Inquiring Minds

Inquiring Minds: Deer Tick's Front Man Goes for That Chased-by-Alligators Sound

Providence, R.I., band Deer Tick may hail from "Up North" but their sound is purely steeped in grungey folk and rockabilly yelp. They, in fact, hear this description so much that the band has started to rebel against it by in fact upping the dosage on their new More Fuel For The Fire EP, which just hit iTunes this week.

The band has been the brainchild of lead singer and songwriter John Joseph McCauley III since the very beginning in late 2004. He was joined by a full band in 2007, right before the release and recording of that year's War Elephant full-length. Around this time, the band gained a rep for playing what lazy critics would call "alt-country" rather than the Creedence Clearwater Revival stomp that McCauley was building in his mind. War did incredibly well critically, as did follow-up Born On Flag Day, which features probably one of the best songs with Houston in its title that isn't necessarily about our city, "Houston, TX", but instead about a heartbreaking girl from around these parts.

We talked to McCauley yesterday after the band had sound-checked in Orlando, Fla., and he seemed to be the same aloof character that he portrays in his songs. We had been playing quite the game of text messaging phone tag, so it was nice to finally get to sit down with him over the phone. He began telling us that the reasonings behind the new EP are actually quite hilarious, but also conducive and telling of the band's creative process.

"We had some to spend in the studio a few months back, and we were thinking about how much people try to pigeonhole us as some sort of alt-country twang band, so we decided to play that up. We had more space to roam in the studio and a good producer so we went for it," McCauley said as the band was getting ready to make a run to a local guitar store.

"A track like 'Dance With Love' we wanted have sound like you were near a swamp and a big ol' alligator was chasing you," he added. "The production we had on this EP was way different then anything we had had before and we were playing with it."

Deer Tick isn't without their fans in high places. This past spring David Fricke, the senior editor of Rolling Stone, picked them as his No. 1 band to watch at this year's SXSW in Austin. To be noticed by Fricke, let alone singled out for praise so emphatically, is quite the honor. Remember, this is the guy who was handpicked to write the liner notes for a few Led Zeppelin and Nirvana retrospective compilations. He's kind of big deal.

McCauley is still stunned by the accolade, "I saw him on the street a few months back in New York and it took me a second to process who he was and by that time he was more than a few steps down the street. I just wanted to say thank you again to him."

McCauley confirmed that the band is working on a follow-up to this new EP and Born On Flag Day, and hopes to be able to showcase the new material during SXSW 2010, where they are set to play a round of shows.

With Neko Case, 8 p.m. Sunday, November 22, at Warehouse Live, 813 St. Emanuel, 713-225-5483 or

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Craig Hlavaty
Contact: Craig Hlavaty