With its fourth album, “Divine Providence,” Rhode Island’s Deer Tick has finally become “a real band” — which is what founder John McCauley says he originally envisioned seven years ago.
“It was a band at first, but everybody quit,” McCauley tells Billboard.com. “This group now, we get along really well and we play good together. It’s what I wanted it to be — a real band, not an imaginary band. If someone dies or quits, Deer Tick’s over. Nobody at this point could be replaced.”
The current quintet has been together since the spring of 2010, when keyboardist/saxophonist Robbie Crowell joined the group — which also includes guitarist Ian O’Neil, bassist Chris Ryan and drummer Dennis Ryan. “With this lineup, things got very cohesive, finally,” Crowell says. “This is the stable lineup of the band, and everyone’s got a fairly strong identity on their instrument. So it was the right time to capture that as best we could.”
McCauley and Crowell both say Deer Tick approached “Divine Providence” with more of a band mindset; while McCauley is still the primary writer, penning eight of the 12 songs himself, he co-wrote “Let’s All Go to the Bar” with O’Neil and Crowell. “As stupid and tongue-in-cheek as that song is, I’ve had that hanging around for two years,” McCauley notes. “Rob and Ian helped me finish it.” O’Neil, meanwhile, wrote two of the others songs, while Dennis Ryan contributed one.
“That was something we were conscious of when we were recording,” says Crowell. ” ‘The Black Dirt Sessions’ (in 2010) was kind of the last album that was very much John’s — which is why it had his face on the front of it. With this one we were determined to make it more of a band effort and just capture what the band sounds like live.”
The Deer Tick crew is also satisfied that “Divine Providence” comes closer to the group’s hard-rocking live sound, which Crowell says has always been a goal to capture on disc. “A lot of people have kind of missed the boat on us,” Crowell says. “We get tagged with the alternative country label quite often, which is not something we’re terribly comfortable with. It’s a rock band, but people remain to be convinced of that.” And McCauley notes that while previous Deer Tick albums may have given that false impression, “it was really frustrating ’cause we didn’t want to play (live) the way we played on those records. I think people come to our shows and we’ll be playing really loud and fast and throwing beers around and lighting shit on fire. It probably gets kind of confusing — which is awesome.”
After Deer Tick finishes its current tour on Nov. 22 with a homecoming show in Providence, the group plans to hit the studio with Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin. “I don’t know if it’s going to be future album material or demos,” McCauley says. “We did record a lot more songs that didn’t make the record. So we may do an EP and re-record some of them.” McCauley, Crowell and Berlin are also in another band, Diamond Rugs, that includes Brian Dufresne from Six Finger Satellite, Ian Saint Pe from Black Lips and Hardy Morris from Dead Confederate; the group recorded an album during that’s due out in the spring.
Meanwhile, Deer Tick plans on taking some time off the road with sporadic dates in 2012 before launching what McCauley calls “a big spring tour” that will take the group to Europe and Australia.