Deerhoof is an American experimental rock band whose erratic style veers between noise pop, punk rock, and avant-garde. The band's live shows are known for their minimal gear, maximal volume, and surrealist banter. Since their formation in 1994 in San Francisco they have self-produced their records and self-managed their career. The band's current line-up consists of John Dieterich, Satomi Matsuzaki, Ed Rodriguez and Greg Saunier.
The Man, The King, The Girl; Holdypaws; Halfbird
Rob Fisk and Greg Saunier founded Deerhoof in San Francisco in 1994 as an improvisation duo of bass and drums. Their early singles, recorded on four-track cassette, combined punk, grunge, noise, and ballads. Satomi Matsuzaki joined Deerhoof within a week of arriving in the United States in May 1995, with no prior band experience, and went on tour as Deerhoof's singer only a week later, opening for Caroliner. Deerhoof's 1997 debut album The Man, the King, the Girl built on the wild and stripped-down sound of the early singles by adding jingle-like melodies and colourful instrumentation including broken Casios and a borrowed synthesizer. The cover art of a magical cow and a rabbit on a unicycle, as well as the zine reproduced in the booklet, were drawn by Fisk. Many of Deerhoof's most enduring traits were already in place: the mythical lyrics, gestural playing style, low-budget recording techniques, concept-album format, and memorable melodic writing.
In 1997 they started recording new songs for Halfbird, but abandoned it in favour of a drastic change in style. Kelly Goode joined on Casio VL-1 and Matsuzaki taught herself to play the bass. From 1997 to 1999, Deerhoof toured the U.S. with Sleater-Kinney, Lightning Bolt, Unwound, and Sonic Youth. Their 1999 album Holdypaws removed all traces of noise, improvisation, or unusual instrumentation from their sound. The unpredictable change in style between albums remains a Deerhoof hallmark. In fall 1999, Fisk and Goode quit the band. Halfbird was completed by Saunier and Matsuzaki and released in 2001, with artwork by Fisk.
Reveille; Apple O'
In late 1999, they asked Gorge Trio guitarist John Dieterich to join the band. His interest in electronic music can be heard on 2002's Reveille, the first Deerhoof record to enjoy critical acclaim, being included in best-of lists published by both The New York Times and Pitchfork Media.
Before Reveille was released Chris Cohen joined Deerhoof on guitar, and over the next three years, this lineup opened shows for a wide variety of established artists including Wilco, TV on the Radio, The Roots, Stephen Malkmus, Le Tigre and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Legendary radio DJ John Peel invited the band twice to record sessions for BBC Radio 1, and Deerhoof was selected by both Sonic Youth and The Simpsons creator Matt Groening to perform at All Tomorrow's Parties festivals, marking their first two of a large number of appearances at the festival.
The idea for Deerhoof's next album came to Saunier as he was reading a review of Reveille in Thrasher, but was then disappointed when he turned the page to find an interview with one of his favourite musicians Kim Deal criticising the use of computer recording tricks. Thus most of 2003's Apple O' was recorded live in one nine-hour session with Jay Pellicci engineering. The album received critical praise, notably in The New York Times and Jane. It was later listed by Pitchfork Media as one of the top albums of the 2000s.
Milk Man; Green Cosmos
In 2003, with Matsuzaki editing a Bay Area Japanese magazine, Cohen waiting tables at a Thai restaurant, and Dieterich and Saunier doing data entry for legal and consulting firms, the members of Deerhoof all decided to quit their jobs at the same time to focus on touring.
Saunier, drummer Zach Hill, and harpist Joanna Newsom released Nervous Cop in 2003. Dieterich, Cohen, and Jay Pellicci formed an instrumental trio called Natural Dreamers that released one album in 2004.
For Deerhoof's next record they took their inspiration a Japanese cartoon character created by artist Ken Kagami. 2004's critically acclaimed Milk Man the album featured a lavish, Broadway-inspired sound. In 2006 this album was adapted to a children's ballet.
Deerhoof's next release was their first to be sung in Matsuzaki's native language. 2005's Green Cosmos combined an orchestral sound with dance music styles of various eras. Artwork was created from original tarot cards designed by music video director Dawn Garcia.
The Runners Four
For several months in 2005 Deerhoof wrote and recorded in their rented rehearsal space in Oakland. When it was released that fall, the double album The Runners Four featured each band member as vocalist at various points, reversed instrumental roles for Matsuzaki (now on guitar) and Cohen (now on bass), and unusually wordy lyrics. Critical praise came notably from The New York Times and Pitchfork, which named the album as No. 6 in the best albums of 2005. The album was selected as Sufjan Stevens's "Album of the Decade" in Uncut Magazine.
In spring 2006, after an extensive world tour, Deerhoof composed and performed a live soundtrack to Harry Smith's hour-long animation masterpiece Heaven and Earth Magic at the San Francisco International Film Festival. This was to be Cohen's last activity with Deerhoof. The split was amicable and, to commemorate Cohen, Deerhoof posted a free EP on their website, one of several they have posted over the years.
Matsuzaki, Saunier, and Dieterich began recording a new album in summer 2006. Ignoring their onstage roles, each contributed percussion, guitar, bass, keyboards and production. Despite being recorded mostly in Dieterich's bedroom and being mixed on the band's laptop throughout tours with Radiohead, The Flaming Lips, and Beck, 2007's Friend Opportunity had a slick, cinematic sound. Some material was from the "Heaven and Earth Magic" soundtrack, a few was entirely orchestral without drums or guitars, and one song ("Matchbook Seeks Maniac") was created specifically for the end credits of a Hollywood film. The album's 12 interchangeable cover paintings were by British artist David Shrigley. The album was highly praised in Pitchfork and Rolling Stone, and nominated for a PLUG Award by Ric Ocasek.
During the world tour that followed Friend Opportunity's release, Deerhoof was invited by David Bowie to play New York's Highline Festival. They additionally played shows with Gnarls Barkley, The Roots, Beirut and Bloc Party. In collaboration with Ed Shearmur they created the film score for Justin Theroux's romantic comedy Dedication.
In January 2008 Deerhoof became a quartet once again, and began writing a new album with Gorge Trio guitarist and longtime friend Ed Rodriguez. That summer Deerhoof released the song "Fresh Born" online as sheet music only, anticipating similar experiments by Beck and Blur by several years. Fans recorded and uploaded their own versions of the song to a special site, before anyone outside the band had heard Deerhoof's own version.
When Offend Maggie was released in October, the mainstream press began to focus more on the staunchly indie Deerhoof. It received critical praise from VH1, NPR, Entertainment Weekly, Alternative Press, yahoo.com, The UK Guardian, and Mojo. Artwork was by Japanese artist Tomoo Gokita.
In 2008 they were chosen by Owen Pallett to play the travelling Maximum Black Festival in various cities in Europe, with Dirty Projectors opening. During the touring that followed, Deerhoof played onstage with several of their musical heroes. In August 2009 in Los Angeles, avant-garde jazz trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith played the set with them. In December in Luzerne, Switzerland, Marlene Marder of the legendary Swiss band LiLiPUT performed on stage with the band. In February 2010 they performed onstage in Oakland with the Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band. In April 2010 they curated the Belgian music festival Sonic City, inviting a wide variety of European musicians including The Go! Team, Italian viola da gamba virtuoso Paolo Pandolfo, and sitting in with Belgian punk legends The Kids. In April and July 2010, along with Xiu Xiu they performed the entire Joy Division album Unknown Pleasures live at the Donaufestival in Austria, and at Brooklyn's Williamsburg Waterfront.
Deerhoof vs. Evil
In mid-2009, Deerhoof was invited by the Toronto International Film Festival to record an original song ("I Did Crimes For You") for Adam Pendleton's film BAND, a quasi-remake of Jean-Luc Godard's Sympathy for the Devil in which Deerhoof was cast in the role of the band they claim as their main musical influence, The Rolling Stones.
The rest of their next record was recorded in Deerhoof's rented rehearsal space in Oakland just before the members of the band moved away to various cities around the world. 2011's Deerhoof vs. Evil, with its combined musical influences from The Beach Boys, new romanticism, tropicalia, and the Congotronics series, received critical acclaim notably from Entertainment Weekly, MOJO, and Paste. Deerhoof immediately initiated a 7" series wherein guest vocalists (such as Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, Kevin Barnes of Of Montreal, singer-songwriter David Bazan, and rapper Busdriver) sang new lyrics over an instrumental of a Deerhoof vs. Evil song of their choice.
Deerhoof were the cover storey of the January 2011 issue of Wire Magazine. Throughout the summer of 2011, Deerhoof toured in an international supergroup alongside Konono N°1, Juana Molina, Kasai Allstars and others, called Congotronics Vs. Rockers. In April 2012 Deerhoof collaborated with Questlove, Reggie Watts, Sasha Grey and others in a conceptual concert event called Shuffle Culture at Brooklyn Academy of Music. April 2012 additionally saw the release of young adult fiction book Rules to Rock By, by Josh Farrar, about a 12-year-old girl who's inspired by Deerhoof to form her own band. Deerhoof's version of Liliput's "Hitchhike" appears on the soundtrack. In June 2012 at a Deerhoof performance in Chicago's Millennium Park, Ensemble Dal Niente performed Marcos Balter's classical arrangement of Deerhoof's "Eaguru Guru". The same month, Deerhoof and The Flaming Lips performed onstage together playing songs by King Crimson, Canned Heat, and Deerhoof.
In 2012 Deerhoof began home-recording their next record Breakup Song through email while they lived in four different cities. After a long final mixing session at Saunier's apartment, they took the front cover photo of the garbage lorry in the early morning hours. It was released September 4, 2012 on Polyvinyl Records to critical acclaim from outlets such as Popmatters, and Drowned in Sound. Joyful Noise Recordings released the album in "flexi-book" format, allowing the listener to flip from song to song as if each track were a page in a storybook. Revealing a few of Deerhoof's working methods and group chemistry, a rare full-band interview, with former MTV VJ John Norris, appeared in the fall 2012 Interview Magazine.
In October, they released a single "Sexy, but Sparkly", marking the first time Deerhoof worked with a producer. It was recorded as part of the series of short documentaries Masters From Their Day, which chronicles the efforts of a band and a record-producer as they attempt to record and mix a new single in one day.
In March 2013, they played New York's Ecstatic Music Festival, which additionally included the premier (by Ensemble Dal Niente) of Saunier's "Deerhoof Chamber Variations", a classical piece based on several Deerhoof songs. The piece has been performed two more times and will receive its European premier in September 2014.
In October 2013, a Casio Orchestra performed music composed by Saunier along with various silent films for opening night of Empire Drive-In, a large-scale temporary installation built from junked cars and salvaged materials, in Queens, New York.
January 2014 saw the release of Deerhoof's contribution to BOATS, a compilation of tracks from international artists, each using samples of the Light of Love Children’s Choir, part of Everything Is New, an international arts project featuring and supporting Dalit 'untouchable' children in south-east India.
La Isla Bonita
Deerhoof's twelfth album, La Isla Bonita, was announced in August 2014. Release was scheduled for November 4, 2014 on Polyvinyl Records. The album was recorded live in guitarist Ed Rodriguez's basement throughout a "weeklong sleepover arguing over whether to try and sound like Joan Jett or Janet Jackson".
Since moving to different cities, the members of Deerhoof have become highly sought-after for their remixing, production, playing, and writing. They've done remixes for Maroon 5, Sufjan Stevens, Blonde Redhead, Starfucker, Delta 5, Asobi Seksu, Xiu Xiu, The Givers, Shugo Tokumaru, Shy Hunters, Royal Bangs, People Get Ready, Megaphonic Thrift, Raleigh Moncrieff, Emily Wells, Lucas Santtana, Wildbirds & Peacedrums, A.U., Parenthetical Girls, Mantra Percussion Ensemble, E.D. Sedgwick, Ed Pastorini, Woom, Sam Mickens, Baaba, In One Wind, Maribel, and others.
Saunier has produced or mixed albums or songs by Xiu Xiu, Marc Ribot, So Cow, Busdriver, Celestial Shore, People Get Ready, Moon Honey, Maher Shalal Hash Baz, LXMP, Hoquets, Sholi, 31 Knots, OneOne, Father Murphy, Hawnay Troof, EDS, 7 Year Rabbit Cycle, Landlines, Speedo, and Formica Man.
Saunier plays in a large number of groups including Mystical Weapons (with Sean Lennon), Les Bon Hommes (featuring Saunier on guitar and vocals), Big Walnuts Yonder (with Mike Watt, Nels Cline and Nick Reinhart) and various free improvisation groups that have included Anthony Braxton, Arto Lindsay, Nels Cline, Doug Wieselman, Brian Chippendale, Marc Ribot, Andrea Parkins and a large number of others. He has played on stage with artists such as Yoko Ono, Laurie Anderson, Kronos Quartet, Brooklyn Rider, Jherek Bischoff, David Byrne, Zola Jesus, and Amanda Palmer, and on recordings with artists such as Caetano Veloso, Jon Brion, Lushlife and a large number of others.
Saunier's compositions have been performed by Kronos Quartet, Y Music, stargaze, Ecstatic Percussion, Brooklyn Rider, String Noise, Daan Vandewalle, Ensemble Dal Niente, Spektral Quartet, and he has composed film soundtracks for Martha Colburn, Becky James, and worked on soundtrack to the Will Ferrell movie Step Brothers. He wrote a music review of The Rolling Stones for The Talkhouse in 2013, and was Talkhouse Guest Editor for a week in 2014.
Deerhoof are an often-cited musical influence on additional artists, notably St. Vincent, Foo Fighters, Dirty Projectors,Stereolab, Sleigh Bells, and of Montreal. Deerhoof's songs are covered often by additional artists (notably Phil Lesh, Los Campesinos!, Marco Benevento, David Bazan, and classical composer Marcos Balter).
- The Man, the King, the Girl (1997)
- Holdypaws (1999)
- Halfbird (2001)
- Reveille (2002)
- Apple O' (2003)
- Milk Man (2004)
- Green Cosmos (2005)
- The Runners Four (2005)
- Friend Opportunity (2007)
- Offend Maggie (2008)
- Deerhoof vs. Evil (2011)
- 99% upset feeling (2011)
- Breakup Song (2012)
- La Isla Bonita (2014)
- Fever 121614 (2015)
- Balter/Saunier (2016)
- The Magic (2016)
Deerhoof has additionally released a large number of 7" singles, split releases with additional artists, tracks on compilations, and free downloadable EPs.