A music explosion is coming.
Headliner Built to Spill, special guest Deerhoof plus Prism Bitch and Itchy Kitty are all slated at a Treefort Music Hall extravaganza Saturday May 13. Tickets for the all-ages show are $27.50 — $130 at treefortmusichall.com.
Deerhoof will be performing in support of their new album Miracle-Level, which was released 3/31 via Joyful Noise Recordings. Produced by Mike Bridavsky over two weeks last July, Miracle-Level is their highly anticipated first album made entirely in a proper recording studio after 28 years. It is also their first full-length sung entirely in Satomi Matsuzaki’s native Japanese language.
Deerhoof’s 19th album is also their first to be made from beginning to end in a recording studio. “Not because they had tired of their anarchic sound, but because they wanted to make themselves uncomfortable,” it said in a press releases, “by opening up their secretive DIY methods to someone new.” The band waited 28 years before entrusting one of their records to someone else, but in summer 2022 Deerhoof decided to take a chance with Bridavsky.
The band emailed Bridavsky the music they’d been listening to for inspiration: Rosalía, Meridian Brothers, Silvana Estrada, Les Freres Michot, Ngola Ritmos, Mozart opera. It occurred to them that none of this was in English. Satomi decided that she’d like to forsake the language of “the world’s policeman” and write Miracle-Level’s lyrics entirely in her native tongue.
BW recently reached out via email to Deerhoof drummer Greg Saunier. The following Q & A has been gently edited.
Your music has been around since you formed in San Francisco since 1994 and it’s been called everything from noise punk to anarchic to campy. How would you describe your latest album, “Miracle-Level?”
I love those descriptions! They are highly accurate. Our new record sounds like noise, which by the way isn’t really a musical genre in my opinion, but simply the destruction of music. Music is like anything else and it gets calcified and it gets over-defined, especially by corporations trying to help their CEOs get more money than they could ever spend in ten lifetimes. Whatever definition of music that is, it deserves destruction. So yeah, noise! Punk, hmm. Kind of the same vibes there. Yes, yes, I know it’s a genre in the record store, and it has become calcified and institutionalized but can I get a witness? I am not talking about the marketing definition of punk. One could be forgiven for thinking I therefore mean I’m allying myself with John Lydon and his battles against his own former bandmates for having allowed the Sex Pistols story to be turned into a feel good made-for-tv miniseries, but John Lydon is a fascist prick and one would be wrong for thinking I’m into that. Anarchic is a great word, one that ironically the now Trump-loving Lydon made famous in song. Anarchism is any system that doesn’t require armed functionaries to compel a population to behave in a way they disagree with. Anarchism is consensus and in our band we consent to things before we do them. Voting, pfff! Greasy kid stuff. Either we all are into it or it doesn’t happen. Campy is a beautiful word. So bad it’s good! The far right is all up in camp’s business lately. When you don’t have policies you go after drag queens. What they don’t understand, and frankly what liberals also don’t understand, is that “Western culture” mythology they’re always so on about is filled with high camp. People pretend that Shakespeare and Beethoven and Da Vinci had no sense of humor but I mean look at their work. Gimme a break! All this reverence for the great masters is completely crushing their art.
You have 18 self-produced albums before this one, which you went with having it produced in a recording studio for the first time. Can you talk a little bit about why you made that decision after all this time and how it felt — different? better? smoother? or more challenging?
Do we? That is a lot of albums, I admit. It was definitely not smoother! We only did it to make ourselves uncomfortable. DIY had become our comfort zone and we thought why not see if we can get from start to finish in two weeks? Most bands can! Alas, it meant having to learn how to play our songs. Which was a great discipline for us. We also have been so shy about letting anyone else in on our processes, so having a total stranger, Mike Bridavsky, produce the record was intensely uncomfortable and therefore highly great. What a gem, that Mike! We made a new friend!
Also, this is the first album sung in Satomi Matsuzaki’s native Japanese language. What spurred this decision and why? Also, how hard was this to pull off?
I’m glad you asked. The start date for WW3 seems to have moved up in the past few days. We’re being asked to line up against China. For Taiwan. Where are the polls asking if the population of Taiwan wants us to start WW3 on their behalf? My point is that what we are actually being asked to line up for is not Taiwan, but against a multipolar world. Doesn’t matter which party’s in power, they all want a unipolar world with themselves sitting on the throne, surprise, surprise. Well now that you’ve asked, Deerhoof wanted to make an album in Japanese because Satomi is fluent in two languages and because we are not lining up against a multipolar world. Screw that. This unipolar nonsense has gone too far. It is time to marginalize the Anglophone world that’s been in charge for way too long, and has brought the planet to the brink of destruction.
Decipher this quote from you about the album: “miracles are what humans do as our planet’s most inventive and unpredictable species.... Miracle-Level is an avant-garde, anti-fascist carnival, its spicy surprises whispered conspiratorially, and lit by candlelight.
Our point is that the term “human nature” has been completely abused. It’s used an excuse for everything wicked in this world. Trans-Atlantic slave trade and genocide of an entire continent’s population? Oh that’s just human nature. Huh? Then why had such industrial-strength barbarity never existed on the planet prior to Europeans trying it out 500 years ago? And how do you explain all the countries and individuals that were opposed? Are they not human? I once met someone who worked for Google. He was a recently graduated philosophy major. I am not joking when I tell you that his job at Google was to philosophize about why monopolies are “natural.” To make those money grubbing profiteers at HQ feel better about themselves as they steal the work of others. “Human nature” gets a bad rap, in other words. Reality check! Lots of great stuff is human nature too, like generosity. Like creativity. No I don’t mean AI. No I don’t mean “creatives” who exploit the work of creative people. I mean actual human beings doing things that no one else has ever thought of. Being unpredictable. People say, “What are you Greg, a socialist?” And I say no, Deerhoof’s got no desire to sign up with any bandwagon of the past. And neither do you need to. I don’t think humanity has even scratched the surface of what we have the potential to do with our time on this little piece of rock. We can start trying anything we can think of, if we can stop tuning into the empire of greed and the industry of hopelessness that pass for mainstream culture around here. We used words like whisper and candlelight because there’s a lot of ballads on our new record. But we use both of those words all the time on lots of our records, because we are sensitive softies and do a lot of ballads.
What’s in your crystal ball?
Hang on, let me check. Okay! Crystal ball says writers’ strike is going to work, and executives are going to start valuing their writers’ devotion to writing things! And stop treating it as replaceable junk. Everyone will benefit. Crystal ball says Biden will declare war on China just in time for election season, and the American military will refuse to fight, because they know it’s suicide for them, and for their children, to keeping propping up this decrepit empire, and that Biden is an idiot. Crystal ball says that enough people will decide that they don’t actually want long COVID, that wearing masks will become a thing again, and millions of people who both parties of government don’t care whether they live or die, will live, rather than die. People will be able to safely keep their parents and grandparents company again! Immunocompromised people will once again feel okay to come to Deerhoof shows!