Indie rockers Deerhoof may have left their heart in San Francisco, but the critically-lauded, genre-defying, endlessly prolific band, knows just what city to head to when it's time to rock out or hang out with old friends. "There is no city on earth where it takes us longer to pack up our stuff than in New York," laughs drummer Greg Saunier. "There's so many people we haven't seen in a while, we just stand there catching up till three in the morning."
While the California trio has recently headlined a worldwide tour in support of their latest album, Friend Opportunity—as well contributing four songs to the Justin Theroux big screen release, Dedication—their east coast refuge is always a welcome home away from home. "We live in San Francisco but we come here so often on tour, I think we play probably five times as much in New York," admits Saunier.
The revolutionary band, formed in 1994, has been through several stages before settling on its current configuration of the multi-talented, child-like voiced frontwoman and bassist Satomi Matsuzaki, drummer Greg Saunier and guitarist John Dieterich—and that avant-garde, experimental sound has had just as many evolutions over the years. Making crowds rethink rock and pop in tiny NYC clubs such as The Cooler—"You know, the one in Meatpacking District," says Matsuzaki, "it used to be only meat houses there. Very meaty."—to the Knitting Factory and Northsix, these days the group is selling out packed headlining shows at Bowery Ballroom and the Filmore at Irving Plaza. "Even though the audience size over a period of 13 years has gradually increased, I don't feel like the reaction has really changed," says Saunier, returning the love. "Audiences in New York, probably more than anywhere, always feel so comfortable. People here get it. They get our sense of humor. It's just always clicked, we love coming back—and we come back way too much."
While Matsuzaki, a Tokyo native who moved to the U.S. in 1996, enjoys hanging in Brooklyn—"I like the Williamsburg area. Our friends live there, so I run into somebody every day. And we never run into anybody in San Francisco," she says—it doesn't really matter what borough they're in when it comes to connecting with friends new and old. "The cliche is how anonymous New York City is because there's just so many people—but we see our people we know almost every time we just walk down the street here. I always had this stereotyped image of the gruff exterior and coldness of New Yorkers. But as soon as you met somebody they are just the warmest people out there," explains Saunier.
So much so, that that idea played into the title of their last album. "We were speaking to Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, and Satomi heard a rumor someone in Sonic Youth might be moving to San Francisco, and that this person had a Japanese wife," says Saunier. "So Satomi said, 'Maybe that could be a friend opportunity,' and I was like, 'Oh! That's a good title!'" Whatever the connection, we have a strong feeling Deerhoof will always have a friend in NYC.
Listen to Friend Opportunity tracks here.
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