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Deer Tick w/ Izzy Heltai
December 10, 2022 @ 8:00 pm - 11:30 pm$30
The best art often challenges widely held preconceptions about performance and beauty. We’re moved when we find the sublime in the gross, entranced when crassness collides with grace. It makes poetic sense that one of this practice’s finest current purveyors is named after a blood-sucking survivor.
Deer Tick: undercutting expectations since 2004.
“I think a lot of my favorite artists have always done stuff like that,” Deer Tick front man John McCauley says from his home in Nashville, reflecting on his band’s love of unexpected mashups: tender lyrics layered over pissed off guitars; classical music flourishes delivered nearly naked and high. Deer Tick’s perfected it all, mostly as an outlier, revered by a legion of fans, respected by peers,but not part of any one scene. With their highly anticipated new project(s), two new albums released simultaneously titled Deer Tick Vol. 1 and Deer Tick Vol. 2, the crew from Rhode Island prove that their punk-roots rock has only gotten better with age.
Ambitious and smart, the twin albums complement one another but also stand independently. Vol. 1 is classic Deer Tick: folk-rooted acoustic guitars and soft piano cushion out-front vocals. Vol. 2 commits wholly to the band’s longtime garage-rock flirtations for a triumphant foray into punk.
McCauley sees the two records as a natural progression. “I think it’s something that was bound to happen, just because I’ve always had one foot in each door,” he says. “Every album we’ve put out has had its manic moments in one way or another. I felt good enough about everything that I was writing to think that we could truly separate our two big interests: quiet and loud.”
It’s been six years since Deer Tick’s last release Negativity, and devotees have grown restless. It wasn’t that the band—made up of McCauley, guitarist Ian O’Neil, drummer Dennis Ryan, and bassist Christopher Ryan—was withholding information. They just weren’t sure they had anything more to share. “It wasn’t anything that we actually talked about,” McCauley says. “We never said, ‘Hey, we should take a break,’ or ‘Maybe this isn’t working anymore.’ We just took some time off. We’d just done our 10-year anniversary shows, and I had a kid like two weeks later.” He pauses before adding with a hint of a laugh, “We just kind of got comfortable away from each other.”
McCauley, O’Neil, and the two Ryans popped up solo and on others’ projects. Personal lives also underwent massive changes, especially for McCauley, who married Vanessa Carlton and became a dad. The couple’s little girl is now two years old. For the first time ever, Deer Tick—an all-consuming band known for constant touring and steady artistic output—took a backseat.
When the band came back together for their beloved after-party shows at the Newport Folk Festival, the reunion reminded them what they missed about creating with one another. “Playing that week with the guys made me really want to do it—it made everyone want to do it,” McCauley says. “So we started making some plans to go in the studio.”
The result, recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, is a bold double punch that reminds us not only why Deer Tick has been so missed, but why they’ve become important artists. The songwriting on both volumes is masterful. McCauley wrote most of the tunes alone, but O’Neil and Dennis Ryan also make killer contributions. Self-aware and never self-important, McCauley excels at provocative lyrics that are sometimes confessional, sometimes accusatory. His compositions capture those internal contradictions that define us, like rock-and-roll “songs of myself” delighting in the multitudes and putting them on display.
Izzy Heltai lives with his mom. A lover of “meaningless” flash tattoos because of their limitless nature, Izzy is covered in skulls, snakes, animal heads, and femme silhouettes. He dresses like a sixteen-year old boy. He eats more fruit than the average person and makes really good music. You’ll like it a lot.
Izzy Heltai’s roots grow from the tireless grind of DIY shows. His early, self-booked tours were both extensive and eccentric – the venues including VFW dive bars, coffee shops, and once as the intermission between two sets of a Grateful Dead cover band. It was in this unpredictability that Izzy Heltai found his expansive and prolific voice as an artist – the relentless hustle became an abundant source of inspiration for his curious and observational style of songwriting.
In “Day Plan (5 Songs Written 4 the End of the World)”, he creates moments you could hum to yourself in a moment of introspection or scream off the top of a parking garage at 2am – either would feel like a catharsis. His music is as nimble as it is grounded – walking the seam between confessional lo-fi musings and raucous basement rock. Sonically unpretentious and lyrically relatable, Izzy invites you into his world like a conversation with a best friend over a cigarette on the back porch – the moment of clarity you didn’t know you needed.