Alt-country stumblers Deer Tick know how to keep up the pace. Songwriter John McCauley started the band in 2004. Since then, it's morphed from a solo project into a full-fledged rock 'n' roll machine, spitting cheap domestic beer and rangy Americana fury.
In October, they released Divine Providence, and before we knew it they'd already issued a follow-up, the Tim EP. It's been a busy couple of months for these laid-back Rhode Island boys.
We spoke to McCauley about his favorite country to perform in, his awkward experience with Brian Williams, the story behind Tim, spending Christmas in a Chinese restaurant, and more.
Deer Tick is scheduled to perform with Turbo Fruits on Thursday, May 3, at the Crescent Ballroom.
Up on the Sun: Why the political campaign theme for this tour? I love the yard signs, by the way.
John McCauley: It just kind of makes sense right now. The Republican debates are so fucking hilarious that I guess we wanted in on that. Nah, we just thought it would be a funny concept for a tour, I guess.
As a Jewish chick, I really appreciate the song "Christmas in a Chinese Restaurant." Was that song written about a real experience?
I have spent Christmas in a Chinese restaurant before. I had Chinese food on Christmas Eve this past year. A couple of years ago, me and my friend Diego went and got Chinese food, and then we drove down to Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut. It was just a funny day. I was just basically hanging out with Jewish people and Asian people. But it was sort of inspired by A Christmas Story. You know that movie? At the end they're at the restaurant. It's just a little story about a man and his wife arguing at Christmastime.
There haven't been any serious mental breakdowns or anything, so I'm going to continue doing it like this.
--John McCauley, Deer Tick
What exactly was the main inspiration for the Tim EP?
It was some leftover songs from Divine Providence that we wanted to put out in some way. Tim is the guy that owns Partisan Records, and that's him on the cover. We did all of this behind his back because we're kind of in a prank war with him. And then there's the Replacements' album. The Replacements named their album Let It Be, so we'll just name something Tim. And then on the back we put the cover of Let It Be with Tim's face Photoshopped on all of them. It's just all a big joke.
Deer Tick released Divine Providence in October, and already you've released an EP this year, as well. What's been enabling you to just pump out all this music so quickly? That seems like an ongoing theme for you guys: producing lots of music very quickly while still maintaining quality.
I don't know. I just really love recording and being on tour, too. So it's a lot of pretty careful scheduling for our year. But there haven't been any serious mental breakdowns or anything, so I'm going to continue doing it like this.
Deer Tick is very involved with charity work. In 2010, you announced you would be auctioning off your tour bus to raise money for victims of a flood in Pakistan, and you've also taken donations for Oxfam America while on tour. Why is this so important to the band?
It's not like we're making a shitload of money or anything. It's to show people that anybody can help out. When someone's going through a tough time, cheering them up doesn't [require] much effort really. A $5 donation here and there can go a long way. It's all organizations that we feel cool about. We're going to start working with the Innocence Project. They basically try to get the cases of inmates that are on death row re-examined . . . inmates that were convicted before DNA [testing] technology developed enough to help their case.
You've toured the U.S., the U.K., France, Spain, Germany, Ireland, and more. Which country has the best fans and why?
We had a really great time in Spain . . . just really excitable crowds. It also kind of reminds us of playing at home, too. The U.S. is where we have some of our craziest crowds. Spain is awesome. The food's great.
A lot of people were unaware that Brian Williams is a music junkie until he slammed Lana Del Rey's SNL performance. You guys got a chance to sit down with Brian for his music feature, BriTunes. He seems like a pretty righteous dude. Tell me about your experience with him.
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He really is. We were all really hungover and disheveled, which made it a little awkward for us, and I think he understood. He's a really cool dude. It was a funny afternoon.
Beside the upcoming summer tour, what's next for Deer Tick?
We're working on a new album. I'm excited to get back into the studio and finish it, whenever that is . . . I don't really know. It's very much a work in progress. And we're going to Europe at the end of the summer.