Breaking Up Is Easy To Do

17 January 2013 | 5:06 am | Cam Findlay

"We’re not a new band, and we don’t necessarily get the press we thought we would when we were younger..."

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There's a certain energy that comes from bands that thrive on spontaneity. Something that can't be emulated through a recording, or through stringent and planned forethought. Something that only exudes when the connection between the audience and the band itself is perfect, and they feed off of each other. Deerhoof, for one, have long been cherished and imitated as one of those bands. Time has seen them carve out their own niche, and subsequently resulted in highly polarised opinions of their music. Nonetheless, their ability to build complex arrangements form the simplest of building blocks – while making you dance simultaneously – is uncanny.

Drummer Greg Saunier, vocalist Satomi Matzusaki and original guitarist Rob Fisk formed Deerhoof in San Francisco back in 1994. Fisk was eventually replaced by John Deiterich, and the inclusion of Ed Rodriguez in 2008 lead Deerhoof's present incarnation. Personnel changes are the least of it though; since the '90s the band has constantly and unswervingly honed and refined their sound while keeping the improvisational aesthetic alive. Last year's Breakup Song LP, their latest record, may just be their greatest work yet. But don't take our word for it.

“Yeah, in a way I guess it has,” Saunier responds to the idea of Breakup Song finding a different context in this stage of Deerhoof's career. “Every other time we've released a record, I have memories of the feelings from the audience being that they wanted to hear... True, they wanted to hear some of the new songs, but they were more interested in hearing something from their favourite record. And usually, their favourite record is whichever one they got into first; like their favourite Deerhoof record is where they suddenly felt like they got it.  It's weird, a lot of people go from really disliking our band to really liking it, which for me is fun. In a way, it's kinda cool, because you think there must have been some weird change in the ears to process the music. I mean, I know the feeling of going from hating something to loving something, whether it's a record or whatever. I haven't really reached that point with Vegemite, I will admit that,” he laughs. “So I still have that to accomplish on this tour when I come to your country.”

Saunier seems genuinely excited and surprised by the success of Breakup Song. While previous work has garnered much cult status, the last year has seen Deerhoof take a rightful place in indie rock canon. Do they see any value in the industry and climate of indie rock in this? “I think trying to describe a climate at this time is impossible, more so than ever,” Saunier rebuts.“ You just have to look around, and there's just so much going on. I mean, its in your industry specifically: every day there's a new genre coined, and it's just this constant process of trying to figure it out, because music is just expanding at such a rapid pace. We've never tried to fit into any mould with any of our albums or how we play live, so it's very interesting to see this huge... change, I guess, in what it means to make music.”

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Deerhoof albums, right from the beginning, have been a wildly eclectic affairs, with the experimental techniques of the guitarists and the paradoxical-yet-complimenting easiness of Matzusaki's voice acting as the base point, before various ideas and elements come together. This has meant that, from an album point of view, it's been a mixed bag; fans might have their favourite albums, but their work usually embodies such a range of different moods that it's hard to pin one stylistic trait on an album. Breakup Song, however, is different. “With this album, we really wanted to re-create that idea of the breakup album. Well, maybe not so much recreate it...” Saunier pauses to ponder the question. “I guess we'd had this really strong idea of what “breakup” music was, and we got that from all the albums we'd listened to over the years, and the movies we've watched. You know, it does sound a bit cliché, but the music you listen to after a breakup, or any [strong emotional] event, will always stay with you. It has that nostalgia quality to it, but in a really grounded, emotional way. That's what we were trying to do with this album, which is really different to how we usually do it. You're pretty right to say that we don't really plan it when we get into it,” Saunier laughs, referring to the mentioning of the idea that the spontaneity of the band comes from simply plugging in and seeing what happens. “That's how we've always done it, and that's how we work.

“But yeah, this past few months it's really been different,” Saunier continues. “I don't know if Breakup Song is any more structured than [2011's Deerhoof] Vs Evil, or any of the other albums. But it really has come across this way. This time I've really had this feeling that people especially want to hear the new songs, and I've had this great sense of accomplishment when I started to realise that. When we started playing the new songs, people would start dancing and singing along and stuff like that. That's just really cool. I think that, in a way... We're not a new band, and we don't necessarily get the press we thought we would when we were younger, and there's not the sense of music magazines having discovered us, you know? It feels like it's been the fans the whole time.

"Actually, I was just thinking about this today,” Saunier says. “I was trying to decide if this has been the best received album we've ever had, if you adjust for the lack of newness of the band, and the lack of any writer being able to say they discovered us,” he laughs. “I kinda feel like this one's going really, really well. I have no idea how the sales are going in America, let alone Australia, so I can't quote you any numbers. But the feeling from the crowds have been really good. And we've really enjoyed playing these new songs. It's really made us more energetic, and it's really worked out. We love to play the new songs on stage, and the fans love hearing the new songs and dancing along, so we're very happy with the results.”

Thursday 28 February – The Rosemount Hotel, Perth

Friday 1 March – The Zoo, Brisbane

Saturday 2 March – The Annandale, Sydney

Sunday 3 March – Schoolhouse Studios, Melbourne

Wednesday 6 March – Adelaide Festival, Adelaide