Deerhunter is one of those bands known just as much for the antics of its frontman as for its music. Over the course of the band’s career, Bradford Cox has generated a persona that by now is as synonymous with the band as the music itself. Catching him over a phone call on a Friday afternoon, it quickly becomes clear why his personality is as memorable as it is. Linear conversation is banished immediately; instead, Cox sporadically conveys the furies and fires of his life in a way that’s as captivating as it is directionless.
“This month, zero per cent of my attention has gone to anything but house work. It’s therapeutic,” he ecstatically explains. Cox is building a house for himself in Atlanta, Georgia. Deerhunter is just about to launch into a North American and European tour for their latest album, Monomania, and Cox is taking time for himself before heading into the touring lifestyle. “Going on tour is like a month of going out for me,” he says. “It’s the only social thing I do. I don’t leave my house much. With touring, I enjoy the interactions and the energy created for me, the performance of it all.”
Not only will Deerhunter be touring with a new album, but they’ll be touring with a new bandmate, too. Monomania was recorded with new bassist Josh McKay after the sudden departure of longtime bassist Josh Fauver. When asked about this turnover in bandmates, Cox immediately brushes it off. “The turnover of bandmates was a non-event,” he sighs. “Josh and I didn’t talk much to begin with so it’s not a big change having him gone. Before, I would suggest things and Josh would complete them with his own mark. Now, I explain to the new bass player how it’s going to be. It’s more like being a director and being hands-on with the cinematography.” Despite trying to sound nonchalant about his bandmates, Cox’s soft side comes through soon enough. “The band is in a healthier place,” he remarks with satisfaction. “We’re older, there’s less tumultuous energy flying around. We all have more of a natural instinct to do certain aspects of the job.”
In fact, throughout our conversation, instinct is the one subject Cox keeps returning to with enthusiasm. “I’ve always been impulsive and followed my instincts,” he tells me. “Recording the album was interesting and instinctual — I really wanted it to sound torn and frayed and not even remotely logical.”
Torn and frayed are two well-chosen adjectives. Monomania is Deerhunter’s most raw and immediate album to date. It’s fast and fluid rock — for better or for worse, the careful consideration of Halcyon Digest has been replaced by a speedy impulsiveness that’s as fun as it is flighty. “I wasn’t trying to prove a point by making an album like that ‘cause at my age I don’t even need to make a record,” Cox explains. “It’s just that now, I would never sacrifice my artistic instincts. I would much rather wash dishes — at least that’s therapeutic and repetitive.”
Cox isn’t washing dishes just yet, but in a way, creating Monomania was a therapeutic experience, too. “Recording and completing it was a cathartic process,” he muses. “At the time, I was focused on emotionally inconsistent situations and now that the album is done, I’ve cleared my head of most of that.” That said, catharsis wasn’t part of the band’s aim in making the album. According to Cox, there never really was an aim to begin with. “I don’t believe in intent or art,” he states. “Things sort of just fall in your lap. My music isn’t the product of my craftsmanship. I have as much fun analyzing my lyrics as I do the New York Times crossword.”
We do too, Bradford. We do too.
Deerhunter plays The Rickshaw Theatre on Friday, August 30th.
By Polina Bachlakova
Photo: Robert Semmer