Deerhoof on "Mountain Moves" Interview | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Deerhoof on “Mountain Moves”

Keep Dancing

Dec 05, 2017 Photography by Shervin Lainez Deerhoof
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The fall of 2016 was the best of times and the worst of times for the members of Deerhoof. Devastated by the election of Donald Trump, they simultaneously were experiencing the elation of doing their first tour of South America. In Brazil, where the government had just voted to impeach their president, they were greeted by unusually enthusiastic and celebratory crowds, with attendees dancing until the encore every night. That leg of the tour completed, as they waited for their flight back to the United States, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Greg Saunier approached an airport employee. Their government was in chaos, their economy was in recession, and their murder rate was soaring. Why were people so happy?

“And I asked her, ‘Isn’t this country going through a catastrophe right now? Why was everybody dancing so much?’” he recalls. “And I’ll never forget this. She said to me, ‘We dance because we are sad. We dance because we have no money.’ When she said this to me, I was like, ‘Oh, my God. Exactly.’ And I feel like that is the spirit that is starting to emerge, and it’s really exciting. It’s this idea that when you are down, the thing that would be useful is something that brings you up.”

Having just issued a full-length album, 2016’s The Magic, they had no intention of working on another set of songs so quickly. Then Joyful Noise Recordings named the band its Artist in Residence for 2017, meaning the band would have the opportunity to release five LPs over the course of the year, one of which would be Mountain Moves, their 14th full-length release. Still buzzing from the good vibes leftover from the South American tour, they wanted to do something a bit more communal and celebratory. They would respond to the negativity of the moment with a rallying cry for hope and unity.

Joined by a cast of collaborators ranging from Juana Molina and Stereolab’s Lætitia Sadier to Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak and Flock of Dimes) and Xenia Rubinos, the band set aside their usual hermetic recording process and got to work. As they only had months to complete the album, guests contributed their vocals via email, and a number of tracks were recorded by individual band members at home, surrounded by whatever musical friends they could round up for the occasion. The result is arguably the band’s most eclectic set of songs, ranging from roller rink power-pop (“I Will Spite Survive”) to hip-hop (“Your Dystopic Creation Doesn’t Fear You”) and covers of Bob Marley (“Small Axe”) and The Staples Singers (“Freedom Highway”). Taken as a whole, it’s an album about having the resilience to keep dancing as the world falls apart.

“We have a line in one of the songs [‘Come Down Here and Say That’] on this record that says, ‘We dance merrily for we are sad,’” Saunier says. “Would Deerhoof have made this record if it weren’t for all of the negative chaos of the past year? I’d say maybe not. But we also wouldn’t have made this record, even more so, if it wasn’t for all of the positive and against-all-odds optimistic attempts from the underground to propose human solutions and to have some solidarity with each other. I would say the positive things that happened last year inspired the band even more.”

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar’s Fall 2017 Issue (October/November 2017), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

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December 6th 2017

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December 12th 2017

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