"WE'RE LOUD! We're a loud rock band," says Aaron Miller, one of two guitarists in Deer or the Doe. "Nobody told us that we weren't supposed to have big amps. We didn't get the memo."
The Portland five-piece's sound is indeed massive, but Deer or the Doe temper their volume's inherent aggression with a unique sense of poise. Each bright melody pierces through a wash of electricity, in turn casting countless degrees of shade onto their striking, everlasting compositions. "We've always been in this weird place where it's not punk enough to be a punk band, and not indie enough to be an indie band," Miller says.
Their new record is triumphantly neither indie nor punk, but Tonight We Love You is undeniably, tremendously good. Recorded in bits and pieces over the span of many months with Point Juncture, WA's Victor Nash, it's the finest indication of the band's consistent growth over its five-year history, following two prior EPs with their clearest statement of purpose. It wasn't an easy record to make, though, and each member of the band was individually going through some sort of turmoil in the period leading up to the recording—deaths in families, illnesses, and career changes. "We're all really good friends," says Miller. "When we're not playing music, we hang out together. So we were all really tied together in this weird way. A lot of stuff was going on, for a lot of us. And nobody was left behind in that."
"Honestly, there were times when I wasn't sure that we would keep going as a band," says keyboardist Cassie Neth, who shares vocal duties with Miller (as well as a home and a Springer Spaniel mix named MacArthur). "I think through our various life-changing events, there were times where we were like, 'Is this worth it?'"
In particular, Neth was falsely diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and that anxiety and stress carried over to her contributions to the album. "It's all in there. Which is why I feel so connected to the record," Neth says. "Even though... it's strange, I feel like I wasn't really there mentally; I was so involved in the other things I had going on. But now listening back to the record, now that I'm good and doing well, I feel much more connected to it than I realized."
For all the struggle that accompanied its creation, Tonight We Love You turned out to be a hopeful, uplifting record. The band—rounded out by guitarist Blake Carrillo, bassist Clint Cunningham, and drummer Carlos Segovia—is fired by the hot-burning embers of punk and post-hardcore, but they also find room for the piney, verdant interiority of Pacific Northwest pop. Rapid-fire songs like "Coeur d'Alene" and "Longest Arms" crack off at full speed, but without flooding the engine with gas; "Accidentally Living" and "Cartoon Eyes," meanwhile, accumulate a careful and inviting kind of majesty over their stately buildups. Deer or the Doe have made that rare contemplative, soul-searching record that could suit a quiet rainy-day morning, but sounds just as terrific blaring at high volume.
"Different people in our lives have told us how much they like this new record," says Neth, "and that's great, but we're surprised by the reactions. It's a lot more accessible than we thought it would be, which is nice."