After almost 8 years, 4 albums and a mutable cast of band members, Deer Tick has proven that they are an ever-evolving force in music. Their recent tribute project Deervana, perhaps one of the more literal contributions to the grunge rock revival, now seems to be a nod to Deer Tick’s decidedly heavier sound on their latest album, Divine Providence. The Rhode Island band has often been described as alt-country, or indie-folk, but anyone who has seen them live knows that they are anything but your traditional American folk band. Their relentless on-stage energy and ballad turned vocal cord-shredding grunge tunes like “Christ Jesus,” illustrate how this band refuses to be nailed down by description. Many of their past songs, like “Dirty Dishes” from War Elephant, have a definite American folk or indie rock feel, but there is an undeniably dark aspect to Deer Tick’s work that made their Nirvana covers nearly flawless. Their fourth record, Divine Providence is a true reflection of this seemingly capricious sound. At first listen, new dynamic anthems like, “Main Street,” “Miss K,” and a personal favorite, “Let’s All Go to the Bar,” seem like an invitation to do just that, with an ability to make you want to cozy up and do the twist while diving straight into a sweat and beer-drenched mosh pit. This is a band you must see live.
With their fourth studio album Divine Providence due for release next week, Deer Tick is currently in the middle of a cross country tour, which started, appropriately enough, in Rhode Island. They will make their way to Los Angeles by November 1st to play the Echoplex. John McCauley, lead guitarist, vocalist and the band’s only consistent member and founder, kindly found some time to share a few thoughts with Quit Mumbling on the new record, Occupy Wall Street, and his fondness for Richie Valens.
How does Divine Providence depart from previous work?
With Divine Providence we set out to capture more of a live sound. We’ve been playing our old songs louder and faster for a while now, and have been writing more songs that way. I guess we just kind of got sick of hearing the words indie-folk and shit like that. That term makes us all cringe. Plus we’re all really big rock n roll fans and grew up on it. It still sounds like Deer Tick though.
Did any other musicians (outside of Deer Tick) contribute to the album?
We had some friends and fans from Providence come in and sing some gang vocals. The entire band of J. Roddy Walston and the Business appear on “Funny Word” along with a dueling guitar solo done by our producer Adam Landry and Canadian blues guitarist Garrett Mason. We got some string players from around Providence to do some stuff on “Electric”. We also had Nikki Darlin of Those Darlins come in and do a duet with me that we wrote together. It ended up as a B-Side though.
Who would you collaborate with musically if you could pick anyone, alive or dead?
Patti Smith or Neil Young.
Do you have a specific song-writing process? Lyrics first or melody first?
Depends on the song. I don’t have a process. I just kind of wait until something hits me.
Tell us a little about your recent show at Death By Audio in Brooklyn. Was the show in response to Occupy Wall Street? What are you views on the movement?
The show was in response to the NYPD’s questionable and violent crowd control tactics. As far as Occupy goes, I get it, but I’d like to hear their idea of a solution. It seems to a lot of people that these Occupy things around the world are just a bunch of people sitting around and complaining about a problem. They’ve definitely pulled it together quite a bit since it started, and I hope they get what they’re looking for. If I was Occupying somewhere my reason for being there would be holding people accountable for ruining the economy, and helping out your fellow man. Amen.
Amen indeed. Do you have a favorite venue in the US? If so, why?
The 9:30 Club in Washington, DC. 9:30’s always been so sweet to us and they treat musicians right. The sound in here is massive too. Every show we’ve played here has kicked ass.
Can you give us a memorable story from this tour?
We’ve got some crazy stories about getting arrested, trashing hotel rooms, sex, drugs, and all that typical stuff. But it’s the little things, like last night, pissing off a few rednecks by making out with each other on stage that are my favorite tour moments.
You guys play the song “La Bamba” by Richie Valens at the end of every show, can you tell us a little about that tradition? When did that start and why?
When I was a kid I was obsessed with the La Bamba movie, and through that I was obsessed with Los Lobos (my first show), and through Los Lobos I was obsessed with Ritchie Valens. We do it mostly because it’s really fun to play and we always get a great reaction from the crowd.
I hear you just filmed your first official music video, tell us a little about the process if you can. Why have you never filmed any videos before? Do you plan to do it again?
Music videos are kind of stupid. But, we’ve been pressured to make one for awhile. We just had to do it our way. We picked the director and came up with the concept together. The video was shot in a parking lot. We’re playing and shit is blowing up all around us. Rob’s hair caught on fire, Dennis’ shirt caught on fire, and I sprained my ankle. It’s still being edited, I’m excited to see it when its done. It’s for the song “Main Street”.
Can you share some details about your latest super-group Diamond Rugs (Damn I Am On Drugs)? Will you be touring at all?
Originally I was thinking it would just be me, Bryan Dufresne from Six Finger Satellite, and Ian St. Pe from the Black Lips. We were going to call it Stoner Drama and write punk songs about what stoner roommates argue about. This idea quickly evolved when I met Steve Berlin from Los Lobos. Then I brought Rob from Deer Tick into it, since he had worked with Steve in the past. Once we got to the studio in Nashville I decided to call up Hardy Morris from Dead Confederate to see if he wanted to contribute. It was all kind of random but we came out of this experience a real band with a really great album. It’s got a little bit of everybody’s band’s signature sounds, and so much more. It was really fun to make and I’m really happy with it. We are looking at the possibility of doing a show in Atlanta in December, but if that doesn’t happen we’ll just have to wait until the record comes out next year. There is one Christmas song on the album, but it is definitely not a Christmas album by any means. It’s not a concept album about stoner roommates, either.
What are some of your favorite records at the moment, or any favorites that our readers must know?
These are three off the top of my head:
Tim by The Replacements
Arabia Mountain by The Black Lips
Joy Atrophy by Virgin Forest
And there you have it, folks. Be sure to catch Deer Tick at the Echoplex November 1st. Tickets are still available. Check out their latest album Divine Providence, available for purchase tomorrow, October 25th, and pre-purchase at deertickmusic.com.