Bradford Cox of Deerhunter
The band's singer talks about collaborating with Dan Deacon and No Age
Between public spats played out on blogs and his provocative performances, Deerhunter mastermind Bradford Cox has become something of an indie-rock lightning rod. More recently, however, he’s eschewed confrontation, choosing instead to return the focus to his haunting strains of psychedelia. Deerhunter's 2008 album Microcastle was a beloved masterwork of moody rock extremes, and Cox’s 2008 LP under the name Atlas Sound, Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel, was more intimate and restrained—something akin to digital bedroom-pop. A second Atlas Sound album, titled Logos, is slated for October, and the first single, “Walkabout,” is a buoyant, tambourine-laden song that features a guest appearance from Animal Collective’s Panda Bear. In advance of Friday's special "round robin" show with Dan Deacon and No Age, Cox talked to The A.V. Club about playing weird shows, collaborating with cool people (including Karen O, for the soundtrack of Where The Wild Things Are), and maybe making an art film.
Bradford Cox: Oh, I don't know. We don't have a big plan yet. We’re going to come up with some cool stuff. We’re playing shows in Baltimore and in Medford, New Jersey, before the big ones.
AVC: There's also one in Millvale, Pennsylvania. Why are you playing these smaller towns?
BC: I think that the goal [for some of the shows] is to provide an all-ages experience. There are a lot of amazing people in small towns that run DIY and raw spaces, and they want to put on cool events for the kids, which is awesome.
AVC: Is it harder to play small DIY shows as you get more popular?
BC: I wouldn’t say so. We can do whatever we want. If I decide I want to play a show tonight at a house in Baltimore, we're going to play it. I love those kinds of shows—unannounced, last minute, spontaneous, and fun. That's where people meet for the first time. Deerhunter, The Black Lips, and several other Atlanta bands—we all found out years later that we were all actually at this one show in 2002: Arab On Radar, The Locust, and Lightning Bolt, “Oops! The Tour.”
AVC: That was a big collaborative tour.
BC: Exactly, like this one. And I had never heard of any of the bands. I was 18 or something, and it was like, “Everybody's going, didn't you hear about this? The Locust is playing.” I was like, “The Locust? That sounds kind of cool; I like locusts.” There were all these awesome kids just talking, and there were a bunch of kids skateboarding, and we were smoking some weed in the parking lot. It was just really fun.
AVC: Now that you’re on tour with Dan Deacon and No Age, do you think you might end up collaborating with them in the studio?
BC: That's a very likely possibility. I've been really into collaborating, but I like collaborating in weird ways. I don't like the whole name-dropping aspect of collaboration. I'd rather just have something happen. “Okay, we're going to fly No Age into the studio and record with us”—that’s just trying too hard.
AVC: You recorded your Atlas Sound album Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel in your bedroom and called it a very introspective record. The forthcoming Logos was recorded on the road with friends. Is it less autobiographical?
BC: It's more like a collage or a photo album—snapshots from a lot of places. Some of it's from my room, some of it was recorded in England, and Noah [Lennox, a.k.a. Panda Bear]'s parts were recorded in Portugal. It's kind of bullshit for me to say it's not an autobiographical record, though, because everybody knows that's not true. Every record is autobiographical to an extent. Nobody wants listeners to focus on their lyrics too much, because lyrics are personal. You can't lie and say you don't want attention when you make music, because you're making music so people will listen to it. You want to express yourself, because that's the whole reason you started playing music. But when you get what you want, which is attention, you start feeling like, "Oh my God, I don't want any more attention, stop looking at me, and stop paying attention to what I'm saying."
AVC: How was working with Karen O on the soundtrack of the forthcoming Spike Jonze film Where The Wild Things Are? Did Jonze help you out?
BC: Spike was very involved. He came out to all of the sessions and talked about what he was looking for. He gave us a lot of visual cues and much of the music was modeled off of that. Karen was an amazing leader. She has a very bright future as a producer or arranger. Just watching her work on this stuff—she's very talented. We made some interesting and strange music. Well, it's not that strange, it's just definitely not in character. You won't hear it and say, “Oh, I can hear the Deerhunter sound in this,” or, “I can hear Yeah Yeah Yeahs.”
AVC: Do you have a new Deerhunter album in the works?
BC: We're thinking about new projects. The only hint I'll drop is, kind of multimedia.
AVC: So maybe a video element?
BC: More of a film element. I'm talking about something Neil Young-y. You remember that Neil Young film Journey Through The Past that just got re-released? It's basically this avant-garde, Fellini-esque, non-narrative, surrealist movie that includes footage of him recording Harvest in a barn, but also cuts to all these random scenes. It's kind of like an art film. But I can't say anything definitely. That's just what we were talking about yesterday.