Brent Delventhal, the songwriter, singer and guitarist behind the eclectic rock band Warren Hixson, answers the door to his Fulton home slowly.
With his long blond mane and laid-back smile, it’s easy to mistake him for an old-school, California hippie. But that’s not his style, certainly not musically. His band, Warren Hixson, contains genres as varied as sci-fi, surf rock, punk, psychedelic and even dub and folk influences.
“Warren Hixson was always a catchall for stuff that wouldn’t fit with bands I was playing with,” he says, listing former rock bands going back to his student days at the University of Florida such as Tadpole Fad and Crusher Cupcake. The Hixson name comes from his two middle names, he says: “Warren is my grandfather and Dr. Hixson saved my dad’s leg when he was in a skiing accident.”
After college, Delventhal was working in Colorado as a cabinetmaker when the economy shifted and he decided to check out Richmond, staying at a friend’s Bon Air home in 2009. “I had just turned 30, needed a root canal, and I had no insurance at the time,” he recalls. So he got a job at Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market as a dishwasher and had the dental work done. Now he works there as a full-time cook.
His last album of new material, 2013’s “Cruel Whims,” features songs written in Colorado that showcase his melodic sensibilities. Delventhal has a high, expressive singing voice as equally affecting during soft moments or loud (“I can do a pretty good Neil Young,” he mentions). But he never had a full band for the Hixson material until he approached local bassist Kemper Blaire from Sports Bar, another great live rock band of which Delventhal is a member. Blaire helped him assemble a group that includes talented solo artist Nelly Anderson, Ryan Jones on keyboards and Eric Breeden on drums.
Anderson used Delventhal as a producer for her own work, 2012’s “Ish Ish.” “Initially, we had this camaraderie over having the same kinds of Casio keyboards,” Anderson says, laughing. “And we’re both pretty uncompromising.”
“We like to find ourselves somewhere where we didn’t plan to be with a song,” Delventhal adds. “Our dream is to be able to [score] movies.”
To better appreciate Delventhal’s music, you must acknowledge his work ethic: This is a guy who takes his time on records and who’s into customizing his sound — the careerist approach doesn’t appeal to him. He wants to make great records.
Inside the home he shares with his fiancee, vinyl albums by Elmore James, John Prine and Albert Ayler lie near a stereo and wood stove. In a back-room studio there are some boxy microphone preamps Delventhal built from kits with an electrical engineer friend and drummer, Joe Lunsford (Peace Beast). He’s also modified microphones to make them competitive with vastly more expensive models.
“Most of the gear he has is modest, but he really spends time with it,” Lunsford says. “[I’m impressed] that he works with so many different people. And everything he plays for me is totally different. He tends to be able to make it work.”
Delventhal doesn’t like to record too much inside a computer either.
“Using a lot of outboard gear is a way for me to feel like it’s my own,” the singer says. “Like it’s an arts and craft project.”
Warren Hixson has enough new material for two albums, and Delventhal hopes to decide soon on 10 tracks for the next vinyl and cassette release, mixing them by summer’s end. “It’s way groovier, there’s stuff that’s aggressive and stuff that’s really laid back,” he says of the new songs, noting the band worked together on arrangements.
“I feel like it’s happier, I’m in a good place,” he says. “I think even the leftovers will be baller.”
And while he likes listening to rock records, he says, he’s only marginally interested in making that kind of record: “I want to make a record with different instrumentation, that’s kaleidoscopic and strange. Everyone gets sad, riled up, whiskey drunk sometimes. I like for the music to be an outlet for all of it, ideally.”