John McCauley’s memorable and lingering voice was feeling the repercussions of the prior night when I caught up with Deer Tick in Middelburg, Netherlands.
They had just played Amsterdam. Enough said. Raspier than normal at just 22 years old, McCauley’s throat already sports retirement-age scars from cigarette addiction, whiskey slugs and punk-rock screams. But backstage before the show, he says that his voice might be less prominent on future records.
“I finally figured out what Black Dirt Sessions is, and it’s kinda like ‘out with the old and in with the new.’ We’re cleaning house,” McCauley says. “The next record will be all new stuff.”
He dispels the misperception that the new Black Dirt Sessions album consists of leftovers from 2009’s epic War Elephant; these are songs they’ve been sitting on for years, many from before War Elephant. Both albums, however, rightly ring of Americana stolen in the night on a drunken renegade run to the ’70s rock era and back, twinged with grunge and befitting the last sips at a lonely, oak bar.
“The invitation was extended for everyone to contribute as much as they’d like to. And it’s just whatever works; we’ll figure it out,” adds guitarist Ian O’Neal, formerly of Titus Andronicus, who regularly sings several of his songs in concert.
After years of musical chairs and McCauley at the band’s center, the invitation was bestowed upon the current five-piece lineup, including O’Neal, brothers Christopher and Dennis Ryan (bass and drums, respectively) and Rob Crowell on keys. They’ll sort out everything in the studio during pre-production of their next release this fall, then go back in April 2011 for a 20-day run of recording.
First, though, they have to make it past Europe and their Amsterdam hangover. For a band often cited as heavy partiers (and they don’t necessarily disagree), the demeanor is calm, almost serene before they take the stage. Part of it’s due to lack of sleep, and part due to Europeans’ expectations of a show.
“They expect a lot more proper behavior,” McCauley says. “Shows in the states are much more of a social event. In Europe, it’s like you’re going to a movie theater.”
As predicted, for their set lasting less than an hour in Middelburg—which resembles The Truman Show’s too perfect Seahaven— the audience barely made a peep. The band wondered and asked if everyone were alive, or at least enjoying themselves on a Friday night. “In America, you can go out and play too long and be drunk and people will be right there with you,” O’Neal says. “Here, people want to hear certain songs and they’ll ask you why you didn’t play them.”
Of Europe’s fruits for an American— food, beer and weed—the boys could take it or leave it. The food’s nice, especially in Paris, everyone agreed, while only Crowell seemed to like Bavarian beers. Both McCauley and O’Neal claim to not like weed, so Holland’s coffee shops haven’t been on their radar this trip. Just give them cheap American brews, please.
McCauley says that it’s awesome to tour Europe, yet he misses the comforts of home, the small things. However, “the last time we were here, it kick-started a really long and a fruitful wave of songwriting; between November and January, I probably wrote about 15 songs.” All of which started in Madrid, Spain, because the couple in the hotel room next to McCauley’s were having very loud sex and he couldn’t sleep. So, he walked around the hotel jokingly singing, “Listening to the neighbors havin’ sex” repeatedly, which wound up becoming “Daydreaming.”
w/ Mark Sultan, David Williams
The Urban Lounge
241 S. 500 East
Tuesday, Oct. 26, 9 p.m.
$16 adv./$18 day of show