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Published: 2011/11/07
by Brian Robbins

Of Divine Providence and Thrown Guitars: Deer Tick’s John McCauley

“Our love’s in jeopardy, bay-bay …”

That was not what I wanted to hear. Oh, it’s a fine and dandy song: “Jeopardy” by the Greg Kihn Band. You couldn’t turn a radio on in 1983 without hearing it. But I was calling John McCauley’s cellphone, hoping to talk with the Deer Tick frontman about the band’s new release, Divine Providence. And every time I dialed his number, I was going straight through to:

“Our love’s in jeopardy, bay-bay …”

Finding its inspiration in both the intelligent design of Nilsson Schmilsson and a drunken Bob Stinson heaving his guitar across the Saturday Night Live stage in celebration of ending a song on the right chord, Divine Providence comes as close to nailing the vibe of Deer Tick live as any of their albums have to date. The Rhode Island-based quintet (guitarist/lead vocalist McCauley; drummer Dennis Ryan; multi-instrumentalist Rob Crowell; guitarist Ian O’Neil; bassist Chris Ryan – and all the lads know their way around a vocal mic) play every performance as if it’s their last. There’s no shortage of sweat, beer, and broken stuff at a Deer Tick show and co-producers Justin Collins and Adam Landry managed to get enough of that spirit into the grooves of Divine Providence to make you flinch.

And that’s what I wanted to talk with John McCauley about, but all I was getting was Greg Kihn.

“Our love’s in jeopardy, bay-bay …”

I had a fallback number, though – and a short while after leaving a message on tour manager Zeke Hutchins’ voicemail, my phone was ringing. A good man, that Zeke Hutchins: he explained that they were on the road and not everyone had cell service. Could I hang on while he passed the phone to John?

I surely could …

JM: Hey.

BR: Hey, John. This is Wednesday, so you must be …

JM: Uhh, we’re somewhere in (yawns) Texas. I’m pretty sure. (laughs)

BR: We should let the folks back home know about the luxurious accommodations Deer Tick has when traveling.

JM: We’re in the van, man. (laughter)

BR: Cool. ’68 Econoline?

JM: We wish. (laughter) Naw – nothing that cool. A standard Chevy 12-passenger van.

BR: All for the sake of the music.

JM: That’s right. (laughs)

BR: Last time we spoke was just after the Middle Brother album came out; you’ve had a busy year.

JM: Yeah. (laughs)

BR: I know we talked a lot about The Replacements last time, as they’re one of your musical heroes. I just re-watched the clips of their Saturday Night Live appearance in ’86 – the night they got banned from the show.

JM: (laughs) I love those videos, man.

BR: Your appearance on Letterman a couple of weeks ago was great. You got to watch yourselves later that night during a gig back in Rhode Island, right?

JM: Yeah – that was pretty cool.

BR: Are you guys wearing those matching grey suits the rest of the tour?

JM: Oh, yeah … you oughtta smell these things. They’re so bad. (laughter)

BR: There you go again: all for the sake of the music. (laughter) Congratulations on the new album, by the way. It’s been a blast to listen to.

JM: Oh, good. Thanks, man.

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