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Deerhoof Biography


Home > Music > D > Deerhoof > Biography


Birth Place: San Francisco, CA, USA
Years Active: 1994 – present
Genres: Alternative Rock, Art Punk, Avant-garde Music, Experimental Rock, Garage Rock, Indie Pop, Indie Rock, Noise Pop, Noise Rock, Pop Music, Post-punk Revival, Post-rock, Post-modern Music, Progressive Rock, Psychedelic Pop, Rock Music, 21st Century Classical Music


Deerhoof is an American noise band originally from San Francisco, California. Originally, Deerhoof was the title of a two-song cassette of bass and harmonica solos, recorded in late 1993 by Rob Fisk. Limited to five copies, it featured fallen leaves glued to recycled Billy Squier promo tapes, spray-painted black and gold.

In March 1994 Fisk was joined by drummer Greg Saunier. They recorded themselves on Saunier's four-track and in 1995 caught the interest of Olympia independent record label Kill Rock Stars. Their first single, “Return of the Wood M'lady,” featured a heavy, histrionic style, separate songs in the left and right speakers, hand-drawn artwork and etched vinyl. Deerhoof's do-it-yourself ethic turned out to be an apt match with Kill Rock Stars, and Deerhoof remained on the label for the next 14 years, ultimately becoming the longest-running artist on the label's roster.

In May 1996, through mutual friends in pioneering San Francisco noise band Caroliner, Deerhoof met Satomi Matsuzaki, who had just arrived in San Francisco from her native Tokyo. She was studying film and had no musical experience, but Fisk and Saunier agreed that her deadpan singing style was exactly what they wanted. Having just lost their practice studio, they rehearsed in Saunier and Fisk's kitchen, Fisk plucking the bass with his dog's chew toy, a smoked cow hoof, Saunier playing the drums with chopsticks, and Matsuzaki singing into a pair of Walkman headphones through a Rat distortion pedal covered in paper machê.

Within just one week of her joining, Deerhoof went on their first tour as a trio. Deerhoof live was unpredictable, involving the superimposition of multiple songs, the switching of onstage roles, various chance procedures and broken equipment.

The trio of Matsuzaki, Saunier and Fisk was not heard on record until Deerhoof released their self-produced first album, “The Man, the King, the Girl,”on Kill Rock Stars in 1997. The swirling noise and wild improvisation, set against Matsuzaki's very singable and often cheerful melodies, created a musical tension that remains one of Deerhoof's hallmarks. The production combined the harsh noise of their first single with a broad sound palette, including Casio keyboards, Optigan, Korg synthesizer and electric banjo. The cover art of a magical cow and a rabbit on a unicycle, as well as the zine reproduced in the booklet, were painted and drawn by Fisk.

In 1998, Deerhoof added Kelly Goode on keyboard (the monophonic Casio VL-1) and Matsuzaki taught herself to play the bass. Neither Matsuzaki nor Goode had any prior instrumental experience. Their 1999 album, “Holdypaws,” revealed a very different Deerhoof from the one heard on the first album. Songs were drastically simplified and performances were strict, with no element of noise, improvisation, or unusual instrumentation. The unpredictable change in style between albums has remained a Deerhoof staple. The cover artwork was again done by Fisk.

In fall 1999 Fisk and Goode quit Deerhoof. Another self-recorded album, “Halfbird,” was completed by Saunier and Matsuzaki and released in 2001 on Menlo Park Recordings, four years after it was begun, also featuring Fisk’s artwork.

In late 1999 guitarist John Dieterich was asked to join the band. His playing had added a new element of guitar virtuosity, allowing for a broad stylistic range that included 20th-century classical music, garage rock and improvisation. He also brought a new interest in electronic music and Deerhoof started to record themselves on computer.

“Reveille” was released in 2002 on Kill Rock Stars. The album artwork was by Matsuzaki, and its grandiose tone and religious connotations echoed the musical bombast, as well as the lyrical theme of resurrection. For the first time, Deerhoof began receiving critical praise.

In 2001 Chris Cohen joined on guitar. For the next three years Deerhoof toured as a quartet. 2003’s “Apple O”' abandoned the multi-layered and often electronic sounds of Reveille in favor of simple, live-sounding production without overdubs. Most of “Apple O'” was recorded in one nine-hour session with Jay Pellicci engineering.

In 2003 the quartet decided to leave their jobs to tour and record full-time. Matsuzaki had been editing a San Francisco-based Japanese magazine, Dieterich and Saunier had been doing data entry for legal and consulting firms, and Cohen had been a waiter at a Thai restaurant.[9]

Their next album was inspired by a cartoon character created by Tokyo artist Ken Kagami. In contrast to the earnest guitar rock on “Apple O',” 2004’s “Milk Man” featured a broad palette of orchestral colors, echoes of musical theatre, polished and gaudy arrangements, Stravinskian harmonies, and a more stylized, anonymous playing style.

Their 2005 EP, “Green Cosmos, issued by Menlo Park Recordings, was the first Deerhoof release to be sung in Matsuzaki's native language of Japanese. “Green Cosmos” took the aesthetic of “Milk Man” a step further by combining an orchestral sound with dance music styles of various eras. Artwork was created from original tarot cards designed by music video director Dawn Garcia.

In the fall of 2005, Deerhoof released, “The Runners Four” on Kill Rock Stars. This double album was the result of several months of recording in their rented practice space in Oakland. Matsuzaki and Cohen reversed instrumental roles, with Matsuzaki playing guitar and Cohen bass, and each member was featured as vocalist at various points. Certain motifs – time travel, sports, smuggling, allusions to Noah's Ark – recurred throughout the unusually wordy lyrics.

In spring 2006, after an extensive world tour, Deerhoof composed and performed a live soundtrack to Harry Smith's hour-long animation masterpiece “Heaven and Earth Magic” at the San Francisco International Film Festival. This was to be Cohen's last activity with Deerhoof.

Matsuzaki, Saunier, and Dieterich began recording a new album in summer 2006. Ignoring their onstage roles, each contributed percussion, guitar, bass, keyboards and production. Despite being recorded mostly in Dieterich's bedroom and being mixed on the band's laptop on tours with Radiohead, The Flaming Lips, and Beck, 2007’s “Friend Opportunity,” had a large cinematic sound. The album's 12 interchangeable cover paintings were by Scottish artist David Shrigley.

In January 2008, Deerhoof began recording a new album with guitarist Ed Rodriguez.[2] During the summer, before anyone had heard any of the new music, the new quartet released the song "Fresh Born" online as sheet music, and many fans recorded and uploaded their own versions of the song before hearing Deerhoof's version.

“Offend Maggie,” released later in 2008, highlighted the rough and relaxed interplay of guitarists Dieterich and Rodriguez. Artwork was by Japanese artist Tomoo Gokita. Their 2011 album, “Deerhoof vs. Evil” was issued on Polyvinyl Records. The release was preceded by a “Global Album Leak” during which 12 blogs from different countries premiered a song from the album one week at a time. It was debuted in full on KCRW by Henry Rollins. With its musical influences of electrified Congolese music, new romanticism, and tropicalia, “Deerhoof vs. Evil” received critical acclaim from the music press.

Deerhoof immediately began a 7-inch series wherein guest vocalists, such as Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, Kevin Barnes of Of Montreal, singer-songwriter David Bazan, and rapper Busdriver, sang new lyrics over an instrumental of a song from “Deerhoof vs. Evil.” The band’s next album, “Breakup Song,” was issued in 2012 by Polyvinyl Records.