DEERHOOF'S experimental pop is mired in a pure punk sense of adventure. For the past two decades they’ve mastered a seamless blend of bold creativity and practicality that’s deeply rooted in a DIY ethos.
“Our tours are actually pretty uneventful now. We’re really appreciative we have had these brushes with success. We’re making a living off it,” says guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Ed Rodriguez, who’s been with Deerhoof for eight years.
Rodriguez, who lives in Portland, followed longtime friend John Dieterich, who joined in 1999. Deerhoof was originally founded by drummer/vocalist Greg Saunier in 1994, but the band took new form with the arrival of Satomi Matsuzaki in 1995.
“The crew she met when she landed in San Francisco is unbelievable,” says Rodriguez of Matsuzaki’s arrival in the Bay Area, where she met Saunier through experimental band Caroliner. A week later, she was on tour with Deerhoof.
“She had never played music, never done anything. Now she’s incredible. She can play the most intricate, mind-blowing bass line while spinning around and singing. It’s unbelievable.”
The band’s been championed by some of the greats, like Radiohead, the Roots, and the late David Bowie. They continue to tackle interesting projects: Last year as part of the Ex/Noise/CERN series they performed an improvised composition at the Large Hadron Collider, a massive particle accelerator in Switzerland. This spring they released Balter/Saunier, a collaborative album with Ensemble Dal Niente featuring composer Marcos Balter.
These days Deerhoof is bicoastal, with the tightknit crew spread out between Portland, Albuquerque, and Brooklyn. This has necessitated a sense of creativity in how they write albums—they’re known for doing a large bulk of recording via email from opposite ends of the country during breaks between tours.
They write collaboratively, focusing on the needs of the songs and what will sound most interesting. “Part of the joy of being in a band is actually the fact that there are other people,” Rodriguez explains, “so it kind of feels like you’re being robbed a little bit when it’s you sitting in front of your computer.”
Deerhoof’s brand-new record, The Magic, was recorded in an abandoned office space in New Mexico. The album surfs between whimsical Dirty Projectors-sounding tracks like “Criminals of the Dream” and grittier punk anthems like “That Ain’t No Life to Me.” It’s a glittering journey showcasing what pop can be when it’s driven by punk exploration.
“As long people still want to see us and we want to keep getting out there, we can technically still keep doing it as a living,” says Rodriguez. “It’s really nice.”