Moving Between Realms with The Deer: An Interview
Live music, BBQ, breakfast tacos and hipster techies are among the top images conjured when thinking about Austin, Texas.
Add The Deer to that list.
Encompassing the musical diversity that arises from this unique town, shining like a beacon in a state not exactly known for diversity of any kind, The Deer is the Austin sound.
The Deer’s website attempts to describe their one-of-a-kind sound as such: “The Deer creates psychotropic soundscapes and tranquil, vivid dream-pop.”
It’s the “soundscapes” part which captivates us – perfectly layered musical and vocal harmonies that can seem other-wordly, strange and beautiful at once, all while telling a vivid and moving story.
We were lucky enough to catch up with The Deer in the midst of their extended Colorado visit during their latest tour.
We first ran into the group at Rhythms on the Rio Festival, where they mesmerized yet another unsuspecting crowd.
We were treated to a more intimate performance when The Deer made an appearance at the historic (and haunted?) Dickens Opera House in Longmont, Colorado
Before they hit the stage, we had a chance to sit down with Grace Park, Alan Eckert and Noah Jeffries to ask about their tour, their latest album and their future.
Festy GoNuts: So you are in the middle of a pretty nice tour right now. What have been some of the highlights, and what are you most looking forward to?
Grace Park: Last night [at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom in Denver] was definitely a highlight. We played with Lyle Divinsky’s Soul Survivors which is members of Motet, Lettuce, Mingo Fishtrap, Leftover Salmon – a really really good jam in and of itself, but then Robert Randolph and pretty much the entire band showed up in the middle of nowhere and it was incredible! It was a really good night. Lots of people came out. Lots of random Texans came out who supported us! People we’ve known for years that we haven’t seen in a long time. It was like a family reunion in a way. It was really cool.
Alan Eckert: Yes, and it was really cool running into people in Colorado who have seen us a few times in different places already, and they were super excited. They’re telling their friends, so, you know, we are starting to see this repeat audience thing happening slowly which is really nice. People that are really excited. Even when that happens in small numbers, it feels really really good!
And it should!
The Deer have recorded 3 albums to much critical acclaim, and have been working hard touring in support of them.
That work is paying off.
Their name is starting to pop up on festival lineups around the country.
Texas, however, has an unbelievable amount of music festivals throughout the year.
Festy: So, the first time we saw you was at UtopiaFest. Have you been doing a lot of festivals in that area, around Austin? Or are you getting more around the country now?
Grace: Definitely. There are a lot of really good festivals down in Texas around that same time of year. Old Settler’s Fest … we’ve been going there for a long time; Kerrville Folk Fest, UtopiaFest, ACL Festival – lots of good Texas music festivals for sure.
Alan: And then, we are doing this really small boutique festival that our friend Emily Lively is doing in Maple City, Michigan.
Grace: It’s called Lively Lands. It’s new.
Alan: We are really looking forward to getting home and doing some more work on the record. Utopia Fest is actually coming up, and we also have Americana Fest coming up in Nashville. Sugarlands Mountain Fest in Gatlinburg TN that we’re doing as well. Then we are doing a run with Fruition in Portland after that. And then after that, we are coming back here to Colorado to do a string of shows with Elephant Revival, so that’s the rest of the year pretty much!
With all of the touring, it would seem difficult for a band to find time to record, but The Deer made time while here in Colorado to get some work done at the emerging Mountain Star Studio in the mountain town of Blackhawk, Colorado.
Grace: We spent four days [at Mountain Star] split up over a couple of weeks, and it was super rapid fire tracking on whatever we could make the best use of our time tracking at that place, which was drums, and bass and some vocals, getting structures down, getting keys down, had some fiddle and mando the first weekend. And then we had Charlie Rose [from Elephant Revival] come in and do some steel. We had Bonnie [Paine] and Dan [Rodriguez] from Elephant as well come sing…
Noah Jeffries: And Darren [Garvey, the percussionist from Elephant Revival] too, right?
Grace: And trumpet? – Did we get trumpet from Charlie? We got almost all of them. Except Bridget [Law]. We’ll get her. We will get her!
Elephant Revival and The Deer have a long-standing relationship.
Rhythms on the Rio Festival saw a conglomerate of The Deer and Elephant Revival take the stage under the name Elegant Survival.
And while they may not yet have gotten Bridget on the new album, she did show up at the Dickens to join the band on fiddle for several songs!
Festy: So, we should expect a new album from you guys soon?
Grace: Probably in the Spring sometime. Sometime in 2018. Yeah, some really good guests artists. We are going in kind of a more rock-n-roll like direction, but there’s still a lot of folk in there as well. I think we’ll always have those roots.
Festy: What were your thoughts about Mountain Star Studios?
Grace: Oh, it was wonderful. We could make ourselves at home there. We feel really comfortable there.
Alan: Yeah, it’s a wonderful space.
Grace: Since our guitar player [Michael McLeod] does most of our sound engineering, we’re pretty do-it-yourself. So, we were able to just kind of move in for a couple of days and do our thing.
Mountain Star Studio has been drawing artists in with its studio and performance space, combined with the beautiful mountain location and available band lodging. As music fans, it is an exciting addition to the Colorado landscape, another reason for artists to spend more time in our lovely state making and playing music.
The Deer can be counted among artists anxious to return to Colorado. They’ll be back in the fall for that string of shows with Elephant Revival in late November, and we can expect some exciting venue announcements coming soon.
It can’t go without notice that several members of the band are wearing similar necklaces, what looks to be an intricately woven beaded deer design.
Grace: Yes, our friends from Mexico gave us these. They are made from the Huichol Tribe in Mexico. The deer is symbol of peyote, so this is a peyote button.
They believe that the deer is a spirit guide from death to life, from moving back and forth between realms. And a guide and a protector, which I believe is very true.
Musically, The Deer seems to easily “move back and forth between realms.”
After our interview, the group jumped right onto stage and into another breathtaking show. The crowd hung onto every note, dancing and smiling, captivated through to the end. Grace and the rest of the band seemed truly surprised and taken off-guard when the small but enthusiastic group in the theater demanded they return for an encore.
We think they should get very used to that!