Still hoofing it after 16 years

When I was four years old, Deerhoof were already cool. Now, after 16 years, 12 records and five former members, the solid quartet of John Dieterich, Satomi Matsuzaki, Ed Rodriguez and Greg Saunier continue to blow the minds of listeners everywhere. Matsuzaki’s vocals have the haunting quality of a half-forgotten dream as they float over the unorthodox guitar, keyboard and drum sequences of the other members, creating something completely unreal.

Obviously, after 16 years and so many member changes, one would assume that the original ‘Deerhoof sound’ would be lost in the chaos. Saunier disagrees.

“In our case, I wouldn’t say that we’ve lost our origins, but that we never had any — we were already confused, right from the first day,” says the drummer. “I’ve always been in the band with other people whose favourite bands are completely different from mine.”

Rodriguez elaborates, explaining that because of each members’ different tastes, the band compromises to create a unique end result. Their most recent record, Offend Maggie, is a perfect example — the album was written separately by all the members and then pieced together during group practices.

“Each song is a little bit different,” says Rodriguez. “The end result never, never ends up being what you thought it would be and what you brought in.”

The unexpected is what makes Deerhoof so good and the members know this. Of course, there’s some preparation involved with every record, but Rodriquez says that the band embraces any miscommunication.

“Even before we started working on this new record we’d talk about it endlessly,” he explains. ” ‘These are the elements of what we’re doing now that maybe we’re tired of or want to change.’ We’d go into the practice space and realize that this one word means completely different things. We’d reach that [common ground] and then it really feels like something special has happened.”

Not only is their music full of the unexpected, but so are their live performances. Deerhoof are known for their on-stage improvisation and ability to mash together songs, entertaining both the audience and performers. When asked about the improvisation, Rodriguez responds with laughter and enthusiasm for the amount of flexibility they demonstrate on stage.

“It’s almost a joke to everyone just seeing what is going to happen when you go to a show, with Greg on guitar or Satomi on drum. I’d seen the band probably 40 or 50 times before joining it so I’m completely aware how the members and the people in it at certain moments affect the music. I’ve always really appreciated that and thought it was special.”

Both of the band’s upcoming Sled Island shows are sure to be impressive. Rodriguez says that the band’s other visits to Canada have been positive, and specifically mentioned the infectious excitement and lack of “dark feelings” during shows.

One can only expect great things from a band who has influenced artists like Women, Of Montreal and Sleighbells, and performed with the likes of Radiohead, Bloc Party and the Flaming Lips.

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