Satomi Matsuzaki plays bass and sings, Greg Saunier plays drums, John Dieterich and Ed Rodriguez play guitars.
But what is Deerhoof really? Hell if we know.
Pitchfork went so far as to label Deerhoof as "the best band in the world.” The New York Times described them as “one of the most original rock bands to have come along in the last decade.”
From their humble beginnings as an obscure San Francisco noise act, they've become one of indie music's most influential bands with their ecstatic and unruly take on pop.
The version of Deerhoof you hear on The Magic is a most punch-drunk proposition. Everyone showed up in the mood to sing. Satomi, Greg, John and Ed dream up alchemies of punk, pop, glam, hair metal, doo-wop, hip hop, and R&B, late-night car rides, long days, attitude and spandex. Poetry into noise. Volume knob into gratification. Friendship into rock band.
According to drummer Greg, the music on The Magic was lurking in the shadows of "what we liked when we were kids - when music was magic - before you knew about the industry and before there were rules. Sometimes hair metal is the right choice."
For singer/bassist Satomi Matsuzaki The Magic is but the latest episode of an ongoing gamble: "I joined Deerhoof a week after I arrived in San Francisco from Japan. I hopped on a MUNI bus to have a first meeting but got off at a wrong stop. I was lost and confused. They found me on a dark street corner after I called for help from a pay phone. Since then my adventure expanded. Deerhoof is a vehicle with four powered wheels that takes me through forest, desert and buildings. My life is adventure!"
The Magic is a mixtape imbued with Deerhoof's sorcery -- boldness, wonder, technical know-how, risk. It is a mixtape by the kid with the biggest music collection you've ever seen, who will take you camping and show you how to pull a rabbit out of a hat.
Blame it on the Ramones. After Deerhoof finished recording demos for La Isla Bonita this past February, they began rehearsing for an upcoming tour. Halfway through a run-through of a long-time Deerhoof live favorite, their cover of the Ramones classic Pinhead, someone offhandedly asked, "Why don’t we ever write a song like this?" So Greg quickly dashed off a song on a scrap of paper, showed it to the band, and they recorded the breakneck stomper Exit Only in one take.
La Isla Bonita was recorded in guitarist Ed Rodriguez’s basement. Situated next to a parking garage, it was perfect for making noise till the wee hours. They recorded live, DIY style, "a weeklong sleepover arguing over whether to try and sound like Joan Jett or Janet Jackson, cracking each other up, one guitarist whose name starts with J always putting too much red chile into the rations," says Greg. But more than that La Isla Bonita is about the eclectic worldwide community that has supported them.
You’lll hear them pay musical tributes to their improbable list of heroes-turned-fans: David Bowie, Ric Ocasek, The Roots, Lou Reed, David Byrne, Sonic Youth, The Flaming Lips, Radiohead, Beck. Of course their intent is never reverence, but provocation. They are always on the hunt for that perfect union of the hilarious and the terrifying that one hears in other bands of their generation like Bikini Kill and Lightning Bolt. 2014 has been a killer year for young, aggressive female-fronted bands (St. Vincent, Tune-Yards, Perfect Pussy, Karen O, Speedy Ortiz) and La Isla Bonita is also partly a discourse with them.
To produce the vocals they tapped former journalist-turned-label owner and producer Nick Sylvester, and that’s where the album’s pop side comes out: Satomi’s singing is front and center, and if it sounds like she’s commanding the band, it’s because she was. "Satomi determined the direction the music would go," says Greg. As the inevitable temptation to sweeten the mix and edit down the takes crept in, Satomi kept everything focused on repeating grooves and simple arrangements. This is the glorious sound of four musicians owning their own hard-won and richly deserved legacy.