Deerhoof: Are they coming of age?

Warming up the crowd for Radiohead, inspiring a ballet, and an opening tour with The Flaming Lips is all in a summer’s work for the San Francisco based band Deerhoof. With the release of their new album Friend Opportunity only a couple of months away, the pressure is on.

“There was no way in the world we were gonna say no,” said drummer and founding member Greg Saunier of the opportunity. “Those guys [in Radiohead] had a real impact on us. Just how powerful their music is. I have never seen anything like it.”

Opening for a band like Radiohead, with “the people standing in line for 24 hours before” was nerve wrecking at first, but in the end the experience turned out to be “extremely fun,” said Saunier. “People were so excited that “[Deerhoof’s set] didn’t totally ruin their day,” he laughed.

Although the band had planned to spend the entire summer recording, they quickly rearranged their plans to accommodate the opening tours. Known for their impeccable work morale – 10 albums in 11 years – postponing new material was simply not an option. Instead, Deerhoof took the recording process with them on tour, mixing and recording included, even if that meant a summer far more hectic than originally envisioned. “Recording any album is exhausting, but this one more so than the others” said Saunier. “It’s been a crazy last four months.”

As crazy as it might have been, so is their music. Although their last album, Runners Four, was without the intricate over-dubs (layers of sound) that had become Deerhoof’s trademark, Saunier said they returned to the format for their upcoming album. In fact, their music is so intricate that they haven’t figured out how to play the new record live yet. They’re currently touring on previously released material, and Saunier said not to expect new songs at their show although the record has been completely finished. “It’s a different album,” said Saunier about their new material. “[Runners four] would be a lot closer to what [we] would sound like playing in a room.”

Not so this time around. Saunier said the hectic schedule made the recording process different than for previous records, especially because they had no time to bounce ideas off their friends. The material they sent off was not heard by that many people, nor did the band have the time to practice their show, but Saunier said that doesn’t worry him. “I’m more impatient to have people hear it,” he said.

One of Deerhoof’s most recognizable features is vocalist Satomi Matsuzaki’s fragile vocal track. Originally from Japan, she occasionally sings in Japanese, which can be confusing to some of Deerhoof’s fans. Saunier explained that the bustle around Matsuzaki’s singing is mostly due to her alternate take on English, not that it really is a different language.

“She might communicate an idea in a very clear way, in a very creative way, in a very expressive way, in a funnier way,” but in a way native English speakers would never think of, said Saunier, and added it all comes down to how their music is interpreted. When he was younger he would often “mishear (sic)” lyrics, but he said those mistaken words didn’t quell his joy for a song. That the same thing can mean different things to different people “It’s a really unique thing for music,” said Saunier. “That’s a real source of inspiration to me.”

It seems Deerhoof’s music has inspired its share of people. When The Concordian reached Saunier, he was enjoying a break from the usual touring rut. Happily declaring that they were on North Haven Island in Maine, he said they’d stay for a couple of days to accompany a ballet inspired by and written to their seventh record Milk Man. The ballet is performed by the North Haven Community School by children ranging in age from kindergarten to Grade 12.

“It feels like and extension of the album. It’s made of the same stuff that the album was made of,” he said. The band had seen the children perform the ballet for the first time the night before, an experience that left the whole band “flabbergasted” in excitement.

Whether or not that will be the audience’s reaction when Deerhoof comes to town remains to be seen, but the last few months’ events might indicate stars are aligning for this noise rock band.

Deerhoof plays La Tulipe Oct. 31
4530 Papineau
Opening for: Fiery Furnaces
Tickets $ 17

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