By the time guitarist John Dieterich joined Deerhoof, the experimental San Francisco band had existed for five years. Dieterich hadn’t even heard Holdy Paws, the 1999 Deerhoof album that drummer Greg Saunier gave him a copy of.
“I could tell there was something underneath it,” the guitarist said of the noisy music and sounds on Holdy Paws. “The forms, the songs were there, but they were being expressed through a filter, an expressive kind of noise language. There was room for straight-up improvisational pieces on there as well.”
Dieterich’s first participation in a Deerhoof album came with 2002’s Reveille.
“There is improvisation and elements of noise on that record, but the songs are clearly delineated,” he said. “It’s somewhere between those things and probably its own thing, too.”
The music on the band’s recently released 11th album, Breakup Song, takes a bright, easy to follow but still electronics-filled stance. Such accessibility wasn’t always characteristic of Deerhoof.
In 2001, Deerhoof’s since scattered across the country members all were living in San Francisco, and the group changed its songs, style and instrumentation from week to week.
“We did one concert where we went really extreme, brutal, loud, painful,” Dieterich recalled. “No respite.”
But the music was so aggressive that it gave musicians making it cause to pause.
“We felt funny afterwards,” the guitarist recalled. “And we talked about it. We decided that, even if we were only playing to, like, seven of our friends, all of whom liked what we were doing, we didn’t want to dig ourselves into a hole where we only played music that mines dark emotional territory.”
Deerhoof subsequently came up with a general direction for their future music.
“We talked about how we wanted to make people feel,” Dieterich said. “It’s not so much about expressing our deep dark secrets. It’s about taking those dark secrets and transforming them into something that not only gives other people joy, but gives us joy.”
Not that Dieterich doesn’t enjoy sad songs. The music on Breakup Song, he said, “it’s fun and it’s danceable and it can make you cry. All of these things can be present at the same time.
“It depends on your mood when you listen to it. You’ll hear it one time and think ‘Oh, well, this is something that I can party to.’ But another time it’s like, ‘Oh, wow. Those lyrics are getting to me. I can feel the emotion in them.’”
The frequently traveling Deerhoof hit the road again Sept. 5 in Washington, D.C., the day after the release of Breakup Song. The band is touring through much of the final quarter of 2012, in the United States and Europe. Through the years, Deerhoof has also played many tours in Japan, homeland of group member Satomi Matsuzaki.
“We can be out for six months or something,” Dieterich said. “It can get tiring, but if you’re playing joyous music and people are responding in a joyous way, it actually makes you stronger. After the show, you feel better than when you started.”