Deer Tick coalesced in John McCauley III’s Providence, R.I., bedroom five years ago. After discovering Hank Williams, the 18-year-old dissolved his duo project, My Other Face, and went camping to contemplate his future. As McCauley resolved to start an actual band, he found a deer tick embedded in his scalp; he christened his newly envisioned band after his new tenant.
McCauley wrote and recorded songs at home for a year, making CDRs that he sold at basement/bar gigs. Within a year, McCauley recorded his Deer Tick debut, War Elephant — essentially a solo album — and immediately began conceiving a permanent Deer Tick lineup.
“I picked everybody carefully that I wanted and just kind of kept begging them to join,” McCauley says with a laugh. “Luckily for all of us it worked out.”
Deer Tick began with drummer Dennis Ryan, a former bandmate whose musical compatibility with McCauley had been undeniable.
“I got Dennis first because he’s a badass drummer,” McCauley says. “I figured if I could get a good drummer everything else would fall into place.”
Next, McCauley installed bassist Chris Ryan, Dennis’ half brother, solidifying the trio that toured for a year on War Elephant songs and new material. In August 2008, guitarist Andrew Tobiasson joined; a month later Deer Tick began recording Born on Flag Day, their first studio band project.
Adding guitarist Ian O’Neil focused Deer Tick’s Garage Folk spirit and Indie Country verve, highlighting varied elements like Crazy Horse, Dwight Yoakam, Chuck Berry and Bob Dylan, all unified by McCauley’s raspy vocals and razor sharp lyrics. On stage, the differences are even less noticeable, with the War Elephant songs typifying the live moments when Deer Tick goes off the rails.
“That’s when it turns into a party,” McCauley says. “We’re so far from a Folk/Rock band. It’s just straight up Rock & Roll. When we play those songs with that energy behind it, people just tend to go nuts.”
Deer Tick’s new incarnation fueled McCauley’s inspiration, resulting in last year’s More Fuel for the Fire EP. A new full-length, The Black Dirt Sessions, is slated for May. In addition, McCauley is enjoying working on new material with Dennis Ryan, and Tobiasson and O’Neil have also become good foils as well.
“Collaboration has been really healthy for me lately,” McCauley says. “I’m realizing that singing songs about getting drunk and cheating isn’t going to sustain itself. I’m going to have to broaden my horizons.”
Deer Tick headlines the free Fountain Square St. Patrick’s Day party, which kicks off at 1 p.m. (following the parade) and runs until 10 p.m. Also scheduled to perform is a plethora of excellent local bands: Buffalo Killers, The Tigerlilies, The Tillers, Magnolia Mountain, The Super Desserts and Mount Pleasant String Band.
(Get full details on the day's activities here.)