To put it mildly, Deerhunter had something of a good finish to 2010 with the release in September of their fourth LP Halcyon Digest . The record heralded a new direction for Deerhunter with the creation of more textured and instrumentally varied sound.
“There wasn’t a conscious effort to try and do things really different or step away from anything. It just was pretty natural. For Halcyon Digest there was an opportunity for us to experiment in the studio in a way that we hadn’t before,” explains Deerhunter’s drummer and keyboardist Moses Archuleta, speaking from a morning walk.
Archuleta formed Deerhunter in 2001 with vocalist Bradford Cox and the band have since released the albums Turn It Up Faggots (2005), Cryptograms (2007), Microcastle / Weird Era Cont. (2008) and the aforementioned Halcyon Digest of last year. Archuleta continues his explanation of the band’s sonic shift on Halcyon Digest, noting “We kind of ignored, for better or for worse – well I hope for better – the more typical band dynamic of guitar bass and drums,” he muses.
“There was a lot more time spent nit-picking over things and like trying different types of songs and things in songs then we ever had before.” He openly concludes about the new album’s new sound, arguing “We tried styles that we are fans of, but have not necessarily tried as Deerhunter.”
However, despite the new sound and that technical approach, Archuleta is very definite in clarifying that Derrhunter are, and always will be, a rock band.
“On one hand, in certain ways it certainly has [changed] but it’s hard to change basic effects you get from certain instruments. We always try to remain like a rock band, regardless of the amount of equipment or information at hand, because there’s something that fundamentally works about the traditional structure. Things are constantly changing due to that amount of accessible information, but there are certain things that if they’re done right, will just be really satisfying.”
The lead single from Halcyon Digest was the somewhat enigmatic song Revival.
This song seems to turn its back on traditional song structure and composition but still emits a reassuringly classic aesthetic. Archuleta discusses how this song evolved, saying “That song evolved a lot in the studio. We had been playing it live for six or seven months leading up to that, but it changed drastically when we were in the studio. We polished it out a lot and there was a lot of trying out different instrumentation and a lot of slight edits and adjustments.”
Archuleta enthusiastically rounds out his commentary on Revival’s production efforts, adding, “Those things can do a lot to change aspects of the songs, and in that case the song really benefited a lot from it.
“It was like a car engine, or something in a car,” he continues. “We just did certain things to it and it made it run better in the end, than when it came in initially. In that situation it really benefited a lot from the creative process.”
The film clip for Revival is also something to note, featuring black and white footage of 1950s-esque animal experiments and footage; it comes across as a skewed documentary from the ‘olden days’. Archuleta explains the source of the footage, “There’s a lot of ‘found’ footage and VHS footage that Bradford had; like home video footage. I think it’s a great film clip, perfect for the song.” ‘Found’ footage is term for film snippets taken somewhat randomly from out-of-copyright or never-copyrighted videos; often in work instructional or home videos.
Deerhunter singer Bradford Cox is also somewhat of an amateur film buff – it was from his collection that the revival clip was made. On the topic of what the band’s members get up to outside of their Deerhunter-related activities, Archuleta explains, “You kinda enter different modes of operating and work, so there’s different times when that’s the case… like touring, recording and preparing for recording where its just all that for a while. But it’s helpful to have a balance so you don’t plug away so much at that [writing and recording] that you go crazy.”
He also discusses that, without the balance of having other ‘concerns’, making an album can become an absolute obsession for a band.
“There’s definitely always that moment when you second guess stuff. I mean there’s always ‘what ifs’, but I think we’re pretty good at being happy where something ends up… and being happy with where it ends up. Because you can definitely work on an album forever if you let it get like that.”
Deerhunter are due back in Australia next month for Laneway Festival, and the band’s return is more than eagerly anticipated – last time they were in Australia was back in June 2009 when they played The Corner Hotel with Beaches and Songs. It was a show that’s still talked about warmly by those in attendance for its bounty of warmth and wonderfully inclusive music.
Archuleta is certainly one of those who thought the show was something special. “We had a great time in Melbourne. The audience there was just really attentive and enthusiastic.”
Archuleta also lavishes praise on Australia as whole, basically stating that we’re massive fans of music for music’s sake. It’s a fair point. “I was, not to diminish the effect of Melbourne but I’d say in general we had like really great show experiences in Australia.
“You seem to have a great appreciation and enjoyment of music. It really shows. The shows were just really great. Being in a band when you play so many shows, stuff like that really matters.”
Well Deerhunter, we’re always happy to have you.
DEERHUNTER play the 2011 LANEWAY FESTIVAL along with Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Beach House, Bear In Heaven, Blonde Redhead, Cloud Control, Cut Copy, Deerhunter, Foals, Gotye, Holy Fuck, Jenny And Johnny, Les Savy Fav, Local Natives, Menomena, Pvt, Rat Vs Possum, Stornoway, The Antlers, The Holidays, Two Door Cinema Club, Violent Soho, Warpaint, World's End Press And Yeasayer. It’s at the Footscray Community Arts Centre on Saturday February 5 – and it’s sold out… but there’s limited tickets being released this Friday January 14 – so head to lanewayfestival.com.au for more info.
DEERHUNTER also play a sideshow at Billboard The Venue on Wednesday February 9 – tickets from billboardthevenue.com.au, ticketek.com.au, 132 849, moshtix.com.au and Polyester Fitzroy and City. The band’s latest album Halcyon Digest is out now through Remote Control.