The Sweet Delights go out on a limb for music’s sake

By John Benson

It’s safe to say there aren’t many bands in Northeast Ohio like The Sweet Delights.

Formed in the late ’90s by Obie Savage (vocals) and Sean Tress (keyboards, guitar), the duo started out as an oddball, sample-heavy act that recorded a few forgettable albums before taking a long hiatus. Finally, in 2006, the pair decided to become more serious about the act.

“We really just play whatever we feel like,” said Tress, a 1995 Poland High School graduate. “If a song we write turns out to be country, then it’s country. If it’s rock, it’s rock, but we’re mostly influenced by ’60s soul and a lot of ’70s funk.”

What happened next was quite unpredictable as the duo decided to expand. Sure, growth is natural but this twosome grew into an octet. So how exactly does a two-piece gain six more members and yet still keep its same sound and spirit?

“When we started putting the band back together we were saying we’re going to do this live,” Tress said. “Well, a lot of our stuff we did was easy to record, like we’d just keep adding keyboards, organs, guitars, bass. And then we said, ‘We have to go live with this, so we’re going to need a band.’ That’s when we picked up a backing band.”

With the band — George Lyras (guitar), Justin Arroyo (bass), Luke Lenz (drums), Dave Woodard (keyboards, synths), Joe Stillson (vocals) and Aspasia Lyras (vocals) — fully realized, the octet set its mind on recording a proper debut album. The result is “Sweet Science,” which receives a CD release party Friday at Cedars Lounge.

“We have a couple of songs [‘Rub it Scrub it’ and ‘Top of the Heap’] that have that ’60s soul feel,” Tress said. “We have a couple [‘Mask’] with a gospel sound, but ‘Love is on Fire’ is pretty much our defining track on the album. That’s probably the most original rock sound that we’ve done. I call it biker rock, like something from the ’70s that would be in the movie ‘Easy Rider.’”

Considering The Sweet Delight’s imaginative m lange of country, rock, soul and funk, it’s not a stretch to paint the band as falling into the current indie rock zeitgeist emanating from Brooklyn, where genre lines blur with impunity. That’s where this story becomes even more unexpected, with Tress pointing out that indeed for a few weeks every month Savage and himself call the Big Apple (specifically Brooklyn) home. Savage works for a fashion company, while Tress paints bridges.

The question that has to be asked is why not just move to New York City full-time?

“It’s because Youngstown is our home,” Tress said. “We’re trying and plugging away here, setting up some shows here in New York City, but we make the trip back and forth. We did all of the recording for ‘Sweet Science’ in Youngstown. And all of the band members are from there.”

Perhaps proving their Mahoning County loyalty, Tress and company as a joke recorded local television news reporter Stan Boney’s uplifting ’80s song “Hang in There Youngstown,” which, considering the current economic times, seems apropos. More so, it explains why Tress often finds himself working on a bridge in New York City and hoping for a better (perhaps more musical) future back home.

“Bridge painting pays good, so that’s where it’s at, but did you ever stand up in the air 200 feet on a little beam?” Tress said. “Music is what we want to do, and what we love to do.”