On a rainy night in 2010, So It Goes – that was not then, but is now – went to Cargo in East London to see Deer Tick, a five piece alt-country band from Providence, Rhode Island. We'd read that Deer Tick divided popular opinion. The band's dark Americana often resulted in debauched, whisky-soaked live performances and detractors moaned about the band's chaotic arrangements and revisionist tendencies.
Led by the gruff, silver toothed John J. McCauley III, a bottle of Jack in hand, Deer Tick delivered both intoxicated, anthemic rock 'n' roll ('Mange' has been on the So it Goes playlist for the last three years for the guitar solo alone) and poignant but gritty ballads like 'Twenty Miles' and 'Smith Hill'.
McCauley once described the band's sound as "rolling around with no skin", but while Deer Tick's songwriting and performance still blends that unique mix of impassioned introspection and heart-on-sleeve swaggering rock, their latest release Negativity is a noticeable progression from their previous work. In the wake of the lead singer's battle with drug abuse and his father's incarceration, the album feels confessional, McCauley baring his struggles on tracks like 'Mirror Walls' and 'The Dream's In The Ditch'.
Monday night at The Borderline saw the band explode with the album's debut fire and brimstone single 'The Rock'. The 'Bump' ("I got a lust for life, and a dangerous mind, in my trail of dust, who knows what you'll find") was a similarly rousing one for the purists, but the beautifully harmonised 'Dirty Dishes' and 'Clownin' Around' as well as irresistibly toe-tapping tracks like 'Art Isn't Real (City of Sin)' and 'Ashamed' were a welcome reminder that the new Deer Tick are just as magnetic, talented and soulful as when we saw them three years ago on a blurry night at Cargo.
Look out for the full feature with the band in Issue.2, out in November. In the meantime, here are some photos we took backstage.