Rhode Island’s Deer Tick works hard, plays harder
There are certain bands which just beg to be played in a raucous drinking establishment: glasses banging, cigarettes glowing, hips shaking. With its worn-in sound, dusty country aura, and vocalist John McCauley’s raspy drawl, Providence, R.I.’s Deer Tick is the kind of act which could challenge The Hold Steady for the title of World’s Greatest Bar Band.
Coming around to the Crepe Place on Saturday, April 24, Deer Tick has already made waves with its rick-rollicking live show, which—as attendees at their March show at San Francisco’s Independent discovered—may or may not include male nudity.
“It happens once in a while,” says McCauley about the group’s onstage disrobing. “I think that particular night was a little extreme. It was our first gig in a while. We hadn’t really been on tour, we weren’t really in the swing of things and we got a little carried away.”
When asked if alcohol had anything to do with the evening, he replies with a tongue-in-cheek “Absolutely not.” But in fact, McCauley attributes the band’s intense live show to its lifestyle.
“It comes together pretty naturally, but some times our live shows suck and they’re really boring,” explains McCauley. “Everything kind of has to be kind of perfect, you know? Which usually happens. We have our off nights either because we’re partying too hard or we partied too little. We’ve got to get it right in the middle there, and then the good stuff happens.”
Though Deer Tick may have some hard-partying ways, the guys are also a hard-working group of individuals. In 2009 they released their second full-length, Born on Flag Day, and on June 8—less than a year later—plan to release album number three, The Black Dirt Sessions, much of which comprises songs McCauley wrote as a teenager and newfound songwriter.
“A year seems a lot longer to us, I guess,” says McCauley about Deer Tick’s prolific recording and touring schedule. “We don’t really take breaks, you know. I think a year in between [albums] is too much time, personally. I’d spend every minute in the studio when I’m off tour if I could, but it’s expensive.”
Despite having played festivals like Lollapalooza, the band is still looking to hit the big time. Still, perhaps Deer Tick’s most notable breakthrough into the mainstream came from one of the unlikeliest of places—NBC anchor Brian Williams, who personally selected the band for the first profile on his internet program BriTunes.
“He’s a really smart guy, he listens to a lot of new music, and I think he kind of understands our vibe better than most critics do,” says McCauley of Williams. “We got a call and were told to be in New York City the following Monday, and the next thing you know we’re being interviewed by Brian Williams. It was kind of strange, but he’s a badass.”
Though maybe he didn’t see interviews with news anchors in his future, McCauley certainly always believed he’d make it in music. Growing up in blue collar Rhode Island, he speaks with the conviction of someone who’s never been confused about his station in life.
“I think [my parents] realized I wasn’t happy doing anything but music,” McCauley says about his formative years. “When I was 11 they bought me a bass that was my first instrument. I just kept playing, and went through one shitty guitar after another. I never made a decision to play music, I just grew up understanding that about myself. Nothing would ever have stopped me.”
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