Great songs might be hard to write for some, but for John McCauley and Deer Ticks quantity vs quality has never been an issue. The Providence, Rhode Island quartet might be New England’s most essential true rock band with its array of multifaceted offerings that remain rooted in twang and soul.
While For its follow-up to 2013’s Negativity, Deer Tick has released two full-length albums, each showcasing a distinctly different side of the Rhode Island band. Volume 1 is a soft, mostly acoustic album that emphasizes Deer Tick’s twangier, country and folk-influenced sound while Volume 2 is a loud garage rock album that is as aggressive and powerful as anything the band has released. Glide recently caught up with McCauley to find out more of what’s ‘tickin’ in his world.
It’s been a handful of years since the last Deer Tick release – 2013’s Negativity. Seeing you put out an acoustic and electric at the same time- you have a lot of songs to offer this time around. Was this a result of having that many songs available since Negativity or did you have ideas about offering both electric and acoustic at the same time?
A couple of the songs have been kicking around for a few years. The idea of making two records was the plan from the start. I thought a few of the songs didn’t sit right with one another, but I liked all of them. We had a lot of material to work with, from abandoned attempts at recording a follow up to Negativity, and all the time that passed since those abandoned sessions. Once we stepped into Ardent with the idea for Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 in our heads, it was a beehive in there. Work, work, work!
Do you find the band has gotten older and wiser in the last five or so years and do you look back on earlier Deer Tick with a bit of – “wow we were crazy young guys and can’t pull off that shit again?
Funny, we were talking about all that stuff last night and our friend Gabe Bernini, who is playing keyboards with us on this tour, told us “these stories are so much crazier than all the craziest parties I’ve ever been to.” I think we scared Gabe! Our past antics, which were mostly off stage really, are only rivaled by European metal bands.
You guys have always noted the Replacement as a core influence but is Deer Tick still drawn to the same kind of sounds and inspirations you were into in the early years?
Yeah, definitely. Lately, I’ve made it a point to go back and listen to my earliest influences. It’s a good way to remind myself why I do what I do. My influences have definitely expanded over the years, but the early influences are all still there.
What have you been listening to of late that you’ve been digging?
Ben Vaughn, who also has a really great syndicated radio show The Many Moods of Ben Vaughn, Lydia Lunch, Tav Falco, Skeeter Davis, the new Ian Felice record, the new Tristen record. The Crimetown podcast was incredible. It really ticked all my boxes.
Your upcoming tour will feature an acoustic and electric set. When you’re creating setlists from your older material, is it a challenge to pick songs that will fit better in each set and do you still enjoy a good cover or song two?
It’s actually been pretty easy since we have a bunch of acoustic arrangements of songs from our 2016 acoustic tour. We’re trying to play every song we’ve ever recorded on this tour, that’s the real challenge. We’ve been having a lot of fun with the cover songs. We’ve brought a bunch of new ones into the fold, from the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack to Bruce Springsteen.
Thoughts about going back on the road now vs five years ago? What keeps Deer Tick sane on the road these days?
Five years ago touring was just a constant party, and not a particularly fun party. Actually, the fun wore off probably more like four years ago. This time around there seems to be a purpose to our tour. We put more thought into what we’re gonna play, what we’re gonna look like, how the stage is gonna look, et cetera. Sometimes I even go for a run in the morning. Things have changed!
Robert Crowell recently departed the band- the first lineup change in quite some time- how are you liking being a four-piece vs a five-piece?
It’s been fun as a quartet! We’ve had to retool a couple of songs but it’s no big deal. We have a touring keyboard player, Gabe, because there are some pretty important keyboard parts on the new records.
Looking back on your past records can you give readers one word that comes to mind when you think of them?
War Elephant– Baltimore (that’s where it was recorded)
Born On Flag Day– Budweiser (drink of choice at the time)
The Black Dirt Sessions – Snow (we were snowed in for the entire recording)
Divine Providence– Company smokes (I know, two words! During these sessions we coined this term for cartons of cigarettes we’d buy with the band’s credit card, a term we still use)
Negativity- Goat (Something Dennis did… Nothing sexual, and no animals were harmed.)