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They look as strikingly diverse as they sound - lanky, Pavement-style guys and a diminutive Japanese front woman/bassist. But over the course of 10 albums since the mid-1990s, Deerhoof have put their visual and musical dissonance to good use, emerging as one of the most challenging yet satisfying bands on the American indie rock landscape.
With Deerhoof, you receive a broad palette - sweet pop music mixed with the guitar squalls of John Dietrich and Ed Rodriguez, the child-like vocals of Satomi Matsuzaki and the inventively manic drumming of Greg Saunier.
"Even though my drumming may indicate it, I wasn't an ADHD kid. I seem to be blessed with a long attention span compared to the people around me, and it still gets me in trouble," the intellectual self-effacing Saunier said in a phone conversation from Tokyo where he's lived with spouse Matsuzaki since August, after relocating from the band's longtime base in San Francisco. "Six hours into a band practice and everyone else is ready to go home, and I'm going, 'Come on, let's try it again.'"
Recording from the outset for the iconic outsider label Kill Rock Stars, Deerhoof has benefited from the label's 'hands off' policy, enabling the band to indulge in its muse to its heart content - so much so that when Saunier takes on the occasional production job for another artist, he enjoys cutting to the chase, as in the case of producing fellow musical iconoclasts Xiu Xiu.
"I don't really bring any skills to the table. I'm more like the songwriter and vocalist, Jamie Stuart. He'll spend months working on the same set of songs, he's an obsessive tinkerer and rerecords his material where you get to the point that you lose all perspective and no longer have any idea what the song actually sounds like," said Saunier. "The skill I brought to this particular project was just being another person besides Jamie to say, 'no don't record that song again, it's perfect.'"
Perfection is not something Deerhoof aspires to, however, instead preferring immediacy and improvisatory reaction to the moment, which there is bound to be lots of when the band performs on Tuesday night at the Barby club in Tel Aviv.
"It's always an amazing surprise - and treat - that anyone has heard our songs in places in other parts of the world, like Israel," said Saunier. The treat, however, is fully ours.