By Michael Petitti
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Describing the music of Deerhoof is difficult. Bassist/vocalist Chris Cohen danced around giving a direct answer - rightfully so.
"It's funny how most bands don't like to describe their sound," Cohen said. "If you're making music, I kind of feel like, 'What's the point of describing it?' I'd rather people just heard it. I wouldn't really know how to describe our sound. I think that any description that anybody feels is right, is right. I'll accept any description that anybody wants to give us. I actually can't really describe it myself because I'll let myself down. I'll be disappointed no matter what I say."
Great, now that leaves me with the unenviable task of trying to define the music of Deerhoof. Spaz-rock is a term that is often thrust upon them, but that's not entirely accurate. Jazz-rock is another semi-appropriate, but restrictive descriptor. If I plead the Fifth in trying to confine Deerhoof's music to a couple of sentences, few could blame me. It rocks. It rolls. It shakes. It stirs. It soothes. It inspires.
The Bay Area band's latest album, The Runner's Four, is a 20-song, nearly one-hour porridge of sounds that is always thrilling and never easily described. One of the reasons Deerhoof's music is so hard to pinpoint is that the group cooks with four chefs in the kitchen, resulting in universally different sounds from album to album, song to song. Cohen notes that this was the case with The Runner's Four.
"Every album has been done differently," Cohen said. "This one was really different from our last one, but our last one was really different from the one before that, too. But this one we recorded it ourselves in our practice space. We went in there every day, for like three or four months, and we would learn songs and record them. We'd learn a song and then play it for a few hours or something and then just hit the space bar and start recording on the computer."
Deerhoof is by no means an idle band. All four members play instruments, sing and write their own songs (Ashlee Simpson can't even manage to do one of those, well).
"Every song is different," Cohen said. "We've tried every possible combination and we'll do whatever works. Sometimes everybody writes their own part; sometimes one person writes everybody's parts; sometimes the parts are really wide open. With everything that we play, especially on The Runner's Four, there's a lot of freedom in what you can do when playing our music. We're interested in trying any process to get a different result."
One of the main reasons Deerhoof's music is frequently indefinable is majority lead vocalist/guitarist Satomi Matsuzaki's vocals. Her foreign-inflected, childlike vocal calls add a distinct element to the band's already unique sound. For the most part live audiences are enjoying the new material.
"Some people haven't even heard it at all, I think," Cohen said. "The shows have been really fun. I feel like it's been going well, but I guess I also judge it as going well if people have all types of different reactions. Some people just stand there and look really calm and puzzled and other people look totally frantic and are jumping around."
The one thing about Deerhoof that can be defined is the group's sincere devotion to their fans. On their Web site, the band offers fans the opportunity to download a Deerhoof cover album, remix its tracks and download goodies (like a live album) all for free.
"All those covers were just things people did on their own," Cohen said. "We never asked them to do it, but we were really flattered when they did it. We just like to be the kind of band that makes people want to do things themselves. That's definitely one goal of ours, I think ... I'm trying to think of the best way of putting it without sounding pompous. To me, I think the whole purpose of anybody making music is (to create) a dialogue with the world, and we're always happy when people want to do something back. So many people have made us want to do things, and we're happy if we can do the same. It's very flattering that people would want to do that at all, so we're really happy with that stuff."
To see the fan-loving, boundary-hopping Deerhoof in their natural element, head to Solar Culture, 31 E. Toole Ave., on Monday. The all-ages show starts at 9 p.m. with Golden Boots and Mr. Fishsticks opening. Tickets are $8.