Ian O’Neil: Deer Tick and Beyond
Speaking of Deer Tick and the whole collective vibe, I know they originally started as John’s solo project. Was there a point in your time in the band where it started feeling like a true band with different types of songwriters?
He stated for a long time that he wanted the band to be a collective thing and he prefers to write under the circumstances. I think we all have a lot of fun doing that. But it ended up being solo because he had no one to tour with for a while. I guess 2010, 2011 was the year of stretching out a little bit. We kind of wanted to change the MO of the band from the stereotype of us being an all-country band to playing the rock ‘n’ roll we wanted to play. I think everyone started contributing. It was just the right time to stretch out and show people that we aren’t exactly the same band who made the last three records because we definitely aren’t. We recorded it differently. Everyone contributed in a big way. That’s how it ended up happening.
Besides from you and John, does anyone contribute songs to the band?
Robbie [Crowell] contributes lyrics to our song, “Let’s All Go To The Bar,” and that’s me, Robbie, and John. And then our drummer Dennis wrote the song “Clownin Around” that’s on our new record. He’s a great songwriter. He’s so obsessed with beats and rhythms, producing and recording that he’d probably write a couple of great songs for our future recording project because he’s been working on recording his own things for the past year and a half.
Would you say all of you come from similar backgrounds in terms of your interest in music or is it a pretty wide spectrum?
I think we all came from similar backgrounds and we all came from individual, independent themes where we grew up. We knew we all wanted to play music for the rest of our lives. Maybe, playing into our adolescents, we got different influences, but I bonded with these guys over our similar taste in music. We generally love the same things.
So your songwriting contributions for the new album—were they specifically for that album or were they ideas that you had around for a while?
The song called “Now It’s Your Turn,” I had written six months prior, at home. And the other song, “Walkin Out The Door,” I had half written and everybody was pretty positive about it like, “What you have so far is really good.” So I wrote it on the spot, in the studio thinking to have an upbeat song as well as a ballad-type song. So that got written real quick. So I guess that song was technically written for the record. It was only the verse and the chorus that was around for a year. I kind of forgot about it for a while.
Have you started to write toward a new Deer Tick album?
We’re probably going to start recording soon—John wants to do more shows and I feel like I want to get stuff together with different people, develop new songs before I play them so frequently. But since I’ve been back in New York City, it’s been a lot easier to play a lot more often.
Have you found that just being here in New York with so many places to play has helped you with your writing?
I think so, me and my girlfriend and one of our friends all moved out basically into Crown Heights and we’re pretty isolated to the point where if we needed to go see our friends who live in Bushwick or Manhattan, we’d have to take a long ass train ride. So we’d end up just staying in and I wrote while she did her artwork. We’re a lot more isolated because of where we choose to live, because of our financial constraints. But there are opportunities. Since it’s just a bigger scene I have a lot more friends here and more people interested in seeing the “newly appointed co-songwriter of Deer Tick by himself.” [Laughter.] There’s way more interest in that here. People are more open to that.
You mention it’s a far commute to places where everyone lives like Bushwick, which is funny because like five or six years ago that was the out of the way place, Williamsburg was kind of the place where people were. It’s funny how areas change. But it feels like there’s this whole scene developing in the DIY spaces whether it’s Glasslands or whatnot in that East Williamsburg area and it’s kind of fostering an old vibe. Kind of like what Wetlands used to be in New York back in the 90s.
I think it’s great. It gives us a lot more opportunities to play if we feel like it. People come out here a lot more than they do in Nashville where people write more songs cause there’s such an oversaturation of songwriters there and not a whole lot of fans. New York is definitely more responsive to being interested in other people’s music.
Besides the show and the recording, do you have any other projects you’re working on? Or once the year 2012 starts, is it back to touring with Deer Tick for a while?
Well we’re going to take the holidays off and start recording the Dirt Nap stuff and then Deer Tick has some one off shows like Brooklyn Bowl on New Year’s Eve and then we have a big ass tour in the springtime, so we’ll be quite busy in the future. I’d like to take the winter to record and play, I plan on doing it as much as possible. I just want to get the song done, that’s more important than playing. I play enough shows. I play so many damn shows. I don’t mind taking my own personal time to concentrate on the creative process, more so than the pedaling of the music.