RESHAPING ROCK ’N’ ROLL REPUTATION
From his home in Nashville, TN, Deer Tick head honcho John McCauley rasps down the line and fills in Chris Familton on the evolution of their live shows and why they’ve released two new albums.
Living on the cusp of bar-band rock ’n’ roll and ragged alt-country, with a carefree punk spirit, Deer Tick staggered through a run of well-received albums and boisterous live shows, culminating in the catharsis of Negativity (2013) and the celebration of their tenth anniversary before retreating from the public eye. Now back with not one but two new albums (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2) there is a sense of renewed energy and passion within the band.
“It took a bit to get into the swing of things but now it’s good. It’s exciting and I’m enjoying it again,” says McCauley, taking stock of their recent tour of Europe and settling back in as a fully functioning live band. “We had the attitude of a bar band where we’d play whatever anybody requested. We’d push our way through countless cover songs that nobody wanted to hear other than the drunk guy in the corner. Our shows for a while turned into long three hour drug and alcohol fuelled rock n roll spectacles,” McCauley recalls wearily.
“With these albums we took a pretty long break from doing any extensive touring. It’s not really a comeback but in a way it’s a chance to present ourselves in a new way that seems like people have been waiting for from us for a while. We were never really in a place where we felt like delivering it until now. It’s been a lot of fun, really. It’s been cool to focus on things like our musicianship which was overshadowed by our drunken behaviour,” he chuckles.
Stepping back into the spotlight required making a statement of sorts and the idea of releasing two albums simultaneously was decided upon quite early in the piece. “I came up with the idea pretty early on after writing a couple of songs. They just felt different enough. We had to write a few more songs for two records but it made our job easier at the end of the day I think.” Initially their label wasn’t quite as receptive to the idea. “They suggested we did a single record before they heard everything but we were pretty motivated to make it happen the way we wanted. We were very determined to make this idea into a reality,” he stresses.
At recent shows the band have been playing two sets (acoustic/electric) to match the new albums but it seems the tyranny of distance and cost means that Australia will be getting a consolidated Deer Tick show. “It was crazy enough to get all our stuff to Europe to do an acoustic set. For our Australian shows we’ll be playing all electric instruments but we have electric versions of some folk instruments we’ve been using which will be interesting. Things like an electric solid body bouzouki which is pretty cool. A couple of electric mandolins too. We’re going to try to cram it all into one set.”
If it sounds like McCauley is straightening up, it may be that he’s finding his more vicarious thrills elsewhere. “In August I’m going to take some time off and do a mountaineering course in Washington. I’ve been reading some books about alpine style mountaineering. I’ll take some me-time and go and see if I enjoy the most dangerous sport in the world for a week.”