Breakout Band: SF's Deerhoof at Great American Music Hall
Disregard the title of Deerhoof’s latest album, Offend Maggie (Kill Rock Stars, 2008), the Bay Area band never offends.
Rather, the up-from-the-underground foursome specializes in subverting your assumptions of what constitutes a rock-out number and what kind of unholy, Maggie-outraging roar guitars, drums, and bass can generate – all with a playful wink and friendly nod to indie’s avant-garde, as well as rock standard bearers like Radiohead, who Deerhoof toured with a while back.
I traded e-mails with drummer Greg Saunier, Deerhoof’s power pummeler and a longtime San Francisco music mainstay -- just back from a European tour. It was simply the latest romp for the furry fun-starters, who will be playing Great American Music Hall Sunday, Aug. 2. Further out: All Tomorrow’s Parties in Monticello, N.Y., Sept 13, in collaboration with “Wrong Time Capsule” video artist Martha Colburn, and ATP’s 10-Year Anniversary Party Dec. 11-13.
Q: I hear you'll be collaborated with Martha Coburn, who did Deerhoof’s “Wrong Time Capsule” video, for the ATP fest in N.Y.? What will that entail?
Greg Saunier: Not sure yet! One is never sure with Martha. No one will be more surprised than we, I'm sure of that much.
Q: How are all of you faring amid all the touring - any tips for keeping sane and strong during your travels?
GS: What worked this time was Satomi [Matsuzaki, vocalist-bassist-guitarist] and I moved out of our apartment before the tour. That didn't exactly help our sanity before we left, but then touring was a breeze. No bills to worry about or anything. Rent control had kept us in the same building on Hyde Street for over 10 years, through boom and bust.
Q: What are currently your top five places to play and/or visit?
GS: I would have no idea how to rank them. Sometimes you like the scenery but not the food. Sometimes you love both, but the shows aren't so good. I guess I probably see everything through the lens of Deerhoof, so I especially like places where we have a particularly memorable experience at the concert.
Since our last record came out we've played a bunch of new places that I just loved. Poland, Czech Republic, Russia, Ireland were standouts for me. Maybe the most enthusiastic audiences I've ever seen. Still, San Francisco is hard to beat. One big reason is all the bands here, and the range, the creativity. I'm not sure that's there's any second place anywhere as far as that goes.
Q: What are you listening to right now?
GS: Oh, Kimberly, I don't know what to say. I don't listen to music all that often. Mostly classical music, but if I start listing that, just imagine how pretentious I will sound.
I just put the MP3 player on shuffle -- that technology is a dream come true for me.
Q: Any thoughts about the next album after Offend Maggie?
GS: Nothing I care to reveal at this time! Any suggestions? I always like suggestions.
We're looking at a very good possibility of releasing a new single this year, though.
Q: And speaking of Offend Maggie, I'm thinking that record was marked by the fact that it seemed to come very quickly -- have things changed for you all over the past few years in that sense? Is it easier and easier to record?
GS: I appreciate your comment. Actually I don't remember if it came quickly. It certainly wasn't painlessly. But I think we were trying to go for that kind of feeling, like a sort of Sticky Fingers off-the-cuff-ness in the way it sounds -- whether or not it was actually true in the way it was made.
The way we record changes every time, which is to say that nothing has changed at all since the beginning of the band. Another way of explaining it is that we do not now have, nor have we ever had, any idea what we are doing.
Q: How would you describe the dynamic/feeling of the current show?
GS: To me it's not even a show. I don't think we've ever played a show, because it's not that worked out -- or that confident. Even if we play the same set list two nights in a row, we're still struggling with how to play together, so it comes out different every time.
Q: Do you feel like your relationship with your listeners/fans has changed?
GS: I do -- with people who've listened to Deerhoof for a longer time. We have a past with them, and they want to be surprised and want to have fun, so it keeps us moving. But then there always seem to be new people, too, and our relationship with them stays the same.
Q: What's coming up next for you in the foreseeable future?
GS: Oh man, we have a show at Great American Music Hall coming up! That's about as far as I'm willing to foresee. I'll worry about the rest later.
There's nothing scarier than playing San Francisco for us. Especially since we have to follow the kinds of artists that we are playing with at this show: Abe Vigoda is coming from L.A., Zach Hill from Hella is coming from Sacramento to play a solo performance, and Death Sentence: Panda! is one of my favorite SF bands. It's going to be like a mini music festival, with Deerhoof in the hot seat!