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A Double Shot of Deer Tick

Jewly Hight | November 13, 2017

It's safe to say that Deer Tick has never been accused of slickness. If anything, the band’s reputation has run in the opposite direction. There was a time when the members projected an indie-rock-style disregard for polish and professionalism and received as much attention for their benders and exploits as they did for their music making. “Deer Tick is pretty much a band about alcohol,” declared a 2012 Vice story, in which the author spent the interview shotgunning beers with frontman John McCauley.

While the live shows always felt spontaneous, they could occasionally be downright slovenly. “People may have thought their time was wasted, that we were doing it on purpose and that we were trying to antagonize the audience,” McCauley acknowledges now. “Our intentions were never malicious. Maybe somebody accidentally had too good of a time.”

The good times that McCauley, guitarist Ian O’Neil, drummer Dennis Ryan and bassist Christopher Ryan shared were central to the chemistry between them. They all oozed youthful stamina, mischievous senses of humor and few inhibitions; but beneath all of the debauchery was an interest in musical forms that required greater finesse.

On Deer Tick’s 2007 debut, War Elephant, McCauley covered “What Kind of Fool Am I?,” a suave, self-scrutinizing pop standard that he’d picked up from the repertoire of Rat Pack member Sammy Davis Jr. McCauley’s take on the tune had an overripe quality. Sickly sweet strings billowed around his serrated vocal timbre over a cockeyed drum pattern. And he made a show of straining for the big finish.