The first thing that always comes to mind when I think about Deer Tick is John McCauley’s feral, bloodthirsty howl. It’s a truly painful thing of beauty. One minute he inhabits a down-and-out hard case seconds after getting socked in the gut bellying up to the bar one too many times, and the next he’s that wounded, rabid beast raging for survival. He’s a writer with a knack for prose that could fit between the margins of any Raymond Carver story, and he’s smart enough to utilize his own tattered voice to color the wordplay. It’s the sort of unshakeable, unpolished instrument that many a producer and A & R rep would fight to clean up and make pretty. It’s a damn good thing the band has never fallen into such a trap, because mixed with the tight rhythm section, devastating lyrics and obvious guitar worship, it’s the unmistakable sound of Deer Tick.
My first impression of Deer Tick in a live setting came a few years back seeing them play a raucous, rock & roll set at a great dive bar in Bloomington, IN. The boys proudly rolled into the college scene in a spray painted, rundown half-sized school bus that seemed like the Dazed and Confused crew riding into town, beer cases and girlfriends in tow. They sold solid white t-shirts with hand-drawn magic marker designs at the merch table, and they threw back drinks with the bar during the opening sets. It was the ideal setting for a rowdy, young band equally adept at playing bruising, tear in your beer ballads as they are cranking out hot-blooded, saloon-brawl guitar rock. Deer Tick is a rare band that can conjure up honest, ugly Hell and heartbreak as they do so often on songs like “Christ Jesus”, just as they can cut loose and rip though rock & roll songs as transparent, infectious and, most importantly, fun as the upcoming “Let’s All Go To The Bar” and the Zz Top song covered here, “Cheap Sunglasses”.
They are a talented, still quite young band from Providence, RI, a city and state seemingly far removed from the consciousness of mainstream America. Just like not hailing from NYC or LA presumably doesn’t bother the Deer Tick boys, they also seem to have zero concern for stumbling into the Top 40 or winning over the mainstream. They are the sort of unpretentious guys that put “I hope you can read my handwriting” after the scrawled gratitude in The Black Dirt Sessions liner notes. They appear right at home writing damn fine, complete albums on small labels like Partisan Records and playing night after night of sweaty, drunken rock shows at small clubs winning new fans by the handfuls rather than the thousands.
Recorded and Mixed by Jeff DuPont
Filmed and Edited by Doug Fellegy
Written by Justin Wesley