Deer Tick coming to the Kessler Theater 05.11.19

Initially formed in 2004 as the solo project of teenage singer/songwriter John McCauley, Deer Tick acquired shape over the coming years, evolving from McCauley’s spare and quavering solo material into a rough-and-tumble road rock outfit as more bandmembers joined the fold. War Elephant, the debut album from the fully formed version of the band, was released in 2007, and over the next decade and beyond, the sound and approach of Deer Tick evolved through restless touring and a steady succession of studio albums.

John McCauley, the songwriter behind the Deer Tick moniker, grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, where he began his career by teaching himself to play drums, guitar, piano, and pedal steel. McCauley started recording his own compositions and touring the area while still in high school, and he widened his circle after graduation by touring the entire country. Although he’d often perform solo, the young musician began piecing together a proper band, occasionally playing as a duo with drummer Dennis Ryan or with a small group. His music fit loosely into the alt-country category, but his vocals — rough, raw, and ragged — brought a distinctive character to the sound. In these early days, Deer Tick’s music existed on self-released CD-Rs and other miscellaneous releases, such as a split EP with bassist/songwriter Nat Baldwin.

Following the September 2007 release of his first album, War Elephant, McCauley’s Deer Tick project began earning comparisons to Bright Eyes, Modest Mouse, and Uncle Tupelo. Although originally released via FEOW! Records, War Elephant was reissued in late 2008 by Partisan Records. Deer Tick remained with that label during the course of two follow-up albums, 2009’s Born on Flag Day and 2010’s The Black Dirt Sessions. The band’s fourth studio outing, Divine Providence, arrived the following year, and featured 12 rowdy and raucous originals drawing inspiration from the raw power of the Stones and the Stooges. 2013’s dark-hued Negativity took a more streamlined approach with producer Steve Berlin (Los Lobos) tightening up the band’s sometimes ragged sound.

Though they occasionally toured, Deer Tick didn’t record again for nearly four years. In September 2017, the band released not one but two albums simultaneously — titled Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. Recorded at Memphis’ famed Ardent Studios, the first disc focused on the band’s softer folk-driven, Americana-tinged roots rock style, while the second allowed Deer Tick to flex its punk-inspired garage rock muscle. In February 2019, they followed with companion album Mayonnaise. The compilation featured a grab bag of material, including two newer songs, covers, outtakes from the last two-volume collection, and other miscellanea. ~ J. Poet, Rovi

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Velton Hayworth is a professional photographer and blogger. Velton loves to cover the nightlife and entertainment scene. Follow Velton on Twitter @ILoveFtWorth