Now that Deer Tick has released its fourth CD, “Divine Providence,” frontman John McCauley III has one simple wish for what the album will do for the band.
“I will die happy if I never hear the words indy folk or Americana ever again,” he said. “I think we’re kind of frustrated with like what people had imagined what our career had become.”
Yes, Deer Tick has been called indy folk and Americana more times than McCauley cares to count. But with “Divine Providence,” Deer Tick has made a CD that doesn’t sound the least bit like folk, Americana, country or any other twang-related type of music one could name.
That much becomes immediately apparent when the stomping beat to the raucous “The Bump” opens the CD. Several other songs follow in that garage-ish roots romp vein, including the hyper-speed rockers “Let’s All Go to The Bar” and “Something to Brag About.” While certainly loud and boisterous, Deer Tick hasn’t lost the tuneful craftsmanship that has always been part of its music. “Funny Word,” “Make Believe,” “Walkin’ Out The Door” (which has a bit of Brit-pop to it) and “Main Street” (which sounds like a lost Replacements gem) all are filled with great hooks, smart riffs and lyrics that have wit and insight.
And yes, there are a couple of songs, such as “Clownin’ Around” and “Chevy Express,” that dial down the volume, feature acoustic textures and more closely recall the earlier albums. Still, McCauley knows some fans may be caught off guard by “Divine Providence.”
“We might piss some people off with this record, but what you want?” McCauley said. “We’re not going to do another ‘War Elephant.’”
“War Elephant” would be Deer Tick’s 2007 debut CD, the album that started to get the band classified as indy folk or Americana. McCauley started out as a solo act in 2004 and spent three years touring on his own or with an evolving cast of other musicians before he decided it was time to record a “real” CD in “War Elephant” under the Deer Tick name.
After making that CD (McCauley performed all of the instruments himself), he started turning Deer Tick into a “real” band, beginning with drummer Dennis Ryan, who had played with McCauley before. Next to join was bassist Chris Ryan (half-brother of the drummer).
McCauley, though, went through several other band members before the current lineup came together in 2010 with the arrival of guitarist Ian O’Neil and keyboardist/saxophonist Rob Crowell.
“Ian’s style, I work really well with him,” McCauley said. “And then Rob, the keyboard player and saxophone player, he’s such a solid musician that it kind of really rounds out our sound, I think, and he really fills it out. So I guess I just happened to find a bunch of guys that at this point, I really couldn’t do this without them.”
O’Neil was on board in time to add some guitar parts to the third Deer Tick CD, “The Black Dirt Sessions,” whose songs were actually recorded in basic form during the same 2008 session that produced the second Deer Tick CD, the 2009 release “Born On Flag Day.”
Because all three of those Deer Tick albums had their country and folk elements to them (as well as a few more raucous moments that hinted at the sound of “Divine Providence”), the new CD may well be seen as a fairly radical departure for the band.
But McCauley said “Divine Providence” simply captures a side of the band that has always existed – especially live.
“I think it kind of helps reinforce what we’ve kind of been doing for years,” McCauley said. “At least now there are songs like that on our record. We’ve always played loud, fast and noisy.”
To help get more of that live sound to translate onto “Divine Intervention,” Deer Tick, for the first time, worked with a producer – or in this case a pair of producers, Adam Landry and Justin Collins.
McCauley met Landry and Collins in making the self-titled debut CD with Middle Brother, a side band that also included Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes and Matt Vasquez of Delta Spirit.
That group’s CD was released in March 2011.
“They just have really, really good ears on them,” McCauley said of Landry and Collins. “You know, with them it’s more capturing some kind of feeling in the music rather than getting a perfect take.”
Now Deer Tick is out on its Deer Tick’s Freedom Bus Tour, donning suits as political candidates and inviting fans to purchase campaign signs and post pictures of their signs on the band’s Facebook page.
“That was an idea we’ve been thinking about,” McCauley said. “It seemed like the right time. It’s kind of hilarious.
“We got a little funky with the suits,” he said. “I kind of look like a watermelon. I’ve got a green shirt, pink jacket, black pants and a blue bow tie.”
The group also have a few new songs to play from an EP, “Tim,” (yes, it’s a nod to the Replacements album) that was released in February.
“They are just songs that recorded for ‘Divine Providence’ that, when we were sequencing the album, got left out,” McCauley said.