Deer Tick

Deer Tick’s Ian O’Neil talks new album, live performance and songwriting
by Emily Genco
October 2011

Deer Tick by Scott Alario  - photo by Scott Alario

Deer Tick by Scott Alario
photo by Scott Alario

It’s a good thing the band Deer Tick doesn’t spread illness like the woodland arachnids with the same name. Though, their reeling rock ballads that combine smoky vocals with rollicking guitars do infect listeners with urge to dance, shout along or at least bounce their glass to the beat on the bar. The Rhode Island five-piece will play The Majestic Sunday, November 13, supporting their latest album Divine Providence.

Deer Tick’s fourth release represents an effort to celebrate making music as a band, according to guitarist and vocalist Ian O’Neil.

“With this record, we spoke about wanting it to sound more like a band playing in a room, and we recorded it that way,” O’Neil said.

Through the years, Deer Tick has garnered a reputation for their unbuttoned live shows where any antic was possible even flames onstage, according to O’Neil.

“We try and be classy, though we really can’t be. There’ll definitely be some dangerous things happening on stage, some disgusting things happening on stage and some pretty heartfelt moments happening on stage, but there’ll be a lot of smiling too,” O’Neil said.

Divine Providence closes the gap between the energy and spontaneity of their live shows and their recorded music. Like the Doctor Jekyll/Mr. Hyde of the indie genre, Deer Tick has never been afraid to stray far from the sound of their recordings when performing songs. Though this division has unsettled some fans, the band has never been afraid to surprise their audiences, according to O’Neil.

“They didn’t really understand that we weren’t taking ourselves too seriously. We don’t want to talk ourselves too seriously,” O’Neil said. “I think after years of establishing that and not conceding to the expectations of our audience, people eventually started to embrace it. It’s been a long process, and there are still a lot of people that won’t get it.”

Adding to the feeling of spontaneity on the album, many of the songs were written in the studio and recorded immediately, according to O’Neil.

“I think people’s first impressions and first attempts of playing a song or when you first write it the way you’re going to sing it is probably going to be the best you’ll ever do it, and that proved to be true on the record,” O’Neil said.

During the recording process, songs like “Now It’s Your Turn” morphed to reflect the distinct composition styles in the band.

“I wanted to write something that was almost like classic balladry. I love Frank Sinatra,” O’Neil said. “It turned from a classic ballad into almost a heavy rock ballad. I don’t necessarily listen to that kind of music, but it was wonderful to have people on the album to turn something like that into something totally different.”

No themes or motifs tie the album together, according to O’Neil. Instead members drew from a range of inspirations and personal experiences to create a compilation much like the new media environment where fans often buy single songs.

“We’re ok with having almost a mixtape type of idea. That’s how people mostly listen to music now anyway,” O’Neil said.

The new album explores a potpourri of topics from lust to lawlessness. “Let’s All Go to the Bar” and “The Bump” provide dynamic anthems for weekends spent on the town. Lyrics like “We’re full grown men, but we act like kids/We’ll face the music the next time we roll in” help listeners channel their inner rabble-rouser, while more reflective and down-tempo songs like “Chevy Express” and “Electric” reveal Deer Tick’s soft underbelly.

“We wanted to come out of the gates with a full on rock and roll beginning. Then we wanted to bring it down a little bit,” O’Neil said. “I think it’d be a really hard thing to just convey one emotion with our band. We’re all over the map.”

In the lead track, frontman John J. McCauley III roars, “I’m in your town.” On November the boys of Deer Tick will be, so grab a brew and get ready to brawl, metaphorically that is, at an unapologetically rowdy rock ‘n roll show.

Deer Tick will appear with Guards and Thomas Hardy (of Dead Confederate) at the Majestic. Doors at 7 p.m. and show at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

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Deer Tick
CD: Divine Providence Record Label: Partisan Records
Purchase Divine Providence on Amazon
Download Divine Providence on Amazon