For a band that has been around for more than two decades, not much has changed for noise pop band Deerhoof. The San Francisco band is probably best known for being sonically adventurous. Famous for their unpredictability, the band is always offering something a little different with each new release, continually getting fans psyched with their endless surprises. With 11 albums under their belt and a new one underway, Deerhoof’s discography will see an exciting addition to the band’s already expansive collection. JUICE had the opportunity to speak with all four members about the band’s music, their constant changes, studying composition, collaborations, and what they prefer when it comes to a live show.
Deerhoof is recognised for being experimental, offering something different with each new album. How have fans reacted to the constant changes?
Greg Saunier If somebody became a fan of Deerhoof, usually it was because they already liked the changing itself, and so, I noticed that sometimes if we get too much the same, then the fans are like, “Yeah, okay.” They like the surprise more.
The band has seen a lot of collaborations since Breakup Song. Any plans for a follow-up record anytime soon?
G That is true. Secretly, however, we have been recording a new record. It was finished in Bangkok, Thailand yesterday morning. We sent off the final master to the record label yesterday from the hotel in Bangkok. It’s coming out in November.
Can you guys share with us what to expect off the latest record?
G What to expect? Well, we’ve mutated (laughs). We’ve evolved.
YouTube has plans to cut away music videos of bands affiliated with independent labels that don’t want to agree to their terms. Do you think this will affect the band in any way?
G No. Absolutely not, because we have, for many years now, desperately tried to make music videos for the songs from our albums. We always try to pay people to make them. They get actors; we get animators, all that stuff. But the videos people watch of Deerhoof are live videos. In fact, 99.9% of the time, it’s the live videos, so what do I care (laughs). I mean if YouTube goes out of business, I’ll be even happier.
If you guys were to have a chance to collaborate with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
Ed Rodriguez If there’s a time machine involved, we would collaborate with a 75-year-old Kid Rock. (Laughs)
Here’s a question for Greg. Has studying composition affected the band’s style of music at all?
G That’s a really hard question to answer because I don’t know what kind of music I would write if I hadn’t gone to school. It might be very similar, but I don’t think it’s changed my style. My style is still changing all the time. But if I learnt something in a composition programme, it is probably just more discipline in writing and following through. I wrote music before I went to music school, but sometimes I didn’t finish it. I didn’t get a performance of it. I was too shy so I never really found out what it was going to really sound like; I didn’t get any feedback. Music school, for me, has taught me more about the process, how to make vague ideas real. I spent four years in a composition programme, but I’ve spent 20 years in Deerhoof. And that one’s much more important.
Can you tell us more about that?
G As soon as you’re in a band, at least at this time period, and in the United States, it’s very competitive. There are so many bands that it becomes a capitalist competition, and this is a completely different kind of school. It’s very intense. You get judged very harshly because if you think about it, if someone were to listen to any kind of music they would have a lot of choices. We’ve had to solve that problem without teachers. It’s actually better now than it ever was in the past. It’s a very strange school, the rock band school. Not the School of Rock where you learn to play songs, but being in a rock band, touring around the world. That school is way more important than any music school for me. Even college.
E The weird thing about it too is that we have to decide ourselves what works. And when we tour, we all have different opinions usually about what’s good and what’s not good. I feel that this has changed a little bit. When we’re making a record now, we’ll be thinking about the experience of going on tour for the past year and what music were we able to play in such a way that we felt connected to the audience, that kind of stuff. And having that group sense of things on what we like and want to work on helps narrow down the infinite possibilities.
You guys are used to playing a ton of shows, with each venue offering a different vibe. Do you guys prefer a smaller, more intimate setting or a larger, more arena-like set up?
E (Laughs) I have to say after [our last gig], well, the place we played was just tiny. But both can be great, you know. While I like to play bigger shows, for me, it’s really fun to play smaller shows. It has to do with volume.
Satomi Matsuzaki I mean, it’s fun, but I prefer being in the middle — not too big or not too small. Because when it’s small Greg’s drums are too loud that my ear hurts, so it’s nice to have a little bit of space on stage. We dance, well, we all dance. When we’re able to move around, I’d feel so free. And I think people enjoy that more when we can really go nuts.
John Dieterich We wouldn’t have to worry so much about not smashing each other in the face. (Laughs)
G It’s so much more than size, though, too. It’s the size of the sound. Like what [Satomi] said, if it’s small it’s much too loud. Then it’s also the size of the stage, like how much you can move. But then, it’s also the kind of people who were there and stuff. My answer is that I like every show. I like small. I like medium. I like big. They’re all completely different. Deerhoof is always the same band, but we kind of turn into a different band every night depending on the situation and it’s a really fun challenge. It used to be really hard.
So it used to be really difficult for the band adapting to all these different environments.
G One time, we were opening for Radiohead on tour, so we were playing football stadiums. But we’d have a day off, so we booked a tiny club show just for us. This was totally weird, to go from playing outside to like 20 thousand people on a gigantic stage to a tiny club where it was so loud. So, we were completely confused. We couldn’t go back and forth between something so totally different. But now, nothing surprises us anymore. We’re ready, for any kind of space, any kind of challenge. I actually enjoy the changing, the variety. For me, that’s where the fun is.
Are there any exciting acts you guys would like to share with us?
G I would absolutely recommend Marshall Allen. He’s a saxophone player who spent his entire career playing in the same group, which was the Sun-Ra Arkestra, so he was the alto-saxophone player for this cult-like jazz group. And after Sun-Ra died, or moved back to Saturn (laughs), Marshall Allen became the leader of the Arkestra. And he’s still going. The guy is like 90 years old. It’s unbelievable.
Deerhoof played at The Bee, Publika for the Upfront series on Wednesday 18 June ’14.