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Show Review

John McCauley and Ian O'Neil from Deer Tick dish on all things Negativity, the band's latest and greatest album, in this extended cut of our conversation with the duo during their recent session at Baeble HQ.


Well, the dreams in the ditch.
Now the kids are all pissed.
But it's not new to hate what they make you do.
- Coming, coming from the Newport Folk Festival where we work like mad dogs, uh, it's only, it's Wednesday, and I'm still exhausted.
- I guess third year running it would start to make sense to me.
- In one way-- - We're willing to stick around.
- In one way we, we k-, we kind of are the, maybe border lining on official, uh, house band of the Newport Folk Festival.
I like what we do at the Newport Folk Festival, getting, uh, getting a bunch of musicians involved with playing with each other.
And there's a, it's, it's, I think, it goes a lot better than it does at other festivals that, like, we, we played some festivals where we were, like, forced to jam with people we don't know, or people that don't even wanna jam with us.
- Yeah.
- We had to jam with Brandi Carlile once, and... - She was awesome, but I really don't think she wanted to play with us.
- No, we were, she, at that point in, yeah.
- I think we were pretty wasted, and it was pretty early in the day, so I don't think she was very impressed with us.
Act like you don't care.
While you pray for a cross to bear.
But it's not the way, you can't afford your time.
Or the envy of the friends you left behind.
So whenever you go they can have everything you lose.
you read it as poetry or something like that. But... - But that shit in the minor key.
Whooo! - Yeah, I kinda learned that, that style from Roger Miller.
How, how many of his lyrics are, like, about his fall-, his marriage is falling apart, and his speed addiction, and, like, obviously in country music a lot of things, there's some dark subject matter, but, um... - But it's Roger Miller and he's having such a great time, and then sometimes he talks about roller-skating in a buffalo herd.
- Which you can't do.
- You can't do according to Roger Miller.
Um, but I don't know.
Taking cues from songwriters, like, that, who still want people to really enjoy themselves, and, you know, sometimes you don't have to think about the words, you can just enjoy the melody.
And for those of you who are interested in all of our deepest, darkest secrets you look past the, past the pop.
Oh, yeah.
We are the friends you left behind.
So whenever you go they can have everything you lose.
I can't tell if you're looking at me or just looking through.
- Ju-, with just friends I, uh, I wrote it on the piano.
And the demo I was, like, "Man, this sounds like, too much like an Elvis Costello song.
I can't do this.
" And, Steve, our producer was, like, "No, you have to do it.
" He's like, "Who cares what it sounds like.
Let's, let's do it.
" And I, I'm really happy with it, but it's definitely, um, it's definitely kind of a new style of song writing for me.
I can't tell if it's a nervous laugh, and you think, we could've made it last.
- Negativity drops on September 24th, and we couldn't be more thrilled about it.
In fact, I wish it was September 23rd, right now.
- Because then tomorrow would be a really cool day.
- We want to, we want everybody to hear it now.
- I think on Negativity we worked, uh, worked a lot harder than we're, we were used to.
I mean, in the past, it didn't take us very much, just throwing, uh, you know, just, like, "Oh, here.
We got our guitars.
Let's, let's fucking play, and let's get the hell out of here.
" - Yeah, we had all sorts of professionals helping us and... - It really changed the way that we work as a band.
We're just so proud of it that we just want to be, we just want to be better, we just want to be able to perform it right.
And, uh, we wanna stick around for a while, and keep doing this, and, uh, I think we had a lot to learn about sustainability as a band.
And, uh, the past year or so has, has been a pretty intense learning experience.
We all are going through it at our own pace, an you know, doing our own things in our personal lives to just to insure that we'll always be around and here for the band, and... - I can't wait to go to Europe.
I can't wait to go across the states, and we're playing smaller venues for this first leg of the Negativity tour.
And I'm really excited to, to do that, just to continue having kind of a personal experience with our fans when they first hear this record live.
- I'm excited to properly tour a record.
I think every time we've put a record out we do the same ole songs, or we just do whatever we want, you know.
Uh, cover songs or whatever, and, you know, there's always a party element to the Deer Tick Show, and I mean, there's still, there always will be, um... - Don't worry about that.
- But, uh, I guess, this is the first record we've made where we're all, like, yeah, we want to play all 12 songs off of it every night.
- So I mean if you come and see us on this tour you're gonna see every song on the record.
- Twelve out of twenty two songs every night will be these songs.
- I think it's really exciting to be able to share things personally with people even though they, they're only, the only really personal things you're going to know about are in these 12 songs.
Um, but I, I think it's, I think it's good that we have, we can have a personal relationship with our fans, or with people who want to be our fans, or come to find that they like our music.
- Uh, I don't mind the word personal being thrown around to describe this record, and, I mean, it certainly is in many ways.
And I think, uh, you know, if you wanna get to know us more than just the music, or maybe more than, more than what you thought we were.
Um, I mean, it's all here for ya, and you can, you can take it however, you want, but, um, I did put a lot of myself into the writing I did for this record, and, uh, I'm happy to share it.
Fortunate, we were all the envy of our friends.
Then we were best.
The three little babies.
- Yo', what's up? I'm John McCauley.
- And I'm Ian O'Neil.
- We're in Deer Tick.
- And guess what you're watching.
I never meant to sink to the bottom.

Artist Bio

Each new Deer Tick record has stood as a progressive milestone for frontman John McCauley and the Providence, Rhode Island-based band (guitarist Ian O'Neil, bassist Christopher Dale Ryan, keyboardist Rob Crowell, and drummer Dennis Ryan), but Negativity represents an epic leap forward on virtually all fronts. Recorded earlier this year in Portland, Oregon with legendary producer/musician Steve Berlin (The Blasters, Los Lobos, and last year's McCauley side project, Diamond Rugs), the album is McCauley's most personal work thus far as well as the band's most undeniable and universal, their famously freewheeling musical approach refined here into a gloriously cohesive whole.

Negativity was penned over the course of a genuinely eventful 2012, an annus horribilus in which McCauley's father pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy and tax fraud, ultimately leading to a prison sentence. As if that weren't enough, McCauley's wedding engagement collapsed under the weight of his own excessive behavior and impossible lifestyle. Like any true artist, McCauley channeled his anger, sadness, and regret into his work, resulting in what can be safely declared his finest collection of songs to date, impassioned and interior and increasingly mature, both as expression of emotion as well as pure unadulterated songcraft.

Deer Tick sounding as sure-footed as one would expect from a band known for spending a couple of hundred nights each year on stage more than match the strength of the material by taking a more detailed approach than on some of the breakneck recordings of their past. From the sparkling baroque pop of "The Dream's In The Ditch" to the full-blown Memphis showstopper, "Trash," Negativity sees the Tick bridging boozy punk, AM gold, bar band blues, country soul, and whatever else catches their fancy into their own profoundly American rock 'n' roll. Additional sonic color comes courtesy of magnificently arranged brass accompaniment by Austin, Texas'sGRAMMY-winning Latin fusion collective, Grupo Fantasma.

While Deer Tick have been rightfully hailed for their raucous rave-ups and substance-fueled fervor,Negativity places considerable focus on the band's nuanced and tender side, with notable highlights including the wrenching breakup ballad, "Hey Doll," and "In Our Time," a timeless country tearjerker featuring duet vocals from McCauley's good friend, singer/songwriter Vanessa Carlton. At once heartbreaking, fist-pumping, and indeed, life-affirming, Negativity stands as a genuine high water mark for Deer Tick a defining collection from a band driven by an undying faith in rock 'n' roll's evergreen power of redemption and transcendence.


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