Del Suelo
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Del Suelo

Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2016 | SELF | AFM

Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada | SELF | AFM
Established on Jan, 2016
Band Alternative Funk

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"Sask Books Reviews"

When I began I Am Free – Saskatchewan writer, wanderer, and musician Del Suelo’s “slow-art” project that combines text and an audio CD in a compact hardcover package – I was perplexed. What was this? Autobiography, I surmised. But by the second essay – or chapter, or linked story – a plot evolved and it began to read more like a novella. Knowing the genre of a text isn’t critical to its enjoyment, but as both a writer and reviewer I’m perhaps unfairly keen to “name that genre”. I quickly came to appreciate the blurred lines and the vagueness (ie: we never learn which Saskatchewan city the story’s set in), especially as they emulate the dream-like text.

I turned to the author’s own website (www.delsuelo.net) for explication, and learned that Del Suelo (aka Eric Mehlsen) describes the text portion of his mesmerizing book\CD combo as a novel. The CD’s ten songs correspond to their same-named chapters. In Del Suelo’s words: “The songs and prose lean on each other in a way that together create a sense of depth that I’ve never been able to formulate with either medium.” Well said, young man.

The first chapter, “By Myself,” introduces Del Suelo’s narrator and protagonist – an urban office worker dissatisfied with his white collar career and uninspired life – meditating on the tiny cactus he bought on impulse. “It took thousands of years for it to become a resilient, symmetrical masterpiece – and now it sits on display as an ornament in my office.” He walks home through the snowy streets beneath a low-lying sun and observes his surroundings. “There’s a pile of snow-covered leaves in the front yard of one of the houses I pass …” It’s non-dramatic, everyday stuff.

Like many of us who live alone, the narrator makes simple meals and plops on the sofa before settling into whatever’s caught his attention on Netflix. He’s lonely, and wades into melancholy. And then there’s an all-night supermarket; a papaya; and a girl with a “vintage lavender jacket with a cheap faux-fur collar,” a lip ring, and a counter-culture lifestyle. Hello! By the end of chapter two I’m tempted to play the CD to discover what the author’s created to accompany this text, but no, reading first, then listening.

Del Suelo’s penned a compelling story. His work’s often poetic (ie: deep melancholy is “like the blackened forest after a fire, or the ruins of a village after a storm”) and frequently insightful (ie: the narrator smokes because he likes “the mild comfort of having something to with [his] hands.”). The book quietly makes a case against accepting the status quo – degree, job, home, materialism. It promotes living solely as “a human with a heartbeat.”

Then there’s the music. I played the CD, then played it twice more. Sublime. The author wrote most of the songs, sings them, and plays all but drums on each. He also produced the recordings. I Am Free is some kind of masterpiece. I’m illumined, Del Suelo. More, please. - Shelley A. Leedahl


"Del Suelo is living the dream after quitting his career in pursuit of passion"

In high school, Erik Mehlsen was obsessed with playing guitar. Then in Grade 12, he got burnt out teaching guitar lessons.

He learned that “when you put an obligation to make money on a passion you have, it can kind of turn it sour.”

His parents advised work before play. So he got a business management degree, then a job in commercial real estate, playing in bands on the side (Andino Suns among them).

“I kind of came to this agreement that, for a while, (music is) just going to be a thing that I do,” said Mehlsen, who performs as Del Suelo. “And then maybe one day when I get my ducks in a row, it will make sense to pursue music in a way that I don’t have to compromise.”

In December 2014, at age 27, Mehlsen took a “blind leap of faith.”

He quit his job and sold his house, turning his comfortable situation on its head, because of a nagging feeling: “‘Alright, there’s an evolution of my emotional and spiritual self that needs to happen and it isn’t going to happen in this situation.’”


That experience loosely inspired I Am Free, Mehlsen’s first novel, which accompanies the same-titled album — both of which he created after getting over the “deer in the headlights” shock of losing his routine.

I Am Free is a joint album/novel project.
I Am Free is a joint album/novel project. DON HEALY / REGINA LEADER-POST
Mehlsen sifted through 150 songs he’d written, ultimately narrowing down to his favourite 10. Then he headed into a recording studio a few hours at a time, sometimes a week separating sessions.

With creativity flowing and time to burn, he wrote a short story to accompany each song. With some rejigging, the short stories became the novel, published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing.

The story is about a young man questioning his “values and the world that’s been handed to (him.)”

“You talk to any person in their late 20s and there’s this whole identity crisis thing about, ‘Holy s–t, what AM I doing with my life?’” said Mehlsen. “I think a lot of people can relate to it.”

But “we’re all so scared to make mistakes,” and many people don’t have the luxury of even considering their emotional well-being.

“It felt incredibly decadent and incredibly selfish to section off a year of my life just to think about my life,” said Mehlsen.

But his was not a snap decision. It was a calculated risk supported by a safety-net savings account.

For other people considering a plunge like this, Mehlsen recommends a similarly careful gamble: Figure out what you’re interested in; do some research; find a mentor; shadow someone in their work. Start keeping a journal and (he recognizes this idea sounds “cheesy”) “have conversations with the universe.”

Del Suelo’s album/novel release party is Thursday at The Exchange. The opening bands start at 7:30 p.m. Del Suelo is on at 9 p.m. and will be performing the album in its entirety. - Leader Post - Ashley Martin


Discography

I Am Free - LP + Novel, 2016 
Songs / Chapters:
1. By Myself
2. Lavender Girl
3. New Contest
4. This Love is Free
5. Last Call
6. Holy Bridges
7. Lorelei
8. I Am Free
9. Darling of the Desert
10. Sundaze

Photos

Bio

“Smart, entertaining, and so skilled!”

These are words that describe the elegantly funky, yet intricately raw sounds of Del Suelo - a band not afraid to defy convention in order to make an artistic statement, or for the sake of a good dance party. 

Since 2016, the band has taken their alternative-jazz-pop sounds across Western Canada and Northern Europe (Germany, Luxembourg, Denmark, Austria), performing everywhere from festival stage to intimate cafe.

In 2016 Del Suelo released a 10 chapter/10 song combination project titled I Am Free — an innovative art project forcing the collision of the worlds of the music and literature. The project received an honourable mention at the Tidewater Independent Book Awards (2106) and the Hollywood Book awards (2017). The text was translated and released in Germany in May of 2017, and will be released on Spanish in 2018.

The songs from I Am Free have been played on CBC Radio 1, Campus Radio across Canada, and public radio in Germany (RadioEins). The song “Chapter 3 – New Contest” was Top Track’s number 1 song for over two weeks.

The band’s lead singer, guitarist, and principle author, Erik Mehlsen, has spent the better part of the last decade touring as a member of the internationally successful “The Dead South”, as well as performing with and writing songs for WCMA Award winners “The Andino Suns”. On bass is Danny Jones (Blake Berglund, Tim Vaughn, Regina Symphony Orchestra) on drums is Brian Warren (Andino Suns, The Down Home Boys) and on Keys is Jon Neher (Nick Faye and The Deputies, Orphan Mothers).

Buzz is starting to circulate around the band’s upcoming release “The Musician’s Compass: A 12 Step Programme”, a new novel and record combo,  which is anticipated to be released in the summer of 2018.

Band Members