Deerhunter's New Double Album Strives for Elegance

Every musical era yields a few contentious, controversial malcontents with enough raw talent to back up their braggadocio, baggage and bullshit; this decade has already seen a handful. Producer/MC Kanye West is one; Deerhunter front man Bradford Cox is another.

Since the Atlanta band's 2007 breakthrough Cryptograms bum-rushed the indie-rock sphere with filthy drones, loops and beats, Cox hasn't been afraid to offend, to rile, to really put himself out there.

He posts photos of his own excrement online; taunts audiences onstage while wearing dresses; preemptively fired guitarist Colin Mee when he couldn't commit to a tour; slammed freak-folk princess Samara Lubelski in print; and always places his out-and-proud homosexuality front and center.

Cox's take-it-or-leave-it persona stands in stark contract to the swirling music he makes under his Atlas Sound solo guise and with Deerhunter: layer upon layer of undulating, reassuring sonics that almost register as narcotic. On Deerhunter's new double album Microcastle/Weird Era Cont., Cox and his cohorts — drummer Moses Archuleta, bassist/pianist/percussionist Josh Fauver, guitarist Lockett Pundt and guitarist Whitney Petty — mellow the harsher edges in their sound and strive for a sort of timeless elegance, a lightness of touch.

From the drowsy, flowery drift of "Green Jacket" to the Generation Fucked twinklings of "Little Kids" to "Twilight at Carbon Lake," where a girl-group lullaby melody collides with existentialist emptiness, Deerhunter has raised the bar. And the band is hardly done: Cox constantly posts new, engrossing material on the band's blog, gratis.

Last week, the Houston Press caught up with Archuleta — the band's only original member besides Cox — via cell phone for a brief chat about Microcastle, touring and talking to cats.

Houston Press: Where are you at this very moment, and what are you doing?

Moses Archuleta: We are in Detroit, in the home/recording studio of our sound guy, Chris — that's what we're up to. We're about to go to eat, I think. And Whitney [guitarist Petty] is talking to a cat.

HP: What kind of cat?

MA: Kind of tortoise color, kind of a ­calico.

HP: How's the tour going so far?

MA: It's going pretty well. We had a lot of fun in Pontiac/Detroit, and we're headed to Cincinnati soon.

HP: Would you say your profile has risen since Cryptograms?

MA: Um, yeah, we are [doing more interviews]. Not that much more, though. We're being more selective, because it gets tiring after a while. But I think more people are listening now and paying attention, asking more questions.

HP: Did the recording process for Microcastle differ dramatically from that of Cryptograms? If so, how?

MA: Yeah, it did. I guess by a lot of bands' standards it didn't take long, but for us it did. It took about two weeks. We did a lot more tracking than for Cryptograms; a lot of Cryptograms was done in live takes. Also, we tried to do more in terms of fidelity and sound because we had the time and the resources. Hopefully itpaid off.

HP: I'd say it definitely did.

MA: Thank you! I hope it was a progression forward.

HP: Microcastle strikes me as a very big leap forward in terms of tone, composition and restraint. Did it feel that way to all of you when you were writing it?

MA: I don't know; it's hard to say. It was just different. Yes and no, because a lot happened on the fly in the studio this time.

HP: Bradford and Luckett have Atlas Sound and Lotus Plaza as solo outlets outside of Deerhunter. Do you have anything?

MA: That would be neat — if I had more time to do that! I kinda manage the band by day, so it's a lot just with that and practicing. Hopefully I'll have more time in the future to do stuff on my own.

HP: What are the best and worst things about touring?

MA: Um...[laughs] I mean, it's great and fun sometimes, but sometimes it isn't. It's great to travel and see stuff, but sometimes you're somewhere that's really interesting but just too tired from playing and driving to go and see stuff. It's equally a blessing and a curse to tour.

HP: How often are you able to rehearse? Do you all live in the same general area? I ask because the band's so prolific...

MA: No, in terms of practicing. We didn't have a practice space for so long, so we'd rehearse on tour or work on pieces of songs at home. But we did get a rehearsal space right before this tour, so we did practice a lot.

HP: What've you been listening to in the van?

MA: Through my headphones, probably Hall & Oates, Om and Bruce Spingsteen. Those three have been on a lot.

HP: Of all the songs on Microcastle and Weird Era Cont., which is your favorite, and why?

MA: Probably "Nothing Ever Happened" because that song happened the most organically of all of them. It just developed really naturally, without us fleshing it out fully before we got to the studio.

HP: I hope you don't mind, but I kinda have to ask this question. Are you ever asked if you're related to [2008] American Idol ­runner-up David ­Archuleta?

MA: It's come up once or twice. I've also noticed that more people know how to spell and pronounce my last name now. So yeah! I'm sure we're related somehow, but I don't know. [Laughs] Maybe I'll hit him up for some money! Or a jam session.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Ray Cummings