DEERHOOF drummer/keyboardist Greg Saunier has been graciously receiving musical ideas in his head—mostly while in bed—for as long as he can remember. "I can remember being seven years old, playing outside and having whole soundtracks going in my head," he says by phone from the San Francisco home he shares with wife and bandmate, vocalist/bassist Satomi Matsuzaki.
"Of course I had no way to write it down or have any idea what notes they were, but that doesn't mean the music itself wasn't really something."
Something indeed. Because from these musical gifts were many of Deerhoof's magical songs borne. "Songs ideas come to me unexpectedly with no warning, usually when I'm sleeping," Saunier says. "I feel grateful that these ideas appear but not grateful to anything specifically. It's not supernatural and it's not spirits—it's spirits in the sense that it's spirits of other music you've heard throughout your life.
They're memories that are stored so deeply inside one's mind that you only get a sneak peek at them by tricking yourself," he continues, "like waking yourself up in the middle of a dream that holds the spirit, which didn't want to be revealed and lurks in a hidden corner of your mind and suddenly gets caught. 'Ah-ha! I found you! I'm going to write you down and I'm going to play you out loud and I'm going to share you with total strangers on the other side of the world and see what they think.'"
And they think the spirit of Deerhoof's music is incredible. Since the band's inception as a duo (Saunier and multi-instrumentalist Rob Fisk) 13 years ago, Deerhoof's songs have steadily gained popularity, earning the band a spot opening for Radiohead, with whom they played during the recording of their new and ninth album Friend Opportunity. "It was totally mind blowing," Saunier says. "You see the best concert you've ever seen in your life and then you go back to the room and fire up the computer like, 'Okay, now let's work on our little music.'"
But Deerhoof's new songs—which are the result of equal contributions from Saunier, Matsuzaki, and guitarist John Dieterich—are hardly little. Continuing with the trend toward increased accessibility—their first album was practically indecipherable noise—Friend Opportunity is a superbly crafted collection of sturdy guitar lines, Matsuzaki's signature coos, complex beat and key arrangements, and intricate sonic occurrences (electronic and organic) that, like Saunier's dreams, seem to appear graciously out of the blue.
The album is a grower; revealing new beauty with each listen and, as all of Deerhoof's albums, showcasing an unstoppable draw toward redoes, repeats, and perfection. Although Saunier humbly professes otherwise. "We have so little idea of what we're doing," he says. "It's like panic-stricken desperation."
Saunier doesn't feel his musical ideas have changed or bettered with time, but rather that he's become better able to recognize them as they make their quiet entrance. "It might seem so esoteric but I've tried to practice how to notice when I'm having ideas," Saunier said. "Somewhere inside your mind, ideas are always swimming around—I don't believe that anybody ever loses the capacity for imagination."