Deer Tick's John McCauley's awkward, strident Gimme Noise interview
By his own admission, Deer Tick's John McCauley doesn't give a shit about music. Or at least he doesn't during a scant, seven-minute interview with Gimme Noise. The gravel-throated alt-country star, who provides a acerbic (and occasionally moving) soundtrack to beer-guzzling hordes, has seen his profile rise significantly over the past half-decade, but it doesn't mean he enjoys interviews any more than masturbating with the wrong hand.
During our discussion, McCauley mumbles responses through a muffled receiver and sounds a little hungover (maybe for real, maybe on purpose), and lived up to a self-curated reputation for being a wasted curmudgeon -- both on and off stage.
When discussing his Deervana side project -- a Nirvana covers act -- McCauley is even Cobain-esque in his discomfort discussing his work. He has little to say about it other than that it was distracting from Deer Tick's "normal career" because "people wouldn't stop giving [them] offers to play." When asked about his defiance of contemporary music trends, he shrugs through the phone and says, "I don't really know what the trends are. I just don't give a shit about music."
He calls their presidential campaign-themed tour a "clever marketing technique" and, when asked what he would do as the President of the United States of America, he responds without any trace of humor, "Ban heterosexual marriage." Clearly, McCauley is not one to put on airs.
But to know this about McCauley is to understand why the music of Deer Tick is -- among a lot of other things -- definitive and, yes, even intelligent. McCauley would probably sooner smash a guitar than admit he's a decent musician who does think about the music he creates. The fact remains that Deer Tick's impressive catalog -- including the recent Tim EP -- is a well-executed collection of blues-fused alt-country. This fact alone means something real in today's music landscape, crowded as it is with country revivalists.
The Tim EP, released in February, is a five-track collection from the same recording sessions that birthed last year's Divine Providence. It's not hard to like the leftovers: southern rock vibes hang out next to an acoustic version of "Main Street," and the whole thing makes for a surprising variety on the short EP. McCauley's trademark cigarettes-and-whiskey voice sparks with energy.
Of course, McCauley probably didn't mean for it to come off that way. And to be fair, it might be true that McCauley doesn't put that much effort into the music he creates; it might be that everything he's done has been part of a slurred play-whatever-the-hell-comes-to-mind formula. It's not hard to imagine him throwing himself around in a studio or on a stage, throwing things at an audience, being rowdy, and not giving a shit. In that respect, McCauley achieves something that scores of artists will never know -- authenticity.
Deer Tick is performing with Turbo Fruits and Scott Lucas & the Married Men on Thursday, June 7 at First Avenue. $18. 6 p.m. 18+.