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Making Sense of Deerhunter

The story of Deerhunter is a fucked-up one. It's the story of death, betrayal, genetic disorders, and really weird names. But it's mostly a story of overcoming those things — especially the weird names.

The first thing that comes to mind when I hear Deerhunter is the phrase "Eat a fucking burger!" I will never forget it. It would be impossible for anybody who was in the crowd at the November 2009 show by Atlas Sound (Deerhunter singer Bradford Cox's solo project) to forget. You see, some drunk asshole, oblivious to the fact that Bradford Cox suffers from Marfan syndrome, assumed that the singer was just a skinny weirdo in need of an increased caloric intake and shouted the phrase in the middle of the Atlas Sound set. Cox, who grew up in Atlanta as a self-described asexual, was obviously no stranger to getting shit on by douchebags and knew just how to handle it. He dragged the guy on stage and promptly ripped him a new asshole, much to everyone's delight.

The best part of the story? The epilogue. Not only did Bradford school the heckler during his set but, after the show, he had a couple of drinks with the guy and made up.

When you're a preternaturally slender, asexual Georgian with an overly formal first name and dick-joke-ready surname, you have two options for distinguishing yourself. You can either get into the serial killer business or become a mysterious/eccentric rock star. Unfortunately for the windowless-van salesmen of the world, Bradford chose the latter.

In 2001, with oddly named drummer/keyboardist Moses Archuleta, he formed Deerhunter. Oh, wait, I mean they formed a band. They didn't actually have a name until their first drummer, Dan Walton, came up with the name. Walton was then immediately kicked out of the band for what we can only assume was a lack of drumming skills and his inability to come up with non-boring band names.

Colin Mee (see where I am going with this weird-name thing?) replaced Walton after meeting Cox at Die Slaughterhaus Records, a venue turned label in the ATL.

Like most bands, they originally had a bass player. His name was Justin Bosworth and he died in 2004 from skateboarding-induced head injuries. What we can be sure of is the fact that Bosworth's death had a profound impact on the sound of Deerhunter's first album, Turn It Up Faggot, which featured Josh Fauver on bass. After its release, Cox was quoted as saying, "I don't ever want to make this album again." They didn't.

After Turn It Up Faggot, Cox asked best friend Lockett Pundt (weird name!) to join the band on guitar. He did, and they headed into the studio to record their second album, Cryptograms. Pitchfork gave it only an 8.9. That's super-good, but not good enough, so they took out their anger by firing Mee for being sketchy and, for the moment, were a four-piece.

By this point they were getting pretty famous. Famous enough to open shows for Smashing Pumpkins and Nine Inch Nails. What do you do with this kind of momentum? You obviously record another album (Microcastle), one that scores a 9.2 on P4K. Then you rehire — and re-fire — Mee. Then you hire and fire his replacement, former cheerleader Whitney Petty. Then you go on hiatus.

This brings us to about now. After pursuing "other things" — like culinary school and various side projects — the members of Deerhunter got together and recorded Halcyon Digest. And again they manage to wow critics (another 9.2 from P4K) and fans alike.

If this whole thing seems totally crazy, hectic and just a bit much, that's because that is exactly what Deerhunter is: crazy. They're the sort of band that will bring you up on stage, break you down mentally by embarrassing you in front of your peers and then, when it's over, buy you a beer. Then you're best friends forever, provided your name is weird enough to hang.