Deerhoof on stage in 2009
|Origin||San Francisco, California, United States|
Deerhoof is an American independent music group formed in San Francisco in 1994. It currently consists of founding drummer Greg Saunier, bassist and singer Satomi Matsuzaki, and guitarists John Dieterich and Ed Rodriguez. Initially performing improvised noise punk, Deerhoof became widely renowned and influential in the 2000s through prodigious and self-produced creative output combining "noise, sugary [pop] melodies, and an experimental spirit into utterly distinctive music". They have released 14 studio albums since 1997; their latest album Mountain Moves was released in September 2017. Their live shows are characterized by minimal gear, maximal volume, and surrealist banter.
Deerhoof began in San Francisco in 1994 as an improvisational bass/drums duo of Rob Fisk and Greg Saunier. They were quickly signed to record a single for Kill Rock Stars after owner Slim Moon witnessed their performance at the 1994 Yoyo A Go Go festival. Satomi Matsuzaki joined Deerhoof within a week of moving to the United States from Japan in May 1995, with no prior experience playing in a band, and went on tour as Deerhoof's singer only a week later, opening for Caroliner.[not in citation given] Their 1997 debut album The Man, the King, the Girl, recorded on four-track cassette, balanced the wild, clamorous playing of Fisk and Saunier with Matsuzaki's Jingle-like melodies and colorful instrumentation, including toy instruments and broken Casios.[not in citation given] The album art of a magical cow and a rabbit on a unicycle was drawn by Fisk.[not in citation given] Many of Deerhoof's enduring traits were already in place: mythical lyrics; exaggerated, gestural playing style; low-budget DIY recording techniques; concept-album format; memorable melodic writing; and left-wing political stance.
In 1997 they began recording new songs for what would eventually become Halfbird, but soon abandoned it in favor of a drastic change in style. Kelly Goode joined on Casio VL-1 and Matsuzaki taught herself to play the bass.[not in citation given] They removed all traces of noise, improvisation, or unusual instrumentation from their sound, culminating in their 1999 album Holdypaws. The capricious change in style from one album to the next remains a Deerhoof hallmark. Cover art was by Fisk. From 1997 to 1999, Deerhoof had toured the U.S. with Sleater-Kinney, Lightning Bolt, Unwound, and Sonic Youth.[not in citation given] But in fall 1999, with both albums and various singles selling poorly, Fisk and Goode quit. Fisk now performs in King Eider Common Eider. Halfbird was completed by Saunier and Matsuzaki and finally released in 2001, with artwork by Fisk.[not in citation given]
In late 1999, they asked Gorge Trio guitarist John Dieterich to join. His virtuosity and interest in electronic music are exhibited on Reveille, with its broad melange of musical styles, fragmented structure, and skewed Biblical themes of apocalypse and resurrection. The album art was drawn by Matsuzaki.Reveille took three years to finish and was the first Deerhoof record to enjoy critical acclaim, being included in best-of-2002 lists published by the New York Times and Pitchfork.
In 2002, between Reveille's completion and release, Chris Cohen joined Deerhoof on guitar. Over the next three years this quartet shared the stage with a variety of increasingly established artists including Le Tigre,Stephen Malkmus,The Yeah Yeah Yeahs,TV on the Radio,The Roots, and Wilco. Legendary radio DJ John Peel invited the band twice to record sessions for BBC Radio 1, and Deerhoof was selected by both Sonic Youth and The Simpsons creator Matt Groening to perform at All Tomorrow's Parties festivals, marking their first two of many appearances at that festival.[not in citation given] During those same years Saunier also joined Cohen's band The Curtains as keyboardist.
In contrast to Reveille's protracted, painstaking, and digital production process, 2003's Apple O' was played almost entirely live to tape in one nine-hour session with Jay Pellicci engineering. Extinction, nuclear holocaust, invasive species, and the Greek god of music all figure prominently in the album's themes. The artwork was drawn by ex-Deerhoof bassist Rob Fisk.[not in citation given]Karen O chose Apple O' in the Rolling Stone 2003 Music Awards, Artists' Top Albums, and the album received some critical praise, notably in the New York Times. But in what was to become a pattern for Deerhoof, the album's critical appraisal improved with time, and Apple O' was later listed by Pitchfork as one of the top albums of the 2000s. The anti-war themes of the record were underscored by Deerhoof's outspoken opposition to that year's invasion of Iraq.
By 2003 Deerhoof had become the longest-running band on Kill Rock Stars. Matsuzaki was editing a Bay Area Japanese magazine, Cohen was waiting tables at a Thai restaurant, and Dieterich and Saunier were doing data entry for legal and consulting firms, but that year they all decided to quit their jobs simultaneously and focus on touring. That year they contributed to Azadi! A Benefit Compilation for the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. Saunier also released Nervous Cop, a collaboration album with Zach Hill and Joanna Newsom.
Deerhoof's next record took its inspiration from a crudely drawn character created by Japanese artist Ken Kagami. 2004's Milk Man the album featured an opulent, campy sound inspired by Broadway and Igor Stravinsky.[not in citation given] It received acclaim in Spin, was nominated for "Outstanding Alternative Album" in the California Music Awards, and stayed at #1 on the Dusted Radio Chart for six straight weeks, and reached #1 on the CMJ Core Chart. Also in 2004 Deerhoof received the Editor's Choice Award from 7X7 Magazine, and was voted "Best Local Rock Band" by readers of SF Weekly. In 2006 Milk Man was adapted to a children's ballet.
Deerhoof's next release was their first to be sung in Matsuzaki's native language of Japanese. 2005's mini-album Green Cosmos combined an orchestral sound with dance music styles of various eras. Artwork was created from original tarot cards designed by music video director Dawn Garcia.
Deerhoof spent several months in 2005 in a rented rehearsal space in Oakland, writing and recording daily as a full band. When the result was released that fall, the double album The Runners Four featured each band member taking turns as vocalist, singing unusually wordy lyrics in which Arks and time capsules recur, as though foretelling that this would be the final recording of this lineup. Instrumental roles were reversed for Matsuzaki (now on guitar) and Cohen (now on bass). Artwork was by Trevor Shimizu, who also would direct music videos for "Jagged Fruit" and "Criminals of the Dream" on later albums. Critical praise came notably from The New York Times and Pitchfork, which named the album as No. 6 in the best albums of 2005. Five years later the album was selected as Sufjan Stevens's "Album of the Decade" in Uncut Magazine.[not in citation given]
In 2006, Danielson released the critically acclaimed Ships, which featured Deerhoof as the backing band for many of the tracks. Later that year, after an extensive world tour that ended at Coachella, Deerhoof composed and performed a live soundtrack to Harry Smith's hour-long animation masterpiece Heaven and Earth Magic at the San Francisco International Film Festival. This was to be Cohen's last activity with Deerhoof. The split was amicable and, to commemorate Cohen, Deerhoof posted a free EP on their website, one of several they have posted over the years.Chris Cohen now records and tours as a solo act.
Matsuzaki, Saunier, and Dieterich began a new recording as a trio. Ignoring their onstage sound and roles, each contributed percussion, guitar, bass, keyboards and production.[not in citation given] Despite being recorded mostly in Dieterich's bedroom and being mixed on the band's laptop in hotel rooms during tours with Radiohead, The Flaming Lips, and Beck, 2007's Friend Opportunity had a polished, cinematic sound.[not in citation given] Some material was from the "Heaven and Earth Magic" soundtrack, some was completely orchestral (without drums or guitars), and one song ("Matchbook Seeks Maniac") was created specifically for the end credits of a Hollywood film.[not in citation given] The album's 12 interchangeable cover paintings were by British artist David Shrigley. The album was highly praised in Pitchfork and Rolling Stone, and nominated for a PLUG Award by Ric Ocasek.[not in citation given]
During the world tour that followed Friend Opportunity's release, Deerhoof was personally invited by David Bowie to play New York's Highline Festival. They also played shows with Gnarls Barkley, The Roots, Beirut and Bloc Party.[not in citation given] In collaboration with Ed Shearmur they created the film score for Justin Theroux's romantic comedy Dedication.
By January 2008 Deerhoof became a quartet once again with the addition of The Flying Luttenbachers/Gorge Trio/XBXRX guitarist and longtime friend Ed Rodriguez. That summer Deerhoof released the song "Fresh Born" online as sheet music only, anticipating similar experiments by Beck and Blur by several years. Fans recorded and uploaded their own versions of the song to a special site, before anyone outside the band had heard Deerhoof's own version.
After the keyboard/electronics/overdub-heavy Friend Opportunity, October 2008's Offend Maggie was an abrupt reversal to purist, live-in-the-studio dual-guitar rock, underscored by the blatant but collapsed reference to Free's "All Right Now" at the beginning of "The Tears and Music of Love." The stripped-down sound masked sophisticated compositional elements which led several songs to become source material for jazz and classical arrangements by other artists.Offend Maggie received critical praise from VH1, NPR, Entertainment Weekly, Alternative Press, yahoo.com, The UK Guardian, and Mojo. Artwork was by Japanese artist Tomoo Gokita.
In 2008 Deerhoof was asked by Maroon 5 to remix a song for their album Call & Response. Since then Deerhoof has also created remixes for Sufjan Stevens, Blonde Redhead, Starfucker, Delta 5,Asobi Seksu, Xiu Xiu, Givers, Shugo Tokumaru, Shy Hunters,Royal Bangs, People Get Ready, The Megaphonic Thrift, Raleigh Moncrief, Emily Wells, Lucas Santtana, Wildbirds & Peacedrums,A.U., Parenthetical Girls, Mantra Percussion Ensemble, Cowtown, E.D. Sedgwick, Ed Pastorini, Woom, Sam Mickens, Baaba, In One Wind, Maribel, and others.
The quartet was invited by Owen Pallett to play the Maximum Black Festival in various cities across Europe, with Dirty Projectors opening. During the tours that followed, Deerhoof performed onstage with several of their musical heroes. In August 2009 in Los Angeles, legendary avant-garde jazz trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith came onstage as guest for nearly their entire set. In December in Luzerne, Switzerland, Marlene Marder of the legendary Swiss band LiLiPUT performed on stage with the band. During this time Deerhoof also contributed a track to The Green Owl Comp: A Benefit for the Energy Action Coalition.
In mid-2009, Deerhoof accepted an invitation by the Toronto International Film Festival to record an original song ("I Did Crimes For You") for Adam Pendleton's film BAND, a quasi-remake of Jean-Luc Godard's Sympathy for the Devil in which Deerhoof was cast in the role of the band they sometimes claim as their main musical influence, The Rolling Stones.
In April 2010 Deerhoof curated the Belgian music festival Sonic City, inviting an eclectic array of European acts including The Go! Team, Italian viola da gamba virtuoso Paolo Pandolfo, and sitting in with Belgian punk legends The Kids. Then in April and July 2010, Deerhoof and Xiu Xiu joined to perform the entire Joy Division album Unknown Pleasures live at the Donaufestival in Austria, and at Brooklyn's Williamsburg Waterfront.
Building on "I Did Crimes For You," they continued during this time to record themselves in a rented rehearsal space in Oakland. Musical influences from The Beach Boys, new romanticism, tropicalia, and the Congotronics series all found their way onto 2011's Deerhoof vs. Evil. The band released the album one track at a time via different media outlets online, with a full map and schedule available on their own website. The album received critical acclaim notably from Entertainment Weekly, MOJO, and Paste. Matt Goldman's design was the second Deerhoof album cover to feature a mushroom cloud. A remix of "Behold a Marvel in the Darkness" was done by Shugo Tokumaru. Deerhoof immediately initiated a 7" series wherein guest vocalists (including Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, Kevin Barnes of Of Montreal, singer-songwriter David Bazan, rapper Busdriver, and others) sang new lyrics over an instrumental of a Deerhoof vs. Evil song of their choice.
Deerhoof were Wire Magazine's January 2011 cover story. They contributed to Polyvinyl's benefit compilation Japan 3.11.11 joining in the relief efforts to help with the devastation from March's earthquake and tsunami. Throughout the summer of 2011, Deerhoof toured in an international supergroup alongside Konono N°1, Juana Molina, Kasai Allstars and others, called Congotronics Vs. Rockers. Their onstage repertoire included the Deerhoof song "Super Duper Rescue Heads" from Deerhoof Vs. Evil. In April 2012 Deerhoof collaborated with Questlove, Reggie Watts, Sasha Grey and others in a conceptual concert event called Shuffle Culture at Brooklyn Academy of Music. April 2012 also saw the release of young adult fiction book Rules to Rock By, by Josh Farrar, about a 12-year-old girl who's inspired by Deerhoof to form her own band. Deerhoof's version of LiLiPUT's "Hitchhike" appears on the soundtrack. In June 2012 at a Deerhoof performance in Chicago's Millennium Park, contemporary classical music ensemble Dal Niente performed Marcos Balter's arrangement of Deerhoof's "Eaguru Guru". The same month, Deerhoof and The Flaming Lips performed onstage together playing songs by King Crimson, Canned Heat, and Deerhoof.
In 2012 Deerhoof also began home-recording their next record Breakup Song through email while they lived in four different cities. The band stated that the album was a response to the tradition of breakup songs, which they felt included too many sad songs and too few empowering ones. After a long final mixing session at Saunier's apartment, Matsuzaki took the front cover photo of a garbage truck in the early morning hours. The Polyvinyl Records release was also released on Joyful Noise Recordings in "flexi-book" format, allowing the listener to flip from song to song as if each track were a page in a storybook. Deerhoof hero Simeon of Silver Apples made a remix of "Mario's Flaming Whiskers III". Revealing some of Deerhoof's working methods and group chemistry, a rare full-band interview, with former MTV VJ John Norris, appeared in the fall 2012 Interview Magazine.
In October, they released a single "Sexy, but Sparkly," produced by Fear of a Black Planet co-producer Chris Shaw, marking the first time Deerhoof worked with a producer. It was recorded as part of the series of short documentaries Masters From Their Day, which chronicles the efforts of a band and a record-producer as they attempt to record and mix a new single in one day. The song then appeared in the LAMC split-7" series, in which a more known artist chooses a lesser-known one (Deerhoof chose Half Waif) to make their recorded debut, with proceeds going to the Ariel Panero Memorial Fund at VH1 Save the Music.
In March 2013, they played New York's Ecstatic Music Festival, which also included the premier (by Dal Niente) of Saunier's "Deerhoof Chamber Variations", a classical piece based on a career-spanning selection of Deerhoof songs drawn from Breakup Song all the way back to Holdypaws. The piece has been performed and recorded by both Dal Niente and European chamber group stargaze. The 2016 Dal Niente album Balter/Saunier, which was co-produced by Saunier and also included Deerhoof performing with Dal Niente on Marcos Balter's composition "meltDown Upshot," received praise from PopMatters and Pitchfork.
Deerhoof's twelfth album, 2014's La Isla Bonita was self-recorded live in guitarist Ed Rodriguez's basement during a "weeklong sleepover arguing over whether to try and sound like Joan Jett or Janet Jackson". The recordings were meant as demos to be rerecorded with former music journalist and Mr. Dream drummer Nick Sylvester, but the band liked the raw DIY versions so much, they just kept them and recorded the vocals with Sylvester. The lyrics were heavily influenced by 24/7, a book by Columbia professor Jonathan Crary. The album art was by Sara Cwynar. Their music video for "Exit Only" featured Michael Shannon playing two roles, with a cameo by Rodriguez. The Guardian, on their exclusive preview stream of La Isla Bonita, collected testimonials about Deerhoof from a variety of notable musicians and artists, including Radiohead's Johnny Greenwood, Henry Rollins, Blur's Graham Coxon, Adam Green, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs's Brian Chase, and David Shrigley. The album received high praise from NPR, A.V. Club, Alternative Press, and The Wire, and was reviewed by Tune-Yards' Merril Garbus for Talkhouse.
For Deerhoof and Lightning Bolt's mutual 20-year anniversary, Matt Conboy directed a Pitchfork-premiered documentary called "Checking In At 20" about their respective drummers. 2014 also saw the release of Deerhoof's contribution to the BOATS compilation, an international arts project featuring and supporting Dalit "untouchable" children in south-east India and featuring samples of the Light of Love Children's Choir.
During the world tour for La Isla Bonita, three complete-performance live videos were shot: their November 4 record release show in Brooklyn, a nine-song Boiler Room session recorded in London while both Rodriguez and Matsuzaki were ill with fevers and Saunier had a black eye, and a December 16 performance recorded at a tiny Tokyo rock club called Fever, resulting in a live album, Fever 121614. The 2015 release included a downloadable video of the entire show, edited by longtime friend and collaborator Noriko Oishi. The LP/CD artwork included a massive collage of fan-contributed drawings of the band in manga style. Also in 2015 Deerhoof contributed a track in support of gay and transgender Hoosiers on the Joyful Noise compilation 50 Bands & a Cat for Indiana Equality.
In 2016 Deerhoof released The Magic, which was mostly self-recorded in one week in an empty office building on the outskirts of Albuquerque. However three of the songs had been done as demos for the HBO series Vinyl, which rejected them. The album blends glam metal, punk, and noise, but also includes a cover of "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire" by The Ink Spots. The cover art was by Matsuzaki. Joseph Baughman created the stop-motion music video for the album's "The Devil and his Anarchic Surrealist Retinue". Baughman described his style as a slow-motion improvisation. The clay animated video features chessboard pieces and multicolored minotaurs.
The Magic was the first Deerhoof album to hit #1 on CMJ, and was highly praised by NPR, A.V. Club and Exclaim. A.V. Club invited them to participate in A.V. Undercover, where bands choose from an ever-dwindling list of songs to cover on video. They ended up with "Goody Two Shoes" by Adam Ant but included an excerpt of "Hot for Teacher" by Van Halen. Those who pre-ordered The Magic from Polyvinyl were treated to a surprise cassette that included Deerhoof doing covers of Def Leppard, Van Halen, David Bowie, Madonna, Sonic Youth, Malaria!, and Public Enemy. Their cover of "Fight the Power" appears on the Planned Parenthood benefit compilation Cover Your Ass. They contributed a cover of Xiu Xiu's "Hi," played in the style of White Reaper, to the Polyvinyl Plays Polyvinyl compilation.
The academic world has gradually come to take the musical, philosophical, and political aspects of Deerhoof's work seriously, an example of which can be seen in an article from The Night Mail about The Magic. After a long world tour for The Magic, Deerhoof was invited by Red Hot Chili Peppers to open their concerts in northern European arenas in November 2016. Deerhoof is confirmed to open for Red Hot Chili Peppers again in summer 2017. They were one of the headliners of 2017's Big Ears Festival.
In 2017 Deerhoof was chosen as Joyful Noise Recordings' Artist In Residence. Deerhoof and several Deerhoof-related collaborative projects will be releasing five new LPs in 2017. Proceeds will be donated to a variety of causes, the first of which will be Brand New Congress. On June 28 Deerhoof announced a new album titled Mountain Moves and premiered the first single "I Will Spite Survive" (featuring Jenn Wasner on guest vocals) on Democracy Now!. A second single "Your Dystopic Creation Does Not Fear You" (featuring rapper Awkwafina) was premiered on the Adult Swim Singles Series.Mountain Moves came out on September 8, 2017.
The members of Deerhoof have become highly sought-after for their composing, producing, playing, and writing.
Saunier has produced or mixed albums or songs by Xiu Xiu,Marc Ribot, Chris Cohen, So Cow,Busdriver, Celestial Shore, Showtime Goma,People Get Ready, Moon Honey,Maher Shalal Hash Baz, LXMP, Hoquets,Sholi,31 Knots,OneOne, Father Murphy,Hawnay Troof, Curtis Sydnor, EDS, 7 Year Rabbit Cycle, Landlines, Speedo, and Formica Man.
Saunier plays in many groups including Mystical Weapons (with Sean Lennon), Les Bon Hommes (featuring Saunier on guitar and vocals), Big Walnuts Yonder (with Mike Watt, Nels Cline and Nick Reinhart) and various free improvisation groups that have included Anthony Braxton, Arto Lindsay, Nels Cline, Brian Chippendale, Marc Ribot, Mats Gustafsson, Arrington de Dionyso, Andrea Parkins, Doug Wieselman, and many others. He has played on stage with artists such as Yoko Ono, Laurie Anderson, Kronos Quartet, Poliça, Jherek Bischoff, Shugo Tokumaru, Jad Fair, Yonatan Gat, Brooklyn Rider,David Byrne, Zola Jesus, American Contemporary Music Ensemble, Amanda Palmer, and FLUX Quartet, and appeared on recordings with artists such as Caetano Veloso, Joanna Newsom, Zach Hill, Jon Brion, Eleanor Friedberger, Shugo Tokumaru, Bill Wells, Lushlife and many others. He also dances with Yoko Ono in her music video for "Bad Dancer."
In 2008, Matsuzaki formed OneOne with Saya of Japanese band Tenniscoats. She contributed lead vocal on The Go! Team's "Secretary Song". She performed on Bill Wells' album Nursery Rhymes. She wrote and narrated a children's story for "Stories For Ways And Means" in December 2016. All four members have played occasional solo and duo shows in various combinations.
Saunier's compositions have been performed by Kronos Quartet, Y Music, stargaze, Ecstatic Percussion,Brooklyn Rider, String Noise, Daan Vandewalle, Spektral Quartet, and Dal Niente. He has composed film soundtracks for Martha Colburn, Becky James, and worked on soundtrack to the Will Ferrell movie Step Brothers. In October 2013, a Casio orchestra performed music composed by Saunier along with various silent films for opening night of Empire Drive-In, a large-scale temporary installation built from junked cars and salvaged materials, in Queens, New York. For an enormous BBC Proms event dedicated to David Bowie, televised in July 2016, he wrote four arrangements for stargaze of Bowie songs. He scored a ballet by Pam Tanowitz that was performed at Vail International Dance Festival and Fall For Dance Festival at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. He has also performed in a dance piece created in collaboration with dance/performance project Boomerang.
Saunier was Talkhouse Guest Editor for a week in 2014, and wrote a music review of The Rolling Stones for The Talkhouse in 2013, and a review of Eric Slick in 2017 for Tidal. He has also guest lectured at various colleges and participated on various panel discussions. Rodriguez has written two articles for The Talkhouse about being a DIY band.
Deerhoof's style has been described as indie rock,noise pop,punk rock, and "experimental pop mired in a pure punk sense of adventure".AllMusic characterizes them as "highly revered indie rockers ... who play fractured, whimsical noise pop with an avant-garde edge", while MaineToday describes them as "the beloved punk band whose erratic style veers between pop, noise, and classic rock and roll".
According to Noisey, Deerhoof formed as a "minimal noise improv" act before shifting to "pop-infused noise-punk". According to AllMusic, their early releases "had a more traditionally harsh, no wave-inspired sound, though they also included the quirky tendencies that dominated their later efforts ... [which] mix noise, sugary melodies, and an experimental spirit into utterly distinctive music that made them one of the most acclaimed acts of the 2000s and 2010s."Impose writes that since "their beginnings as a noise punk band ... [Deerhoof have] taken leaps and bounds artistically and stylistically, experimenting with pop and punk in ways we could've never imagined... [and] ultimately [proving] that punk can fit into an artistic world." According to LA Phil, they made "some of the most difficult and unclassifiable noise of the mid-'90s [before] unexpectedly [rising] to international prominence as one of indie rock's most renowned and influential groups ... too "pop" for "noise," and too "noise" for "pop." For the Guardian, their breakthrough after many albums of "elliptical art-pop" came with Friend Opportunity, which showcased "a band playing a constantly shifting mixture of psychedelia, post-punk, jazz and pop, which should have been difficult and forbidding, but was given an accessible focus by the sweet vocals and expressionist lyrics of bassist/chanteuse Satomi Matsuzaki. ... [The followup] Offend Maggie is head-spinning bliss from beginning to end, and proves that the quartet are the best prog-rock post-punk Afro-Oriental art-pop folk-jazz band in the world. Deerhoof also experiment with contemporary classical music.
The band is an often-cited musical influence on other artists, notably Radiohead,Questlove,St. Vincent,Foo Fighters,Dirty Projectors,Tune-Yards,Stereolab,Henry Rollins,Sleigh Bells, and of Montreal. Deerhoof's songs are covered often by other artists (notably Phil Lesh,Los Campesinos!,Marco Benevento,David Bazan, and classical composer Marcos Balter).
Deerhoof has also released a large number of 7" singles, split releases with other artists, tracks on compilations, and free downloadable EPs.