Deer Tick Burrow In
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.
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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Although he made a point of highlighting his bandmates’ contributions, McCauley’s outlook on the group’s creative process corroborated Ryan’s take on things. “Most of what we play are songs I’ve written,” he said. “About 98-percent are my songs, but Andy writes songs and Dennis writes songs. Dennis played a song of his [tonight] on lead vocals that will be on the third album.”
With the release of Born On Flag Day talk of a third studio album came from out of the blue. When asked to elaborate, McCauley said that Flag Day was finished by September of 2008 and that their third LP, finished this past January, is slated for a winter release. “[The third album is] already done. I don’t want to go too deep into it because, you know, it’s kind of secret,” he said, “but it’s a little darker and a lot heavier than anything we’ve done.”
It seems like Deer Tick is keeping two steps ahead of the game, and that’s the way McCauley likes it. “It’s not such a bad place to be,” he said. “It sort of takes the pressure off. You don’t have to think what we’re going to do for the next album. We haven’t written shit.”
The guys in Deer Tick are far from oblivious about their rise in prominence over the past year, and the possibility of that continual rise didn’t seem far off their radar at any point in time. “It’s funny because when I joined, John booked the tour himself. When we played Boston, we were playing at house parties, a lot of basements and dive bars with 15 people. It wasn’t anything glorious,” Ryan commented. “Even then we didn’t have enough CDs. John was making them himself, and I drew a cover with a weird clown. We toured for a whole year with no merchandise, and sold whatever we could when we had it. It was when we met [label founder] Tim [Putnam] from Partisan Records that they re-released War Elephant and things started to go a little better.”
As for the buzz itself, McCauley said, “[Born On Flag Day] has been getting a lot of hype and it’s not even out yet, so I sense a lot of anticipation for this album, so I think things will change for us. The hype is sort of something I feel I’m supposed to live up to, but we recorded it in September and I still think it’s a good album.”
But when it comes to playing bigger venues, getting a nicer tour bus or reaching any of the other plateau’s affiliated with rock ‘n’ roll fame, McCauley seemed to care less. “I don’t care about fame,” he said. “I care about our fans and the more the merrier.”
.FREE MP3: Deer Tick – “Easy”
Deer Tick has several dates coming up including shows with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and These United States; complete tour dates available here.
JamBase | Wavin’ That Flag
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