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Deer Tick’s new tricks 

Rhode Island/Halifax combo bring some much-anticipated twang to town on Friday.

click to enlarge Bright futures: Deer Tick makes your Friday.
  • Bright futures: Deer Tick makes your Friday.

It takes time to become who you really are---unsolicited counsel given to me by a chatty, pregnant stranger proud of waiting until her 30s to get married and start a family. It took awhile, she said, before she understood what worked best for her. This same notion can be applied to the five scruffy, booze-swilling musicians that comprise Deer Tick.

Not to say the group has ever strayed from its roots. Since its inception in 2004, the band's always produced songs heavily steeped in Americana. Frontman John McCauley's cigarette-stained voice still rasps over adeptly fingerpicked and strummed guitars, evocative keyboard-playing and skilfully stylized drumming. The sound has earned the band critical acclaim and invitations to Coachella, SXSW, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza.

Eight days before their Halifax show, the guys are in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, just outside of Providence, where four-fifths of the band hails from. They're recording their fourth studio album.

This time around, the band has opted for some unique musical layers. There's mention of Hawaiian lap steel and gang vocals. The album is projected to be reflective of Deer Tick's influences and they're not just drawing inspiration from their icons anymore---they're working with them. Blues guitarist Garrett Mason spent a few days recording and they've even collaborated with Paul Westerberg of The Replacements.

The changes keep coming. The band's recording process has been revised. For previous records, with the exception of the debut War Elephant, McCauley and drummer Dennis Ryan would record guitar and drum parts live, overdub the remaining instruments and then the vocals.

"This time around, we're cutting the majority of the tracks live as a band, in the same room," says keyboardist and saxophone player Rob Crowell. "And we're recording to 16-track two-inch tape. Nothing's going off the tape."

When asked why Deer Tick altered its recording process so extensively, Crowell chuckles. "It sounds so much better," he says. "Plus we really wanted to capture what the band is all about these days, especially how it feels as a live band. It's definitely a much louder album."

Crowell joined the band in the spring of 2010. When not touring, he's home in Halifax, playing The Seahorse Tavern every Thursday with The Mellotones. The chance to join Deer Tick came in a roundabout way from connections made while he was playing with Matt Mays and El Torpedo in New York.

Deer Tick shows have a reputation of being rowdy, spontaneous and never duplicated. Beers flow--- Budweiser is the brew of choice---and sweat pours.

Upon completion of recording, the band will drive Crowell and his gear back to Canada, staying long enough to play a gig at Gus' Pub. "It'll be interesting. The shows vary depending on everybody's mood and state of inebriation," says Crowell. "We're constantly screwing with the tunes live."

Considering the hype surrounding the band, the choice of venue surprised many fans. "The thing with Gus' is that we kind of booked it last-minute, so it was an availability issue as much as anything."

Nevertheless, Crowell gives credit to the cherished local drinking hole. "There's something to be said about the charms of Gus'," he says, with a laugh. "Plus, I live across the street."

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