Deer Tick's John McCauley Started a Joke, Ended Up With Diamond Rugs
New Indie Supergroup Includes Los Lobos' Steve Berlin, Now Helping With Next Deer Tick Album
John McCauley's association with Los Lobos' Steve Berlin in the new indie supergroup Diamond Rugs is yielding dividends for his other band, Deer Tick.
Currently on the road promoting its latest releases -- 2011's "Divine Providence," and this year's "Tim -- EP" -- Deer Tick has already done one session with Berlin producing, in Portland, which McCauley tells Billboard.com has yielded "about eights songs, maybe four of them actually done." Deer Tick plans to return to the studio with Berlin this fall, most likely in Halifax, with a hoped-for release in spring of 2013.
"I think the recording quality on it will be a little more polished" than "Divine Providence," McCauley predicts. "Some of the stuff we've recorded is pretty different for us. It's almost like vaudeville, a variety show, but pretty cool. And it still sounds like Deer Tick. I think we can play any music and it'll still sound like Deer Tick. I don't know how we do it, but I'm proud of that."
"Gimme a Beer"
Berlin's involvement in Diamond Rugs, which just released its self-titled debut album, was also key, according to McCauley. His initial intent was to make "a shitty little joke punk album called 'Stoner Drama,' "with a couple of pals -- the Black Lips' Ian Saint Pe and Six Finger Satellite's Bryan Dufresne. He figured they'd sing songs about "when's your girlfriend gonna start paying rent" and "dude, you ate all the potato chips."
Then Berlin got involved, and things changed significantly.
"I told him about what we were doing and he was like, 'I like (Deer Tick). I like the Black Lips. Can I be in your band?' And I was like, 'Hell yeah!' " McCauley tells us. "He was like, 'When are we recording?' and I said, 'Whenever YOU say we're recording, dude.' But I think as soon as Steve joined, we figured we couldn't make an album like we were planning. If Steve's involved, it's gotta be something smarter."
McCauley expanded Diamond Rugs' ranks to include Deer Tick bandmate Robbie Crowell and Hardy Morris of Dead Confederate. The sextet recorded its self-titled debut album in just 10 days in Nashville, and without much preparation.
"We didn't really have much material at all," McCauley recalls. "I really only had one or two songs written for it. I didn't know what we were gonna do. None of us did. We were just kind of writing them as we went along; someone would start playing something and 20 minutes later we'd have a song." Diamond Rugs wound up recording 14 songs during the sessions, ranging from the rowdy ("Gimme a Beer," "Call Girl Blues," "Hungover and Horny") to more textured material such as "Totally Lonely" and "Country Mile."
"I was surprised by the number of songs we got out of it," McCauley notes. "I was expecting maybe five songs out of this, but everything we recorded in that 10 days is there on the record."
After playing at this year's South By Southwest Music + Media Conference, Diamond Rugs is eyeballing an early summer northeast run surrounding it's June 25 appearance on CBS' "The Late Show with David Letterman," including a Central Park show wit Alabama Shakes. "Our schedules make it pretty ridiculous, but luckily everyone's really happy to be part of the band," McCauley says. "Nobody's other bands are jealous or anything." A new album is also on the horizon, he adds. "We're already talking about making another record. I think we'd do it similar to how we did this one -- just kind of go in and not leave the studio for a week or two and see what we get."