Deerhoof are hard to define, but it turns out that’s not our fault. They're always shifting between noise and pop and changing their lineup and stuff, so it's no wonder even their fans struggle to explain what they do. We can even sort of understand how some recent articles have described them as a new band, even though it’s totally stupid to do that and if you do it you deserve all the comments-based derision that comes your way. Before they come to Australia next month we interviewed founding member Greg Saunier and he took us through some of the band’s more enigmatic qualities. According to him, they’re doing it all on purpose.
VICE: Over the years a lot of people have struggled to define you guys as somewhere between pop music and noise music. So I thought I’d start by asking you, how do you personally describe yourself?
Greg Saunier: (Laughs for ages) Yeah I know what you mean. Well I’ll tell you what, but you can’t tell anyone, like sure you can put it in your magazine but this is for Australia, not America, or the UK or Japan.
Okay, semi, sort of off the record with the recorder on.
Exactly. Well, see, that’s something we’ve done on purpose and I think we’ve planted that confusion by sometimes calling ourselves one thing and sometimes another so people can’t define us.
Well you’ve definitely succeeded. Talking about change, your lineup shifts a lot. How has the current configuration affected the sound of this album?
Well we haven’t changed the line up recently, but we’re always changing, and changing our roles in the band. Sometimes it feels like we’re brand new, even though we’ve been playing together in some way for almost 20 years. We’re always new and reinventing ourselves.
Maybe it’s more how the band has changed you guys? After so many years it must leave an imprint.
That’s getting heavy, I like that idea. I think any band will tell you that you grow and change together, you’re always learning new things about each other. I know it might sound corny but sometimes I think of a band like a first kiss, you know no matter how amazing the first one is, it doesn’t mean it’s going to necessarily be the best. Over time you learn things about each other that make you better. You know how to communicate with someone, how to surprise them, challenge them, piss them off, and as things become more complex they become better. It’s like making out; it’s only going to get better as time goes on.
That’s nice, I like that analogy.
Oh course you do you’re VICE magazine! You love making out!
That’s true, it’s kind of our business. I was reading through a bunch of articles about you guys and up to ten years after you started, you were still being referred to as a “new” band. Was that frustrating?
Oh man you’re getting out all my secrets, that was on purpose too!
What? I thought it would have been so insulting for you to read that in every article.
No, I used to always refer to us as a new band, even after we’d been together for so long. Again, it was so people couldn’t pin us down and say, oh I know them, they’re established, we know what we’re getting. We always loved being a new band, and thought it would be great if we could just jump from being the fresh new thing to the biggest band in the world, you know go straight to superstars.
It’s so funny after so many years of giving these interviews and saying all this shit, and then talking to someone whose sat down and done all this reading to see how it all plays out. That these images and ideas we were spinning was so effecting.
Tell me about it. I feel like I’m cracking a big case. You did achieve that though, all those articles are either calling you “new” or skipping straight to hailing you “the best band in the world.”
Yeah that was a part of a sentence that was part of a bigger context that have been taken time and time again and just pulled and quoted. I don’t think we’re the best band in the world. And what does that really even mean? How can to say something like that? Make such a linear statement, and rank all music and bands and opinions numerically.
For us it’s never been about being the best. I’d rather say, we were the band that made people dance, or made people feel good. I don’t want to be in the best band in the world, I want to be in the band that you make out to.
You’re getting all telepathic on me that was my last question. What would you want to be remembered for?
Man we’re so connected right now! I want to make music that isn’t about being good or the best. I want to make records that when people finish listening to them they feel better, about everything. I just want to make people feel good. You don’t need to analyze everything and make it academic. Music doesn’t need to always be about that. It’s about having a good time and making other people have a good time and kissing and dancing and being with your friends and being happy.
Well you have totally achieved your goal then. I guess that’s exactly what you do.
That’s awesome. Thank you so much for saying that. And thanks for this interview and talking about these things with me. I’m really excited about coming to Australia. I hope someone there is excited too.
Oh I’m pretty stoked, and I don’t think I’m the only one.
Amazing, that’s so nice to hear.