Deerhunter’s Double Impact

Deerhunter’s Double Impact
"I want there to be some excitement and some anticipation, because it’s very important, especially to younger people. When I was in high school I was always excited when a new record came out. There’s a new Animal Collective record coming out; I don’t want to own it before it comes out. I want to look forward to it because I know that it’s gonna be amazing. So I want to recapture the excitement I had when I was a kid about a record coming out that I know is going to be exciting. And then I want to put it on the day it comes out and listen to it all the way through.” So says Bradford Cox, Deerhunter’s peculiar singer/songwriter and sound manipulator, referring to how he wants his band’s new album to be received.

Since April, Deerhunter’s third LP, Microcastle, has been somewhat of lightning rod for attention. The band began playing the album in full that month and only two months later, the final version somehow leaked online — almost five months before its street date. "There’s just a certain excitement that people are robbed of now, and they don’t even realize because they’re robbing themselves of it,” Cox explains. "I mean, I even notice it myself when I’m checking out new stuff.”

To curb the damage of such a blow, Cox and his band-mates decided that instead of waiting out the remaining months until Microcastle’s release, they’d simply make another one to go with it. "It was just kind of a ‘fuck yeah!’ idea,” he says. "Like, ‘You know what we can do? We can make an entirely new record.’ I don’t want to let people know what they’re already gonna get.”

In record time, Deerhunter wrote and recorded Weird Era Cont. According to Cox, "the plan was to include it [with Microcastle] in some kind of hidden way. Instead of having a hidden extra track, I was like, ‘What if it was a hidden extra album?’” Executing such a grand idea, he says, wasn’t something he was worried about. He left that up to his labels, Kranky in North America, and 4AD elsewhere. "That’s not my job. My job is to come up with the concept; it’s the record company’s job to figure it out,” he says. "And they figured out a way to do it, it was gonna be fine. It would be hidden under the jewel case… and as a CD with the vinyl.”

Unfortunately, on August 16, still more than two months away, Weird Era prematurely followed Microcastle into the public’s hands, when a reader of deerhuntertheband.blogspot.com found a Mediafire link that led them to the files, along with an unreleased record from Cox’s other project, Atlas Sound, titled Logos, and posted them to Ateaseweb.com, an online fan forum. "Nobody searched for anything and I never accused anybody of stealing from me like, ‘you are breaking into my house.’ It was more like, ‘hey, I left my front door open, that doesn’t mean you can fucking steal the apple pie that’s cooling on the window sill,’” he explains with some frustration. "Sure, I download music all the time and I don’t blame [fans] for downloading our leaks. I don’t want our albums to leak though, I’ll be honest, because I’m a hypocrite, I’ll admit it. Nobody wants this to happen to their record.”

These events would be enough to dispirit Deerhunter and force them into withdrawal, but Cox remains enthusiastic and engaged when talking about his two new albums. And he should be: Microcastle and Weird Era are further proof of his remarkable talent as a prolific songwriter and the band’s continuously innovative spark.

By comparison to last year’s seminal breakthrough, Cryptograms, an album comprised of ambient, psychedelic, Krautrock and shoegaze jams filtered through washes of opulent reverb, Microcastle is an adventurous yet barebones pop album. Stripping it down, however, was as much a tactic of convenience as it was evolution. "I can give you an artsy fartsy answer, which would be like, ‘Yeah, it was a chance to open a new book,’ but honestly, I was just really tired of lugging around a lot of equipment,” Cox confesses from his Atlanta home. "There’s an artistic element to my decisions, but there’s also common sense, or maybe it’s just laziness. Sometimes I want to find the easiest way to get the best quality.” Judging by the abundance of quality material the Atlanta-based musician has produced since the release of Cryptograms in January 2007 — be it through official releases by Deerhunter and Atlas Sound, or through the random virtual seven-inches and demos on his blog — he certainly makes it look easy. However, he never forgets how important it is to put being a songwriter ahead of everything. "I’m really serious about great songwriting,” says Cox, "and I don’t consider myself a great songwriter or even one in the conventional sense, but the songwriters I respect, their songs can be played on any instrument or arranged in any way and they will still sound as good.

"There are songs on Microcastle that are more conducive to that. I mean, if you look at Cryptograms, we can’t play half of the songs on that album. It’s absolutely impossible to play them live — without using backing tracks. I’ve used those with Atlas Sound, but I’m not interested in using them with Deerhunter. With Microcastle, the songs lend themselves more to different arrangements and tempos.”

Though they’re released together, Cox doesn’t automatically designate Microcastle and Weird Era companions, anymore than they are with Cryptograms or its subsequent EP, 2007’s Fluorescent Grey. "They could be totally separate or together,” admits Cox. "A lot of people think Cryptograms and Fluorescent Grey are attached, but to me, they’re not really. Weird Era has its own concept. It’s kind of a sprawling, abstract thing I can’t put into words. I don’t do concepts in the traditional sense that, ‘oh, here is my concept about Europe in 1913.’ I don’t do that. I do concepts like, ‘oh, when I was 19 I used this specific kind of Chapstick and I did ecstasy in a parking lot, and that whole summer was kind of cool, so this will be an album that will be related to that summer.’ "All of my albums are concept albums, whether it’s Deerhunter or Atlas Sound. But a concept is not a singular thing or a lyrical thing; a concept is what you hold in the back of your head when you’re writing it. I can say that Weird Era is a concept about our evolution as a band personally, not musically. Microcastle is the end point, and Weird Era is like the digest, in a lot of ways.”