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Deerhoof Finds ‘The Magic’ Through Constant Reinvention

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Photo: Deerhoof press photo

Most bands that stick around for decades have a signature sound. But Deerhoof has made experimental rock music for more than 20 years, and they have never sounded the same from one album to the next.

"A great composer isn’t necessarily somebody who has some repeatable method that they can always count on, or some system that they always follow that just always churns out more masterpieces," founder and drummer Greg Saunier says.

He maintains the quartet’s artistic success depends on constant reinvention.

"Every time that we try to recreate something that we liked, it always just crashes and burns. We find that the only thing that actually does work is some idea that came out of nowhere that nobody was expecting."

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​Their latest album “The Magic” is no exception. It finds the band taking different turns on lead vocals and exploring genres like synth-pop, metal and funk.

The press release for the album states the quartet wrote the music in just a week -- during a feverish jam session in an abandoned office space in New Mexico.

But Saunier says the truth isn’t so, well, magical.

"Don't believe everything you read! We’ll put out a press release saying like: 'Oh it came to us in a miraculous flash of inspiration in four days!' But no."

Saunier and his bandmates did, in fact, record in Albuquerque, but they composed the songs beforehand with countless email exchanges over the course of several months.

"The survivors were the three percent or whatever of the material that we were trying out on each other that actually made it back to the callbacks."

Some music writers have proposed that Deerhoof’s music has become more accessible or digestible in recent years. Saunier laughs off that notion.

"Sure, there's the critic who says that. There’s also the critic who still thinks that our music sounds like unlistenable noise. In the early days there were also people who heard us and thought we were total sellouts: 'Why do you do such poppy music?'"

And if Deerhoof is finding a larger audience? Well, that was their intention since the beginning.

"We always had pop music in mind. The idea of doing something really simple, really direct, really easy to sing along with, easy to dance to. Something that really grabs your emotions."

But however listeners feel about "The Magic" -- whether it's pop music or noise or something entirely different -- there’s only one thing for sure: The next Deerhoof album will sound nothing like it.