Richmond, VA-based prog/math rock group Deer Eat Birds released an album a few months back that voices their reply to the emotional and literal stresses of our current political environment. As a funk band turned prog rock group, Deer Eat Birds display their range through varied instrumentals with funk-influenced transitions and fiery math breaks. We linked up with Deer Eat Birds recently to chat about the harsh realities that inspired their new album, Freely Eroding.
Indie Current: How did Deer Eat Birds form?
Mikiyas Negussie: Long story short, Stephen, Damon and I were jamming for a year in 2015. We met Tecumseh at the show where my floor broke from the house show. It was Tecumseh’s band that broke the floor! Fast forward to a year ago, we linked up at the McChkn show. We ended up recording Hi-Rez, our first record, in July of 2016.
IC: Before we get into Freely Eroding, let’s chat about your first record, High Rez.
Stephen Wolford: I think we were just trying to find our sound. Tecumseh was about to do some solo shows, and we were all like, “What if you had a band?” That solo set, was essentially our first show. Most of the songs were Tecumseh’s and the songs we jammed on with him. We were essentially a “funk” band, which was initially our underlying sound. We were listening to alot of Progressive Rock and Jazz.
Tecumseh Allen: It was kind of a marriage of me learning to play bass with them (Stephen, Mikiyas and Damon) as a solidified 3 piece.
SW: We were listening to a lot of The Mars Volta too. Which is why we transitioned into more of a progressive rock sound.
TA: It’s not necessarily like, we want to emulate their sound or be similar to it. What they do…we never say it. It’s like an unspoken thing that we acknowledge. They are trying to like push boundaries.
SW: We were also being put on to like really good music. Like Hella and Forth Wanderers.
Damon Bishop: We are also trying to understand time signatures and working on being more confident with our sound.
SW: I don’t think any of us consider ourselves to be “rock musicians”. We are just musicians, so we are always looking for new things to add to our repertoire. Getting into time signatures allowed us to be math musicians. Time signatures are a tool.
TA: It was just a different sound. A lot has changed since then.
“Have I given up my rights?
Do I read between the lines?
I’ll never care
You would think a world at odds
is enough to change the quo
What is this hell, now?
Inside there’s an ocean,
freely eroding the shore”
IC: What does it mean to “freely erode” in your song Opposing Waves?
TA: It’s my viewpoint of the supercharged tension of the political environment. It questions, “Have I given up my rights?” It’s me being a black person. If I’m driving and I get pulled over it might not be enough to have my hands on the steering wheel. I’m aware of my rights, I’m not going to forfeit my right to question you. I may as well not say anything at all. In essence “Am I reading between the lines?” Shut the fuck up!
That’s another reality that is stated there. It’s this call to action that isn’t going to be acted on. “Inside there’s an ocean, it’s freely eroding.” It’s this large body of problems. But it’s carelessly withering away. Ultimately you want to get to the root of the problem, but there’s nothing you can do sometimes.
SW: Another way I saw this track, is the idea of what it’s like when you’re in the ocean. You can struggle or you can float with the current. But it’s sometimes painful to learn to float with the current. You have to learn to let go of a lot of stuff. Eroding is kind of a violent/negative term, but freely is a positive term. It’s this idea of working towards something good, but it hurts while you’re doing it.
IC: What is “Norepinephrine” about?
SW: It’s the chemical responsible for adrenaline: Your fight or flight response. We originally didn’t have vocals for it at all.
TA: It’s the feeling of all of us get. It’s reluctant regret. It’s a soft-spoken song about someone’s perspective on another individual who isn’t honest about they who are. As the song transitions, the song changes from the context of who are you, to the acceptance of ‘this is type of person I am’. Essentially acknowledging what your vices and pitfalls.
SW: And that’s how you recover at the end of the day. It’s not about changing those things but knowing who you are and how you handle those issues.
TA: Its a weird one.
SW: That’s also Mikiyas Negussie’s original instrumental!
IC: What can people expect from you all in the future?
M: We are already working on our next record with more lyrics, and hopefully working on more shows. It will be a bit more heavy!
Check out more Deer Eat Birds! Watch a live video of “Opposing Waves” at Strange Matter RVA. Listen to Freely Eroding above.