Family That Plays Together...
The delMars mix chops with whimsy, Chuck Berry with
the Sex Pistols, and family with friends to create their own
brand of musical stew
By Erik Hage
your free bird right here: The delMars are (l-r) Dan
Winchester, Matt Toomey, Leah Walsh, Dave Walsh and
Photo: Chris Shields
got a pretty good irony detector, but Torquemado delMar just
might be giving it to me straight about the origin of the
delMars. “We were playing this ‘pukka music,’ ” he says. “Pukka
is Hindi for raw or half-cooked...”
corrects guitarist Him delMar (named after the repeated sentiment,
“We’ll get ‘Him’ to play 12 bars”). Torquemado continues,
undeterred. “Then Him delMar says, ‘I hate this shit. No one’s
going to want to hear it.’ So we took the ‘rock pledge’: Play
the whole rock, nothing but the rock, so help us God. We put
our hands on the bass drum before every show. Fucking a-men.
That’s how we started.”
That was the genesis of it? “Yeah. Sort of.”
Here’s what is certain: The delMars are Dave Walsh (Torquemado
delMar) on guitar and vocals, John Hoffman (Him delMar) on
lead guitar, Leah Walsh (Mrs. DelMar) on lead vocals, Matt
Toomey (Drummy delMar) on drums and vocals, and Dan Winchester
(Danny delMar) on bass and vocals. Furthermore, Dave Walsh
is actually Leah’s dad, and Toomey is her husband. Got it?
And that spirit of fun and family pervades the group, albeit
tempered by a sharp dose of dead-serious musicianship. The
group also stay true to that “rock pledge”; during a Sunday
night rehearsal in a subterranean rec room (“delMars Mission
Control”) adorned with art, child drawings and shelves of
vinyl records, they will wrap traces of traditional folk,
surf, blues and even country in a ripping, unmistakably loud
How would the delMars themselves characterize their sound?
A volley of answers comes from all corners of the rec room:
“Loud and fast!” “Varsity rock action!” “Guitar army!” “Uneasy
listening!” “Just a fucking rock band, y’know?”
hate when people say they’re an original band and list all
these bands [that they sound like],” says Winchester, who,
along with bass duties, is the group’s de facto manager.
tell people the [Sex] Pistols and the B-52s with Clarence
White and Chuck Berry on guitar,” Hoffman chimes in with a
perhaps contradictory shrug. (He is actually pretty accurate
in his description.)
The essence of the group is a combination of youthful play
and salty experience. Leah’s stage presence combines B-52s
cheekiness with denim-and-Doc Martens toughness, while Dave
has the rumpled, shaggy, benevolently witty appeal of a really
cool dad. (The father and daughter represent the age span
of the group: 24 to 49.) Hoffman and Dave have played together
for several years, and their lithe guitar interplay speaks
to that relationship, while the youthful rhythm section of
Toomey and Winchester has an unmistakably nervy punk energy,
with the kinetic Toomey often clopping out a powerful, surflike
battery of tribal drumbeats.
But Dave wants to clarify how he ended up in a blistering
rock group with his daughter: “I called Matt [Toomey, his
son-in-law] and said, ‘What’s the key to success in the music
business?’ And he had the answer: ‘Chicks out front.’ ”
This wasn’t the first time that father and daughter had performed
together, though. “We did a lot of car singing,” Leah points
out. They both recall “Do You Wear Your Jock a Lot,” a ’60s
song by underground folksters the Fugs, as an early carbound
hit. (The song that contains that refrain is actually called
“Boobs a Lot.”) Dave also remembers that, when Leah was a
teenager, “We did a folk music thing where we were wildly
reviled. . . . That was at the GottaGetGon folk fest.” Leah
is quick to point out that her dad raised her on a steady
musical diet of bluegrass and traditional folk.
In my dogged efforts to conduct a conventional interview,
I ask about other influences, almost flinching in expectation.
“It’s more like, what haven’t we been influenced by
than what we have,” shoots back Hoffman. Dave shouts, “We’re
definitely influenced by [Albany roots-rockers] the Coal Palace
Kings! They got us a nice gig so we want to say a lot of nice
things about them guys! They’re our major influence!” The
rec room explodes in laughter and raucous agreement. (The
delMars played with the Coal Palace Kings at a recent Brand
New Opry show at Valentine’s.)
The group have a bunch of originals for their debut album,
which they will record in the high-tech barn-loft environs
of Arthur Scott Verner’s DMS studios in mid-December. But
their set is also interspersed with some choice covers, as
Dave notes: the Blasters’ “Long White Cadillac” (“The closest
thing to a straight-up cover we do”), Neal Sedaka’s “Calendar
Girl” (“It’s very fast”), “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” (“Has
kind of a Johnny Cash-type flavor to it”) and “Coal Tattoo”
(“A traditional folk song that we do almost like a surf version
The band also make it clear that they didn’t exactly morph
overnight from rec-room project to club-ready rock band. “It
took a long time,” Hoffman claims. “We had a flutist,”
Toomey remembers, almost wistfully. “We had a banjo . . .”
Hoffman adds in fellow reminiscence. “That was part of the
pukka thing,” points out Dave, bringing them back down to
earth. Hoffman also remembers an early formative stage of
the group down at the old Miss Mary’s Art Space home on New
Scotland Avenue. (All the members have strong ties to Miss
Mary’s, but make it clear that the delMars are a completely
separate and outside endeavor.) “There was a blues jam, and
Matt and I would usually get there and play for that. Then
I started playing here [in the rec room], playing pukka music.
Then we took the rock pledge and Dan came on.”
started to come together when we got Dan, really,” Dave adds.
“It really solidified when Dan and Leah started singing together.
It solidified into this format; it was obvious that it was
something that resembled music rather than bullshit, which
is what we had been doing.”
had a lot of success so far,” Winchester says. “We don’t go
out looking for shows. We’ve had some really good gigs and
people were really happy.” Leah hopes that once they have
the CD out, they can start playing even more venues.
Ultimately, though, what is it really like having family
members—a dad, daughter and son-in-law—in a band? “Convenient,”
Dave states. “We’re doing laundry right now,” Toomey chips
in brightly. Leah notes, “It’s really funny: Someone will
tell a dirty joke, then my dad will scratch himself and be
like, ‘Fellas! Come on, there is a lady in here.’ ”
of press time, the next scheduled gig for the delMars is Dec.
12 at Valentine’s in Albany, opening for locally bred pop
heroes the Figgs.
A LITTLE BOOKHOUSE IN YOUR SOUL: Whimsical postpunk
bigshots They Might Be Giants released a children’s
book in October (published by Simon & Schuster no
less), Bed Bed Bed. Their songs over the years
have brought back a smidge of childlike wonder for their
legions of adult listeners, so who better to speak to
our still-open-minded youth? Hey, they may even inspire
the next generation of artists to include a fun-loving
quotient in their creative work. The world could only
Anyhow, TMBG performed for free last week next door
to the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza in celebration
of their new work, to a crowd of young and old alike.
It seems as though no one in the 400-plus crowd missed
the now-empty Talbot’s store, which was the venue for
their performance. (There’s a song in there somewhere.)
COME ON LIKE A FLAME: Changing Spaces Gallery, in
Albany’s Center Square Neighborhood, will hold its second
annual Fire and Ice Festival on Feb. 7, 2004 (yep, that’s
the February upcoming—better get used to that number)
and they seek submissions from artists, poets, musicians,
filmmakers, “performers of all kinds, one-person and
group acts, and spectacles.” No one should feel left
out of that list, and if you do, submit your work anyhow.
The spectacle category casts a wide net.
If you attended the debut Fire and Ice Festival last
year, you’ll recall that it was a smash. Though the
weather was frigid, people walked the streets—many with
their lit candles in hand (which signified something,
but it escapes me now)—from art space to club, partaking
in this unique offering of varied and creative art and
performances. One could sit in on a poetry reading in
one cozy space (anything was considered cozy compared
to the weather outside) and a play in another. Since
many of the venues were galleries, art viewing was always
So don’t miss out on being a part of this year’s event.
The deadline is Dec. 5 at noon—no latecomers accepted,
and early submissions receive particular notice. Call
433-1537 for specifics.
AND COMMITMENTS: More submission info (perhaps Albany
has more going on than people give it credit for, no?),
this time for potential inclusion in the next issue
of Screed, put out by the diligent and hardworking
Miss Mary’s folks (If you’re still unaware of Miss Mary’s
or Screed, go to http://missmarysartspace. tripod.com).
The deadline for their fourth issue, hitting the streets
on Dec. 23, is Dec. 8; so painters, illustrators, photographers,
musicians (a free CD is included in the publication),
poets, you get the gist, send your materials to Miss
Mary’s, 2B Irving St., Albany, NY 12202. They also run
personals and classifieds free of charge, so get that
info to them tout de suite.