The Bowery Presents
Deer Tick

Deer Tick

Robert Ellis

Thu, November 7, 2013

Doors: 6:00 pm / Show: 7:00 pm

Webster Hall

New York, NY

$20

Sold Out

This event is 18 and over

Deer Tick
Deer Tick
John McCauley and Deer Tick have long walked a tightwire between total despair and fractured resilience, but Negativity represents a heroic leap forward on virtually all fronts for the Providence, Rhode Island-based band. Recorded earlier this year in Portland, Oregon with legendary producer/musician Steve Berlin (The Blasters, Los Lobos, and last year’s McCauley side project, Diamond Rugs), the album –Deer Tick's fifth full-length studio release, and follow-up to 2011’s acclaimed Divine Providence – is McCauley’s most personal work thus far as well as the band’s most undeniable and universal, their famously freewheeling musical approach refined here into a gloriously cohesive whole.

Negativity was penned over the course of a genuinely eventful 2012, an annus horribilus in which McCauley’s father pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy and tax fraud, ultimately leading to prison. “Mr. Sticks” – which takes its title from the senior McCauley’s childhood nickname – is “about my father going to jail and all the things he may miss,” but when the son sings “With a hug and a kiss/You may say goodbye to all you've ever known,” you get the sense he might be talking to himself.

For if that seemingly untenable situation weren’t enough, McCauley’s own personal life was equally shambolic, his notoriously excessive behavior and impossible lifestyle escalating to the point where his imminent wedding engagement was finally called off. Like any true artist, he channeled the anger, melancholy, and regret into his work, resulting in what can be safely declared his finest collection of songs to date, impassioned and interior and increasingly mature, both as expression of emotion as well as pure unadulterated songcraft.

“This record is me pulling myself out of the funk I was in,” McCauley says. “I wouldn’t say I was depressed, I think it was more than that. A lot of those days, I just felt like a waste and I didn’t truly recognize it. There’s a lot of time that I just don’t remember at all and it’s kinda frightening."

Drugs – hard drugs – figure significantly throughout the album, much as they did in McCauley’s life itself. “Big House” – which dates back to McCauley’s earliest songwriting efforts – tells of a friend’s cyclical battles with heroin, while “Pot of Gold” is “a stream of consciousness recollection of what went through my head and what kinds of misadventures I got myself into when I was doing crack. It also touches on the guilt I felt when I came down from the high.”

Deer Tick – sounding as sure-footed as one would expect from a band who have spent a couple of hundred nights each year on stage for more than half a decade – more than match the strength of the songs by taking a more detailed approach than on some of the breakneck recordings of their past. From the sparkling baroque pop of “The Dream’s In The Ditch” (penned by guitarist Ian O’Neil) to the full-blown Memphis showstopper, “Trash,” Negativity sees the Tick bridging boozy punk, AM gold, bar band blues, country soul, and whatever else catches their fancy into their own profoundly American rock ‘n’ roll. Additional sonic color comes courtesy of magnificently arranged brass accompaniment by Austin, Texas’s GRAMMY®-winning Latin fusion collective, Grupo Fantasma.

While Deer Tick have been rightfully hailed for their raucous rave-ups and substance-fueled fervor, Negativity places considerable focus on the band’s nuanced and tender side, with notable highlights including the wrenching breakup ballad, “Hey Doll,” and the stunning “In Our Time.” Written from his father’s perspective, the song is a timeless country tearjerker featuring McCauley’s good friend, singer/songwriter Vanessa Carlton singing duet vocals in the “role” of his mom.

“My parents have had a long and seemingly healthy marriage since before I was born,” McCauley says. “That whole year, as I watched my family deal with my dad's looming sentencing date, I’d never seen my parents like that. This was the first time I ever saw them really struggle. Lots of silence and lots of yelling. But despite all of it, they’re still married. I guess they must really love each other.”

Love, McCauley well knows, can save a man. Bottom was definitely in sight when the proverbial good woman pulled him from the brink, giving him the inner strength to both carry on as well as to imbue Negativity with far more than just endless sadness and suffering.

“I met a really amazing woman who made me realize the consequences of my actions were just getting bigger and bigger,” he says. “Without her, I don’t think I would have changed anything and that’s frightening as hell.”

“I guess I’ll catch you on the other side,” McCauley sings in the album’s final moment, a promise that, despite the pain and fatalism and yes, negativity, he’s here for the long haul. Heartbreaking, fist-pumping, and ultimately life-affirming, Negativity stands as an indisputable high water mark for Deer Tick – a defining collection from a rock ‘n’ roll band driven by an undying faith in the power of redemption and transcendence.

“My relationship has made me want to be better,” says John McCauley. “I want to be healthier and more responsible for my actions. I want to be around for a long time.”

-Michael Krugman | June 2013
Robert Ellis
Robert Ellis
Robert Ellis is the kind of songwriter who only comes along once in a great while. With his first two albums, a promise was made. With his new record, The Lights from the Chemical Plant, that promise has been delivered and fully realized. The music, like the artist, refuses to accept the confines of a box, and burns white-hot from the inside out. But what seems even more striking about this record, this musician, even at a first glance, is that feeling of unyielding authenticity.
With every remarkable cut, with every twist and turn, Robert’s life and his experience, shine through. His days growing up in a small industrial town in Texas, his move to Houston, and now as a 24-year-old man, when not on the road performing around the world, living with his wife in Nashville.
The Lights from the Chemical Plant, produced with great care and precision by Jacquire King (Tom Waits, Kings of Leon, Norah Jones), and recorded at Eric Masse’s Casino studio in East Nashville for New West Records, is an album that has a way of grabbing you by the hand and pulling you in so that it can play with your soul. Alive with memories and innovation, you become absorbed in the world Robert paints with his smoky lyrics, his hypnotic voice, and his masterful work on the guitar. But then something happens. Something new. Something special. And it begins with the very song for which the album is named, “Chemical Plant.” You realize that Robert’s building layer upon layer of different sounds from different places and different times. A synthesis of sounds and textures that pick you up and pull you in even deeper.
R&B, bossa nova, fusion, free jazz – from the rousing beat of “Good Intentions” to the floor stomping bluegrass anthem “Sing Along,” you’ve bought your ticket and you’re in for the ride. And so it goes, the floodgates standing wide open. The quiet, unexpected feel of a jazz guitar in perfect union with a steel guitar in the ballad, “Steady as the Rising Sun.” And so it goes. The soulful wobble of a saxophone in “Bottle of Wine,” and the dreamy pedal steel that draws you into “TV Song.” These are songs about love gained, about love lost, about growing up in a place where nobody stands too tall for fear of being knocked down (“Sing Along”). These are songs about lives broken, lives healed, and moving on.
As if that weren’t enough, Robert gives us his interpretation of Paul Simon’s classic, “Still Crazy After All These Years,” which is pure elegance, cut against the song “Only Lies” with its quiet pulse, its dusky blue lyrics, and the story of a man trying to help a friend who refuses to believe that her husband is cheating on her…
Only lies can comfort you,
Only lies will see you through.
Just because a thing’s convenient,
That doesn’t make it true.
Only lies can comfort you.
Ellis’ growth as a man and musician is clear on The Lights From The Chemical Plant. And while some may call it a musical departure from his past, The Houston Chronicle best explains: “Ellis doesn’t place limitations on his music. Any perceived departure is just part of an ongoing creative journey.”
– Robert Ellis, not the musician, but the author of the Los Angeles Times bestseller, City of Fire.
Venue Information:
Webster Hall
125 East 11th Street
New York, NY, 10003
http://www.websterhall.com/