It was six years ago that Deer Tick released its first album, showcasing a blend of punk swagger and alt-country twang, soul-baring intensity and alcohol-fueled exuberance. Since then, the Providence, Rhode Island, band's sound has continued to evolve across four full-length albums, most recently downplaying country and heartland elements in favor of mercurial rock that's by turns moody and exuberant.
"This time around we were looking to go into a situation completely open-minded and try anything," says Deer Tick keyboardist Rob B. Crowell during a break from recording the band's next album with producer and arranger Steve Berlin. "He's rearranged a lot of the songs in a dramatically different way than the demos were. He had some pretty insane suggestions, but I think it all worked out."
So what exactly will this Deer Tick album sound like? "It's interesting, there are a lot of different textures on there," says Crowell. "It draws on everything from Gerry Rafferty to the Misfits. Those are two direct references we used for a couple songs. At this point we're open to trying everything and letting it all hang out."
Of course, the band wasn't exactly shy and reserved on 2011's Divine Providence, its most boisterous and eclectic release to date. "When we did Divine Providence, we were trying very hard to get the live band experience," Crowell explains. "We've released a lot of albums that are quiet and introspective. Then we do a lot of shows that are petty loud, brash and in your face. It was an attempt to reconcile the two."
Deer Tick is currently supporting Tim, a five-song release highlighted by the spooky, cello-driven ballad "She's Not Spanish" and the slow-burning six-minute organ rocker "Walls." The EP's title is part of an ongoing prank war with Partisan Records label owner Tim Putnam, whose picture appears on the cover. It's also a nod to the album of the same name by the Replacements, whose influence is especially obvious on the track "Main Street."
Between albums and tours, band members have kept busy with side projects. Singer-guitarist John McCauley teamed up with Dawes' Taylor Goldsmith and Delta Spirit's Matthew Vasquez as the slacker-folk Middle Brother, whose ramshackle debut album came out in 2011. Both he and Crowell — along with Steve Berlin and members of the Black Lips, Dead Confederate, and Six Finger Satellite — are in garage bar band Diamond Rugs. As always, it's just a matter of setting aside a little time and a lot of beer, enough to continue the band's beloved "wizard staff" tradition.
"It's something we were doing during the Diamond Rugs sessions," says Crowell. "When you finish a beer you have to tape a new beer on top of the last one. By the end of the day you have proof of what you've done by the length of your wizard staff. Man, by the end of the day we wouldn't have been able to drink from the top of those."