The San Fran indie
icons don’t play no prog rock.
BY A.D. AMOROSI
When keyboardist/drummer Greg Saunier and guitarist Rob Fisk
started Deerhoof in 1994 their earliest works were strictly un-strict: No Wave
muzzy and harshed-mellow punk. They grew quirkier and lovelier when
singer/bassist Satomi Matsuzaki joined for 1996’s self-titled double 7″,
but you certainly wouldn’t have guessed that:
a) they’d make albums as gorgeous and immense as The Runners Four, as cuttingly concise
as Friend Opportunity, as raunchily
rocked-out as Apple O’;
b) they’d find themselves making a caramel centered pop album
like their latest, Offend Maggie, issued by Kill Rock Stars, that takes from the aforementioned trio of
previously released albums while finding it own iconic stance;
c) they’d still be around so to be sillier and lovelier than
ever, even offering fans sheet music to their newest songs before release to
make their own version.
But there we are: offending “Maggie” and “Buck and Judy;”
morphing melodies and mingling complexities so to come up with “The Tears and
Music of Love” and “Eaguru Guru;” lending power-pop riffage to Matsuzaki’s
gorgeous voice on “Snoopy Waves” and “My Purple Past”; and finding
on the pop-signed title track something reminiscent of Can-meets-Ravi
Shankar-meets John Fahey.
Saunier got on the hoof to discuss.
What’s the big idea
of offering people sheet music to your stuff – vo-dee-oh-do?
Yeah, But you should hear the versions people made. I’m so
glad we did it, we have the most amazing fans in the world. People made some
really surprising covers of that song we asked for, “Fresh Born.” I
liked the idea that people got to know the song before they ever heard our
recording of it.
You have more than
your fair share of songs that address the Lord in your recordings. The blunt
“This Is God Speaking” speaks best to that. Do you think of yourself as a
religious organization – do you feel as if to be D-Hoofed, is akin to
I certainly hope not
– we don’t have a platform or any set of beliefs, at least not about music.
Who is the most
religious member of the band – talking about God and writing about God? Do you
find and see and feel your God in everything?
Oh none of us is religious as far as I know. Satomi is a little bit
superstitious though. She was reading this horoscope book in the car yesterday.
She asked about all of our planets and consulted the book. And the book said
that we’re all a bad match for each other, we shouldn’t even be working
Why so poppy when it
came to the title track? Out and out, pretty as we speak, “Offend Maggie” – it’s
really ring-y ding dingy.
That one sounds poppy to you? It’s funny because different
people hear the same song and have such different reactions to it, I mean with
all music that happens but somehow it seems to especially happen with ours. One
person thinks it’s poppy but the next person thinks it is noise. On
“Offend Maggie” – which you are asking about, as on all of our other
songs – we don’t think of it in terms of music genres. John made up the
acoustic guitar part first which we really liked, and I tried to think of some
melody to go with it and that’s how we came up with the vocals, electric
guitar, and bass. Then Satomi made up the lyrics about incessant sales calls as
a metaphor for unrequited love.
Who in Deerhoof has
the purplest past?
I got that line from a Busby Berkeley movie. One of the
characters was talking about “my purple past” and I just thought it
was incredible, a very strange combination of words. I immediately tried to
find out what in the world it meant, with no success. I think it could be taken
as either an auspicious past, like someone who used to be famous, or it could
refer to a bruised past, or both at once. I thought the lyrics Satomi wrote for
it was so beautiful, almost supernatural. This sailor and cowboy – they trade
identities. Of course it’s just a story and it came from Satomi’s imagination,
so it’s not like it’s literally about anyone in the band who has a purple past.
But depending on how you take the meaning of the words, everyone has a purple
What is the big idea
about making fun of Buck and Judy? Who is Buck and Judy anyway?
Any of us humans have a right to make fun of the man, woman and fruit and the
little mistake that occurred between them, since we’re just making fun of
What is better to
release – CDs or nerve gas?
We’d have to release nerve gas first to be able to make a fair comparison.
When you guys started
making music, did you really think you’d be doing it still – now – the whole Deerhoof
Deerhoof actually started about 14 years ago but of course that’s not when
we started making music. Everyone starts making music the moment they’re born.
Each of us had a different idea probably – I think I always knew I’d be in a
band; Satomi never thought she’d be in a band. But as far as Deerhoof there’s
no question that it has gone way beyond our expectations. It always has – when
we had our first show I thought no one would show up but there were three
people there. It’s been like that ever since.
What did you need and
want Deerhoof to be when you started?
When we start needing something from it we get into trouble a little bit. But
we’ve been lucky; mostly we’ve just had our band and not really understood or
worried about what we want from it, that hasn’t changed.
What is better for
Deerhoof: spite or sensuality?
I think both have their place in music. Spite happens
sometimes for us where one person criticizes another at rehearsal – like,
“you’re playing too loud” is one I get a lot. Or sometimes I’ll tell
John “stop adding all those slides in between the notes”. And the
person getting the criticism will be hurt and out of spite they will do what
they were asked to do but in a really exaggerated way. Then it will sound
perfect. Sensuality is good because we hardly have any and we need some. We
used to always practice in our living room, no amps, no drums. It was totally
lacking in sensuality since it made almost no sound at all, it was really just
mental practice. Since Ed Rodriguez joined the band this year we’ve been
practicing like a normal band, in a rehearsal studio at full volume. We get to
hear what everything really sounds like – it’s not just mental anymore. It’s
Tell me something about Deerhoof you’ve never expressed to another
Wow. Where to start?
No one in Deerhoof has ADD. Deerhoof doesn’t play prog rock.
“Eaguru Guru” – you mention Guru Guru and it’s got all those separate
suites and those big keyboards?
OK. And Satomi has allergies.
[Deerhoof filmed a
series of interview and performance clips exclusively for BLURT at D.C.’s 9:30
Club. Go to our video section to view them.]
[Photo Credit: Eric Landmark]