go to bed and you’re like, ‘Yeah! That was great!’ [When you leave], it’s like going on a honeymoon.
So when you finished the last record were you living in Memphis or visiting?
Yeah, I was living there for a little over a year. I was born and raised in New Jersey — Long Valley. Growing up was pretty rural. Farms and cornfields.
Did you start making music in that rural atmosphere? Or later?
In my friend’s garage. [Our band] had a lot of names. The first, when I was like 12, we were called The Throwaways. I’ve been in a million bands, none of which ever made a record or really did much of anything.
Were they similar to your sound now? Or did you have, like, a super emo band?
No. Since I was, like, 12 I was always obsessed with Buddy Holly and that kind of thing. It was like Buddy Holly and punk bands. Our drummer was really into Bad Religion so just to appease him we played some Bad Religion songs. But, yeah, our sound was pretty similar. I have those tapes somewhere in my parents’ attic. My old practice tapes from when I was a kid. After high school I didn’t do music for a little bit — just did electronic music — and when I started writing songs again I knew how to both things. So that’s how that happened.
How did you discover Buddy Holly and Elvis and all those guys? Were your parents really into music?
I think they had some tapes lying around the house. I know that I knew how to sing a lot of those songs when I was around two.
I didn’t know people were cognizant at two.
I could talk before I was one.
What was your first word?
I don’t know… What was my first word? [My girlfriend and I] were watching some videos. She’s like, ‘It’s weird, we’re looking at this little kid in a stroller talking.’
What were you saying?
I don’t know. I’ll have to ask my mom. I have the videos somewhere. At that age, I liked that kind of music [Elvis etc], but my parents don’t know where I learned [the songs] from. I had headphones and I would just sit and listen to the radio all day. They didn’t have any kind of music like that, so they say I must have learned it from the radio.
So you knew since you were two that you wanted to sing?
Well, I just did. I didn’t know. I think I was more interested in dinosaurs. I don’t think at that age I wanted to be a singer or a musician — I just enjoyed it. Play with your toys and then play with your guitar.
Did you write songs?
I don’t know. Not at that age, no. I think I wrote a song when I was 11. It was about my friend dumping his girlfriend and us going and lighting her house on fire and beating up her dog, or something.
So it was autobiographical?
Well, he said that he did that, but obviously he didn’t. We weren’t into that severe arson at that point. I doubt he even actually had a girlfriend. His dad was in a band — like a New Jersey bar band — so they let us play after their band was done. Between a set if the bar owner would let us in. It was probably funny to watch little kids on stage. I played guitar and we had a bass player and a drummer. I think I was maybe 5 feet tall at the time. It was a pretty funny crowd to play to. And he had us play some state fairs and things like that.
So you played the song about arson? Or you had more songs?
I wrote probably — by the time I was 13 — like 15 songs. That’s what we would play. We would play a cover now and then. There were some bands in our neighborhood, one was called Texas Is The Reason, and they would kind of like listen. They were much older; they had already gotten out of college, but they would listen to our tapes and go, ‘Oh yeah, that’s pretty good or that songs sucks.’ There was a scene in New Jersey of bands — I don’t even know where they come from — they’d end up in my town playing at Bingo parlors and VFWs.
So how has your songwriting changed since age 13?
Not very different. It’s pretty much the same thing. One-trick pony. No, I don’t know how… The subjects are different? I know a little bit more about rhythms now and have a little bit more knowledge of music in general, which is either good or bad. I didn’t play with drum machines then. I don’t know… What is the difference? The lyrics were much more simple.
Image courtesy of Mad Decent