There are few bands like Deerhoof on the indie-rock scene, and indeed there have been throughout the history of rock/indie-rock. They formed in 1994 in San Francisco, have survived the city’s various bubbles (and, as far as we know, they’re still not the Californians who moved to Lisbon, but we’d be willing to give them a warm welcome) and are still going strong. Longevity applies as a rarity factor, on the surface you can compare them to Yo La Tengo (who are even older, 1984), but unlike the band from New Jersey, Deerhoof have never risen to levels that would give them greater visibility or commercial acceptance. This translates into almost three decades of a career with more low-profile labels and an attitude in line with the band’s independent spirit. What’s more, throughout these thirty years they have maintained a more or less regular line-up that has remained unchanged since 2008: Satomi Matsuzaki (vocals and bass), Greg Saunier (drums) and guitarists Ed Rodriguez and John Dieterich. Satomi is Japanese and Deerhoof were coined for their unique accent and fluency. And on their nineteenth album, “Miracle-Level”, released this year, they still find room to innovate and take risks: it’s the band’s first album sung entirely in Japanese.
In this short list, the essentials are missing. And we’re not talking about the influence they’ve had on rock / indie-rock since then, or the high praise that higher-profile artists have left behind over the years. The quartet’s greatest characteristic is their sound, absolutely primal rock in search of melody that constantly plays with some idea of rudeness without ever stamping it out. It’s melodic, pop, with an identity that can only be attributed to Deerhoof. In other words, no one can imitate the band from San Francisco. There may be those who try, but their natural, precocious, childlike sound is in their blood. It’s not a fact, or a factor to be underestimated. Keeping things going at this level, gliding along on an idea, on a way of doing things, is a feat. Doing it for so long has only made them better, more refined, constantly looking for new ideas and ways to do the same thing (once again, you’ll find them with Yo La Tengo). Some albums from the early 2000s will live on in eternity because they came out at a very opportune moment for a generation to reconnect with rock music (“Halfbird”, “Reveille”, “Apple O'” and “Milk Man”), but the Deerhoof of today are more capable than those of two decades ago. No, they’re not getting younger as they get older, but they know how to make and communicate with greater simplicity and kindness the primordial, elemental-beautiful rock with which they’ve enchanted the world for decades. Strugglers, survivors, unique, having Deerhoof in 2023 is reason to believe that this whole thing is still alive. AS