By: Ned Sedlak
I’m standing on the corner of Orchard and Rivington chatting music with Stillwater, Oklahoma’s best band, and we’re all about to die.
Did this all really happen? I’ll check the quotes.
According to them, there’s still time for us to die. Or, that’s the title of their bang-up debut album, There’s Still Time For Us To Die. I didn’t ask Alex Larrea, guitarist and business manager of the band, for influences or to talk about their sound. I think the scope of people qualified to discuss such sounds with words is supremely narrow. What I wanted to talk about was how does a band from Stillwater, Oklahoma find their way to the Lower East side of Manhattan all by themselves. They are in the middle of a 15-city Oklahoma-to-Boston-and-back super tour in a van, with no label support, no booking agent, no press agent, nothing but the bootstraps they pull themselves into.
I’m standing on the corner talking to Alex, discussing everything from their first two (excellent) EPs and their brand-new debut album. They’ve been an active force in the Denton, OK music scene for years and have embarked on a handful of west coast tours, but this is their first time in NYC and they’re psyched to be here. The band managed to book a couple ‘normal’ gigs at places like Rockwood and Pianos, but also found their way into the bustling DIY scene in Brooklyn with shows at Human Head Records and Aviv. The diversity of their gigs and volume on their first trip to the big city speaks to their hustle and sweat efforts to make a 6-piece indie band work.
And the work they split, with Alex handling the business end of things (including a newly minted Deerpeople LLC), drummer Jordan Bayhille oversees booking, social media posts are split between all members just as the songwriting is mostly a collaborative process. The end of all this divide-and-conquer is a relatively well-oiled music-making touring-the-country machine. Though they’ve had some label and agent interest, there’s been no offer worth giving up their current DIY Indie efforts. It’s a situation they seem to prefer and enjoy, even, a classic story of a true sum of their parts band scrapping money together for the van and gas, crashing on couches, making new friends and connections all over the country; one city, one gig at a time.
Their operational set-up is as impressive as their recordings and live show. Though they often get comparisons to the other OKC band, The Flaming Lips, they only borrow some eccentricities and odd-ball musical ideas. IE, if it weren’t for their shared geography, they probably wouldn’t get the comparisons. It’s well deserved, however, as Deerpeople have a clear vision and sound. It’s some part noise, some part mini-orchestrated arrangements, and quality songwriting throughout. We talk brieflly about their odd song titles choices including “Dr. Gay Washington”, “She Skates Boards, and She Gets Real High”, and “Sad Dad Sunday“. They clearly have a desire to create serious music while keeping it tongue in cheek. To the point where you maybe aren’t sure if they are geniuses or just fucking with everybody.
The live show includes: an organist who also plays violin, a floutist who also sings, a lead singer who plays keyboard and also hangs from the lighting rafters and is prone to jump into the audience to sing a few bars. The band members are all involved in multiple responsibilities and they push the audience to break their role as spectators only. It’s a participatory event for everyone in the room, an exuberant one at that.
It was a thrill to meet these guys and girls, fun to see them play the songs I’d been vibing on for the the last few months. It was impressive to get an impression of the work they do and how they do it. This is a band putting in their dues and everyone in that room got their money’s worth.
Cover photo credit: Doug Schwarz Photography
Article photos: Ned Sedlak