What do “Sea Moves” and “Mountain Moves” look like, in either the abstract or practical sense? As creatives, are we making the most of engaging the more off-the-grid places? What could we be doing differently/better in that respect?
SAUNIER: You’ve hit on a problematic one there for sure. Deerhoof has always prided ourselves on being DIY, but at what cost? Do we overdo it? By always being so gung-ho about recording and mixing everything ourselves, are we just championing the demise of recording studios? By always playing everything ourselves, are we robbing ourselves and our friends of chances to collaborate? By always doing everything no-budget are we aligning ourselves with those who would rather the NEA just shrivel up and die?
Rejecting all authority sounds nice in principle, but what about when it becomes the excuse for lawmakers to ignore climate scientists, or atomic specialists? These are questions we’ve started to try and ask ourselves with this record. It’s also something I’ve personally tried to address by recording and mixing other artists more often.
We talked before about how Deerhoof got out of feeling insular and shy about the social component of self-promotion and opened up to new experiences and collaborations with Mountain Moves. What advice would you give to more inwardly focused artists and composers on how to stay open to collaboration in a city where everyone’s got to focus focused on their own grind just to make ends meet?
SAUNIER: I guess my advice relates to the last question, and is potentially problematic in exactly the same way. Try doing things yourself. Don’t get too many managers and middlemen who see their job as buffering you from reality, by playing Bad Cop to your Good. Don’t rob yourself of the experience of learning on your own, through trial and error, how you’d like your sound to be mixed, or your publicity blurb to be written, or your stage lighting to look. Touring is not about sightseeing, because there’s no time for that. It’s about meeting people around the world at your merch table, learning a little bit about how other people feel and live.
Society’s speeding up in our age of information overload, 24-hour news cycles and unrepentant capitalist villainy. But is this media overload a non-issue for Deerhoof? You’ve long operated at a breakneck pace, with new releases almost annually and seemingly constant touring schedules. How can an artist or band harness the external pressure to speed up into a positive disruption?
DIETERICH: There’s a limit to the degree to which our brains can actually process the overload and starts to only process the presence or texture of the information, rather than the information itself. By that I just mean that information overload can have a kind of calming effect on people. It sates a desire for something, fills holes. Its mind-numbing regularity renders it potentially borderline contentless.
I think creative work is the opposite feeling: You feel every nuance, you are searching through every nook and cranny for possible meanings. It energizes and inflects. If anything, to me the desire would be to bring the kind of presence that is possible in creative work to every other aspect of your life, bring that presence of mind and creative fire to relationships, politics, etc.
SAUNIER: Trust me, we are under no pressure to speed up. Every label we’ve ever been on has told us to slow down. They say they could promote our records better if we didn’t release them so often. Probably true, but we don’t care, because we’ve got four composers in the band—releasing 10 minutes of your music per year each is not that much output. We’ve [also] got rent to pay and vegetables to obtain, so that means taking the show on the road, which means having a new record.
Lyrically, how do you all trust your audience to sit with such abstraction? Are you inspired by the “make of this what you will” approach of Zen koans? Why does this album sound so lyrically distinct from the rest of the hyper-topical protest music coming out these days?
SAUNIER: I can’t compare our goals to anyone else’s, but yes, we’ve always been into koans as a model for lyrics. One reason is that we play all over the world, and we’d like our lyrics to be simple enough for non-native English speakers to muse on.
One thing I thought about when writing lyrics for this record was the paradoxical spirit of the koan: addressing [lyrics] to two opposite imagined recipients at the same time. Anger and love together. Optimism about, and acceptance of, humanity’s fate at the same time. Finding words you could either shout to a large group or whisper in someone’s ear. Or singing something meant to tear down a solipsistic figure celebrating their own money and power, that’s also promoting the voice of an underdog speaking the truth.
Deerhoof performs with Sad13 and Lily On Horn Horse at Brooklyn Bazaar on Oct. 7 at 9pm; ticketfly.com