[To listen to the AUDIO INTERVIEW, click above] Guitarist/vocalist Ian O’Neil of rock band Deer Tick talks about the band’s Wyoming debut, recording with Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin, and dealing with the media.
(An excerpt of this piece was published in Planet JH Weekly)
Does Deer Tick sometimes get a bad rap? Misunderstood? When I caught up to guitarist/vocalist Ian O’Neil, he explained that it’s because “we are not inclined to do what people are expecting of us.” What rock band would, right?
I dug my ears into the Providence, Rhode Island quintet’s discography, read interviews, and tried to wrap my head around where they are coming from, musically. I kept getting distracted, though, by public distaste of the band’s rock ‘n’ roll attitude, their lack of tact. As the band’s label-issued bio honestly states, they are “100% Deer-Fucking-Tick” and “completely uninterested in whatever the hell the rest of the music industry is up to.”
Fist-pumping masculinity, thorny pessimism, debauchery, and that seemingly not-giving-a-damn perspective rolls confidently without blush on their loud, drunken rock affair and fourth LP, Divine Providence (2011). Though exploration into previous albums—like the folk roots of War Elephant (2007)—and forays into material that’s fleetingly mellow to Nirvana punky, is telling. Deer Tick’s approach is heterogeneous, and can be rather thoughtful, too, while living up to a balls-to-the-wall live show (the reason for which Rolling Stone deemed frontman John McCauley one of “rock’s last true wild men”).
“[Not caring] is not an angle we’ve perpetuated out of spite for reputation itself,” O’Neil explained when asked about the edgy reputation. “I know we’re all thoughtful people and give very much a shit about what we’re doing. Even when it comes down to our heaviest, dumb rock songs—like ‘Let’s all go to the Bar’—it’s not about the five of us wanting to go out and get drunk with underage women. It’s a specific character, an examination of that type of person…and also being able to play a fun rock song live.
“Dealing with the media is kind of an uphill battle.”
During Deer Tick’s formative bar band years, founding member—guitarist/vocalist John McCauley—embraced a rotating cast of members before maintaining a more concrete quartet around 2009. Keyboardist/saxophonist Rob Crowell joined in 2010.
Lately, Deer Tick has been in the studio in Portland, Oregon, recording with producer Steve Berlin of Los Lobos. The newer material will be showcased a bit in Jackson and, according to O’Neal, is “much more personal, reflective, and inner storytelling instead of character based…and sonically, more lush.” Upcoming shows will pair the band with My Morning Jacket, Drive-by Truckers and Two Gallants.
Deer Tick, 9:30 p.m. Sunday March 31 at the Pink Garter Theater. Major Zepher (Ghost Rider’s alter ego) will open.Tickets are $18/advance, $21/day-of-show at The Rose, Pinky G’s or PinkGarterTheatre.com.