ATH Interviews: Deerhoof
We here at Austin Town Hall recently had the good fortune of sitting down with Greg Saunier of indie rock/pop outfit Deerhoof. Greg and I cover things ranging from his feelings about Oasis to his band’s hard to pin down sound. Follow the jump to read the entire interview.
ATH: When and why did you decide to re-add a second guitar player in Ed Rodriguez?
Greg: We decided to ask him one day in January. Satomi(Matsuzaki) and I were over at John’s house and we were checking out each other’s song ideas for the record. John had “Family Of Others” and a little snippet of “Buck and Judy” figured out. And the acoustic guitar part for “Offend Maggie” on a really terrible cassette recording that was mostly hiss. None of the songs had names yet of course. Satomi I think said should we ask someone else to join and we all thought of Ed, so John called up Ed and later that night Ed was in the band. He’s not just a second guitar player, once he joined it felt like a totally new band. The way we worked was different, all our interpersonal relationships were different. He wrote some of the songs on Offend Maggie.
ATH: What do you think about critics and fans calling your new album “Offend Maggie” more accessible than previous efforts? Was it planned to make more traditional songs? What does that word even mean??
Greg: I actually don’t think anything of it because of just what you say, I don’t know what the word means, never did. Also the fact that every record we’ve ever put out in 14 years has been called “our most accessible”. We have nine “accessible” records and one “inaccessible” record but it’s still a shock to these writers when they can sing along with our songs. From my experience the fans, who are the greatest fans in the universe by the way, don’t call this one more accessible or less accessible because they like our records.
ATH: No one seems to be able to classify your band genre wise and you pull from all sorts of musical backgrounds. If you could create a genre specific to your band, what would it be?
Greg: I don’t know what I’d call what we do but I think what we’re trying to do is make “music”. And I’m not sure we succeed most of the time. To me music is a very special thing that happens when someone is listening to sound in a very particular way, when sound seems to become beautiful. It often happens with sounds that aren’t usually considered “music”, and just as often it fails to happen with what is usually called “music”.
ATH: Speaking of sound, how did you decide to sound the way you do? Or where does your sound come from?
Greg: It doesn’t come from deciding for the most part. I mean some parts involve deciding, like “what order should the songs be in” or something like that. Most of it comes from pretty much out of nowhere.
ATH: What is your approach to writing your very unique lyrics? And are they meant for any particular sort of interpretation?
Greg: Well Satomi wrote almost all of the lyrics on Offend Maggie. John wrote “Family of Others” and I wrote “Don’t Get Born” but the rest was Satomi. I don’t know how she does it. I don’t know if they are unique but I sure like them. Oftentimes she will write lyrics for a song where I wrote the music and the melody, and I get this amazing feeling that she understood exactly what the song was about, even though I couldn’t see it at all. When she puts the words to it, it’s like “Ah! Now I get it!”
ATH: You may have been one of the first bands to release sheet music for single “Fresh Born” and offer fans the chance to create their own version of the song. How did this idea come about and what crazy new promotional things can we expect in the future?
Greg: It wasn’t really intended to be crazy, just fun. I was worried no one would submit anything, but we had such incredible participation from people. That’s why I say we have the best fans, I would never covet any other band’s fans or trade ours in for any others. So creative.
ATH: The idea for pre-release sheet music was also recently used by UK giant Oasis. Can we expect a Deerhoof/Gallagher brother’s feud? Do you think they can even read sheet music?
Greg: I’ve never actually heard Oasis so I don’t really have an opinion. But I do think it’s a really fun idea, maybe better in our case because we had it up before our record came out so when people recorded their version, they weren’t influenced in any way by our version.
ATH: You guys seem to have more fun playing live than any band I can remember. What’s the best thing about playing live and what makes your shows different from the average band?
Greg: No such thing as an average band. It’s been fun on this tour. Ed Rodriguez has really changed the feeling on stage, I never know what’s going to happen and sometimes I feel like I’m going to crack up with some of the dance moves my bandmates are attempting. Usually we have fun, why shouldn’t it be fun, I mean we are so lucky to be able to play our music and have people listen to it. This tour has been really incredible too, all because of the people who come to the concert. They are so enthusiastic and I can feel when they are really listening, in other words when the “music” starts to happen.
ATH: Are there any artists on the Kill Rock Stars label that you fell particularly aligned with or are you an anomaly amidst your own label¹s roster?
Greg: Funny question. One thing about Kill Rock Stars, every band on that label is an anomaly. There’s never been any rhyme or reason to who they sign, not that I’ve been able to perceive. That’s why they are the best label, and it’s also why they survive through all the trends, because they never followed any trends. I just read they signed The Thermals, that’s cool, The Thermals are great!
Many thanks Greg for giving us the time to answer the tough questions. We agree, The Thermals are great.