“The grit at the heart of the city has helped shape our sound”, says Deeper’s guitarist Nic Gohl.
The city in question is Chicago, Illinois, metropolis famed for its blues and house but now home to a thriving DIY scene.
Along with Twin Peaks, NE-HI and Dehd, another act breaking out to global appeal is Deeper – the thrilling post-punk quartet.
Their 2018 self-titled debut was full of frenetic, midwestern garage band promise – setting them on a solid path for bigger audiences.
Deeper’s relentless worth ethic has led to touring across the world and now to the imminent release of their second record Auto-Pain, out on March 27.
Its first single This Heat is a feverish three-minute post-punk trip, combining distorted guitar hooks and a pulsating drum beats over Gohl’s punchy vocal style.
6 Music’s Lauren Laverne named it her favourite new track of the week and publications like Stereogum, DIY and So Young have given it their backing.
Tours supporting Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever and The Districts have helped hone their sound and live shows – and they’ve even shared a stage with Wilco legend Jeff Tweedy.
They’re currently supporting Chicago pals Twin Peaks on a UK tour and will play a session on Marc Riley’s 6 Music show tomorrow.
Daily Star Online caught up with Nic, Drew McBride and Shiraz Bhatti from the thrilling quartet to talk about their new album, live shows, being a Chicago band and buying a hut in the woods.
Hi guys, how has the past year been for Deeper?
Drew McBride: "It’s been great. It’s been pretty eventful. Going back to January of last year we toured with The Districts for a month throughout the US.
"Went to SXSW and played some pretty great shows. For the rest of the year we were heads down writing and recording the second record.
"We toured the UK and Europe in October, which was great. It gave us the spring board for this tour and the other tours we have coming up."
Would you say it's been a pivotal year for you?
Drew: "Definitely. In terms of the arch of the first record compared this one. We had a lot more focus on each song than the first record.
"Over the course of last year we were focused on the sound and tone we wanted and the themes we wanted to showcase on this record. "
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Auto-Pain is out next month. What was the writing and recording process like?
Nic Gohl: "It was recorded back in Chicago. The first one was recorded in our practice space, it was very small.
"We recorded it pretty bare bones. The second one we went into a studio and recorded all the parts. It was far more comfortable. "
Shiraz Bhatti: "For the second one we were more open to exploring weirder tones and aspects that we wanted to do. It came by chance."
Drew: "There's a contrast from the first record and the second. On the first record we were largely feeling each other out, seeing what worked and what didn’t.
"The songs are pretty different. You now have punkier songs next to more dreamier songs. There’s a lot more intention of what we wanted to get out of it.
"If you listen to the two records you can really hear a contrasting tone overall in production quality."
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Was it always to plan to go into a more contrasting sound?
Drew: "On the first record we had so much time becoming comfortable with each other, it just kind of happened.
"As we were writing these songs, they came one after the other and we got into a groove. We became comfortable in the way we wanted to take risks. Some of it was having to seek it out as well. "
The single has got a lot of great feedback in the UK, supported by the likes of 6Music. What’s it like to have that kind of support this side of the pond?
Drew: "It’s been great, especially Mark Riley shouting out the song (This Heat). That was really cool for us. We have a session with him on Thursday and we’re over the moon about it.
"It’s really encouraging. Especially on this tour when we’re supporting another band and getting things ready for the April tour. It’s great to see such a great response to This Heat. "
What can listeners expect from your shows in the UK?
Nic: "It’s pretty dark. I feel like we’re pretty nice guys when we get out on stage but we're now understanding how to make switch in between songs that brings in intense, dark energy.
Drew: "We toured in October. We played lNorwich, Ipswich, Glasgow, London, Leeds and Bristol. It was great.
"This tour has been great. We’re going to even more places we haven’t been before. We’re going to Manchester this time. We’re playing Nottingham and Brighton. By the end of this tour we would have played 11 different cities in the UK."
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How do UK fans compare to the US fans?
Drew: "For a lot of people it is their first time seeing us. It’s really cool how excited the audiences have been. It helps that Twin Peaks bring in a pretty young crowd.
Shiraz: "Our first tour here had a bit of an older crowd but they’re still very energetic. The dads at the show would come up to us saying ‘You remind me of Joy Division or Gang of Four!’"
Drew: "It’s funny. It’s either kids being excited or dads. They come up to us like 'you remind me of Gang of Four in 86!’ – it’s pretty funny.
You’re currently touring with Twin Peaks. Do you know them well?
Drew: "Oh yeah. They’ve been good at bringing up and coming Chicago bands on different tours with them. We’ve all played in bands that have opened for Twin Peaks before so it’s cool for this project to hit the road with them. They’re just the best guys to be on the road with."
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Chicago is steeped in musical heritage but what's the city like now for bands?
Nic: "It’s a really great place to come up. For us, we’re the cultural hub of the midwest.
"There’s some pretty cool cities but not anywhere near as big as Chicago.
"I feel like young kids with guitars there make bands and create a pretty good DIY scene. A lot of them stay. Sometimes bands change into different kinds of bands. Our friends NE-HI are a great act. They came from the DIY scene.
"It’s a good place for you to test what you want to do and grow. From the DIY scene we all started playing clubs. It’s pretty nurturing."
Drew: "It’s a more fostering atmosphere than other cities."
Has the city shaped your sound in any way?
Nic: "The grit at the heart of the city has helped shape our sound. "
Shiraz: "It’s a very blue collar industrial city. On our first record, the first song we ever recorded had an opening soundscape that was the sound of the train tracks near our practice space."
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Do you think you'll stay in the city for the foreseeable future?
Drew: "It’s hard to say. Chicago has given us a tremendous amount of opportunities. Like any relationship, you’re planning on staying here indefinitely until feelings change. For now we’re not planning on going anywhere."
Nic: "I’m personally working to buy a hut in the middle of the woods. Whatever takes me there that’s what I want."
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What did you take from touring with Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever and The Districts?
Drew: "Rolling Blackouts are pros. Touring with them and seeing how they carry themselves every night, they’re really helping us aspire to what we want to do in a band.
"They’re consummate professionals and it’s great to see all the festivals they’re announcing. They’ve really earned it. They’ve been working their butts off.
"That was the first big support tour we got and it taught us to keep your head down and keep working on your craft and eventually you will be reaping what you sow."
Nic: "Speaking of The Districts, those guys are pros as well. They’ve been doing it since they were 17. You find that these bands performs songs that may not sound the same on record as it does in a live show.
"That’s what we’ve been taking away from the Twin Peaks guys too. Those small tweaks you can do to razz up the songs to make them a bit more ready for live performances."
Drew : "Some of the songs we play now are a little more different live. We might play a certain part that’s shorter on the record but more aggressive. We're a little more varied. That ultimately contributes to taking a step forward as a band."
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How do you think you’ve evolved as a band since forming in 2014 to what you are now?
Nic: "We’ve gotten a lot more confidence. "
Drew: "The first record was feeling each other out."
Nic: "Playing together, not that we didn’t think we couldn’t depend on each other before, but now it’s a high level of confidence that we produce each night.
"It allows us to take more risks. We understand how to play off each other a lot more."
Shiraz: "Our stage presence now sees us let loose and be in our own world, showing our emotions."
Looking ahead for the rest of 2020 – what can we expect?
Drew: "We’re going to be on the road a lot.
"As soon as we finish this tour, we play the BBC sessions, fly home for two days. Of those two days we have one day off. The other day we’re filming a music video.
"Then we hit the road for three weeks with Corridor on Sub Pop. We’re touring with them down to SXSW. Once we get home we’re there for a week.
"We play an album release show and then fly back to Europe. We do three weeks as a headlining tour. Then we go home for two days again then kick off on a full US headlining show that’s about five weeks long.
"Then we’re going to sleep for a long time."
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Did you set out Deeper with an ultimate goal in mind?
Nic: "Another record. Regardless of whether it goes anywhere it feels good to make music with these guys."
Drew: "To go on this tour we quit our jobs. A lot of us are taking a leap into the unknown right now.
"We’re really excited about this record and hope it can take us somewhere we can use as a springboard for our careers.
"We’re hopeful this record can be the start to that, to keep releasing records."
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