By: Andrew Bruss
Prior to the release of Deer Tick's sophomore studio album, Born On Flag Day (released June 23 on Partisan Records), frontman John McCauley III talked backstage at Boston's House of Blues about the expectations for his new album, the band's heightened presence in the press and where he hopes things will go from here. When asked about the prospect of fame, McCauley joked, "If it ever gets to a point where I can't go anywhere without being recognized or if folks are taking my picture... I've always said that if I was faced by paparazzi I'd just pull my dick out [laughs]. If I keep doing that every time someone takes my picture, the value of my photo will go down to the point where nobody will want to deal with me. I'm not going to be punching photographers in the face... but I will show them my dick."
The above statement wasn't anything more than McCauley having a sense of humor, but he added with a serious tone, "I don't know that I'll ever change my lifestyle. I'm always going to be a guy who goes to neighborhood bars and do my own grocery shopping and shit like that. I don't think fame could ever faze me."
The guys in Deer Tick were opening for Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley fame on a stretch of her current tour, and they came through Boston on a helluva night. Born and based out of Providence, Rhode Island, the group seemed stoked to be performing across the street from Fenway Park on a night that found the Boston Red Sox wrapping up the second game of a three-day sweep against arch rivals the New York Yankees. The win amplified the affect of Deer Tick's pseudo-homecoming crowd in Boston, and after the performance, while the greater Deer Tick crew was cutting loose in their dressing room, guitarist Andy Tobiassen stormed in, amped-up over a t-shirt he'd gotten with the Red Sox logo on the front and the album cover for Flag Day on the back. When drummer Dennis Ryan asked in amazement "Where'd you get that?" Tobiassen replied that he'd be getting his soon.
That was the vibe brewing around Deer Tick in Boston. During the conversation with McCauley following the set, he commented, "Tonight really almost felt like we were playing to a hometown crowd. Just to play for fellow New Englanders and see them get excited and applaud for us and to entertain them and to see they were even paying attention, it was really flattering and put me in a good mood. As soon as we started the first song I knew it was going to be a good night."
Their set clocked in just under an hour and featured a handful of tunes off their freshman debut, War Elephant (JamBase review here), as well as a solid run through their more recent material. They humored hecklers with a tease of Skynyrd's "Free Bird," as well as an impromptu "Day Man" from FX's It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, before wrapping their set with an ass kicking cover of "La Bamba," leaving an impressed crowd for Jenny Lewis. Follow she did, making it clear to anyone in the house who the people came to see. However, based on the crowd's response and the nothing-but-rock-n-roll performance they gave, there was no doubt that Deer Tick left Boston with a bunch of new fans.
For as impressive of a frontman as McCauley is on stage, you wouldn't recognize the blonde haired, mustached singer when he's in a social setting. Sporting a tattoo of a Deer Tick on his left bicep, his singing carries an almost Southern accent that appears through his gritty howl on tunes like "Not So Dense" and on Flag Day tracks like "Easy" and "The Ghost." But in person, McCauley is soft spoken, near whispering answers to questions while barely moving his lips. Even when surrounded by friends and bandmates, McCauley was more inclined to slouch into his chair, sip on a beer and mellow out, rather than strive to be the center of attention like many other frontmen. Before the group took the stage, Liz Isenberg, Providence-based singer-songwriter who performs with the band, spoke about McCauley's duality. "He's a completely different person on stage," she said, "but he's a very quiet guy. The first time I saw him on stage I thought he was very energetic and charming; he was talking way more than he used to, and I thought he was a great entertainer."
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