Words by Ryan McKeeman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Photography by Michael Schaffer (email@example.com)
Austin band, The Deer, is not-so-quietly making moves. Coming off of a great performance at Old Settler's Music Festival this past April, and having recently opened for Wild Child at Stubb's Waller Creek Amphitheater in November 2015, the band is rapidly propelling themselves into a new category on the local music scene. Recently, we had the chance to sit down with the band to discuss music, side projects, and what goes on behind the scenes.
Grace (lead singer, keys, guitar) and Jesse (bass) both have the demeanor of genuine music appreciators. They are students of art, and you can see immediately that they are truly in it for the love of the craft of making music. The band talks about songwriting with a depth of appreciation and humility, praising earlier generations of musicians like The Grateful Dead in the same breath as contemporary giants like Sufjan Stevens and Fleet Foxes. And they are incredibly enthusiastic for their fellow local musicians whom they love, including Roger Sellers (Bayonne) and Wood & Wire, to name just a couple. Their attitude and appreciation are infectious.
Though the members of the band grew up worlds apart — e.g. San Diego (Jesse) and Texas (Grace) — they had an active musical experience as part of their coming of age. Their parents and older siblings introduced them to a love of listening to records. And for the most part each began playing various instruments over 20 years ago. It's no accident that they are hitting their stride as musicians.
We talked about what it takes to keep a band like The Deer alive in Austin. Grace pays the bills as a multimedia visual artist (her stuff is excellent) and handles at least three roles for The Deer — songwriting, singing, media, art design, posters. Jesse is a full-time musician playing up to seven nights a week in one form or another. He organizes the Monday night rotating bluegrass quartet at Radio Coffee and Beer down south on Manchaca Rd and regularly makes an appearance in the Wednesday bluegrass night at Tantra Coffee House in San Marcos. He has a similar jack-of-many-trades role with The Deer — booking, songwriting, composition, engineering, mixing, whatever it takes. These folks have more in common with entrepreneurs than they do with "starving artists."
All the hard work and commitment is paying off. And The Deer are executing an intentional vision for the band. Growing slowly and building momentum, earning love and appreciation one fan at a time. The Deer celebrate the release of their third album, Tempest & Rapture, this Saturday night at The Parish. The double concept album blends an A side of straight-ahead folk and Americana (Tempest) with a B side of more experimental psychedelic sounds (Rapture), "two wings of the same bird," as lead singer Grace Park puts it. Look for an album review of Tempest and Rapture next week on The Sound Floor.
Here is a single from the forthcoming record, "Do Return." Described by the band as "an ornately layered, post-apocalyptic exploration of expression," the song is set to an original stop-motion film created by Park.