We sat down with Nic Grohl and Drew McBride from Deeper to discuss the band’s debut album, their evolving sound, the comradery of the band on tour, and much more. We also are happy to be the first to announce their kick off tour date on January 11th right here in Chicago. Make sure to follow them on social and see them on tour.
Hello, we are Deeper! The band consists of Drew McBride on bass, Nic Gohl on guitar and lead vocals, Michael Clawson on guitar, and Shiraz Bhatti on drums.
The band began around 2014. Nic, Mike, and Shiraz were the original three, but then you guys brought on Drew to fill that missing piece. Once Drew joined the band, how long did it take for you guys to develop your rhythm and sound as a collective?
Nic: Us three already had some of the sounds we wanted to make and Drew helped round it out. Drew was brought in because he was a friend that we knew could help us out, not just some random person off of Craigslist.
Drew: Okay, to be honest, I have met a ton of my closest friends off of Craigslist because of other bands and musicians.
Nic: That’s true. Mike and I had been playing together since we were 15/16 and after graduating high school we tried to form a band. It has been a long time coming. When Shiraz came into the picture, he wasn’t playing a full drum kit and he wasn’t really defining himself as a drummer, but our band needed one and it worked out great.
You guys released “Transmogrified” as a single in 2016, however, the album then didn’t come out until 2018. After the release of “Transmogrified”, did you guys think that the rest of the recording for the album would last a year and a half?
Nic: I had no idea it was going to take that long, I don’t think any of us did.
Drew: When we recorded the record it took 5 different recording sessions over a year and a half.
Nic: “Transmogrified” was put out as a single for people to hear us as a collective. Putting that record out helped us start booking shows.
Drew: You can play shows locally, in Chicago, without any released music, but booking shows outside of the city is almost impossible without it. The release of “Transmogrified” helped us start booking outside shows and gigs.
Would you say that process was frustrating or did you just take it as it came to you over that year and a half?
Drew: At the moment it didn’t feel like it was going to take that long. It wasn’t until the last recording session when it was agreed upon, “okay this is the record.”
Nic: It was a repeating pattern of us feeling like the end of recording our album was close and then realizing the end wasn’t close at all. Even when we were done, it didn’t feel like it was actually finished. When I was holding the record, that’s when it officially felt real.
The first song you four wrote together for the album was “Pavement.” However, it is more melodic than hard indie-rock. How did that song help define and guide the creation of the rest of the songs for the album?
Nic: Everything was written in our practice space. We tend to focus on one idea until it makes sense or it doesn’t and then move on. The music always comes first, followed by the lyrics. I usually just spitball lyrics out while playing and see what sticks. It is a pretty primal way of writing. However, “Pavement” was the most frustrating because playing slow songs for some reason doesn’t jive with me. There were months of liking it and months of hating it. When “Pavement” was finally recorded it began to be enjoyable again, but overall that song just gets to me.
Drew: He can’t sit still during slow songs, he needs to be moving. Even when it was recorded, the majority of the song is the same, but the end is completely different. It was originally supposed to be a jam, but last minute the end was changed to improvised ambient sounds instead.
Nic: Mike and I played ambient guitars for 10 minutes, feeding off of each other. Then the parts we liked were cut and layered on the track. You know…the easy way out. Just make a bunch of pretty noises and then cut them up.
You have also mentioned that the reason this project worked so well was because you all came in with a unified vision. What would you say were the specific elements of the band’s unified vision?
Drew: A lot of music before Deeper began was in the dream pop realm, so when the band formed and got together we wanted to do something with a little more urgency to it and a little more straightforward. I think there are fewer sonic elements that contribute to a unified vision and more of an approach to writing and experimenting. I think the record shows we aren’t pigeonholed into a specific sound – we’re very democratic in the writing approach and always interested to wedge something different into a song.
Nic: Yea, the goal was to create music that we would want to listen to.
Do you guys listen to your album?
Nic: Oh hell no. I didn’t even listen to the official recordings until they were pressed on the vinyl.
Drew: We were so over those songs, no one from the band wanted to listen to them. A song is nitpicked for so long that when it is finally recorded you are exhausted by it. You don’t want to keep listening to it because you will always be able to find things wrong with it when it is your own creation. I won’t say what song, but when I have listened to our record there is a slight tempo shift that nobody else will notice, but I know it’s there. Also, recording for such a long time we had to keep playing the songs over and over. I think if an album was recorded in one session the songs wouldn’t have gotten on our nerves the same way.
Nic: I feel like I hear things that aren’t even there at this point when listening to the record. I never want to record future albums the same way again. It was very unforgiving, but I do like that it’s not perfect. If you create a perfect album that you want to listen to all the time, what is the point of continuing to make music if you already reached peak satisfaction? I don’t want everyone to know us by this album. This is just a taste. However, there are a few recorded demos right now and those I will jam to in my car.
Drew: We are going into the studio in one week and we learned our lesson. The hope is to lay down 6 to 7 songs right away and go from there.
Nic: Well we haven’t really started yet so I can’t guarantee that.
Drew: Correction, I think we learned our lesson and hope that’s our plan, but who knows old habits may repeat themselves.
Listening to your debut record, you have pointed out that your sound changes throughout the album due to growth in the band and locations of recording. What do you like about having an evolving record rather than a totally cohesive album?
Drew: When it got to the end we weren’t sure if it all worked together. For example, having “Pavement” and “Feels” on the same record didn’t always make sense to us. “Pavement” is dreamy, while “Feels” has such a raw guitar sound that kind of explodes into the song. However, it is nice having all the diversity throughout the songs. The next record will have different sounds, but I think it will have a more coherent vision as an album.
Nic: I like that there are elements that change throughout and you don’t really hear a specific sound more than once. It is a struggle coming up with songs sometimes that exceed 3 minutes because we never want to play the same thing twice. It gets boring for us as the band too.
Drew: Our band isn’t a lyrically driven band. When bands are lyrically driven, there are two things: the vocals are going to be more prominent in the mix than the instrumentation and all the sounds are going to be similar because you are really focused on the vocals and the lyrics. Nic’s lyrics are important, but they aren’t solely relied on. You should see all the different broken amps that get used to create these guitar tones.
Nic: In the song “Should Be” a credit card was weaved between the chords to create almost a steel drum sound. I can’t take credit, this is all thanks to our sound guy Dave who teaches us these tricks.
Since the release of your debut album, you guys have received great praise on the album such as getting the same 6.9 rating as Drake’s Scorpion album by Pitchfork and being listed in the Top 15 Chicago Bands by Paste Magazine. How does it feel months later looking back on your debut?
Drew: It is pretty surreal because when it was released, I didn’t think anything was going to happen. The Pitchfork write up and the Paste mention are all really cool, but none of us feel like “wow we made it, we did it.” In a lot of ways, the praise is just a gateway to more criticism. I see it as getting through the first gateway where people are willing to listen to us. It is a small bit of validation towards something hopefully bigger, but it isn’t going to help me sleep better at night.
Nic: There is still so much more to be done. It will be interesting to see what people say about our next album. These write-ups are really what we show our parents that we aren’t messing around. Family and the people I grew up with are like “oh you’re doing it” and I just shrug and say “okay sure, yep.” My dad thought the band made it when our song “Should Be” played at Wrigley Field. He has the clip on his phone and plays it all the time.
Back in June, you released a music video for your song “Pavement” that got a large reaction throughout the Chicago music scene as a video that was dark and sad, but you couldn’t look away. How did the concept for the music video come about?
Nic: First off Drew hates this music video. It is an idea that Mike and I came up with because for our first tour promo Mike and I wanted to use a predator mask, but that was hard to find. Instead, we used face paint to create a heavy metal look on our friend Charlie’s face, who is the same guy in the music video, and a pentagram on his chest. Then he chugged a 40 oz on top of a dumpster. After that, the decision was made to make it into a full music video so we tried to go back to the predator mask idea but realized that would be our whole budget. The face paint was used again instead. You have to not take the music video too seriously. It’s serious but humorous.
Drew: I just thought it was too dark of a video for the song. It does look cool though.
Nic: The band is shooting another music video in a couple weeks and Drew and Shiraz are taking over for this one.
Drew: It will be colorful, it will be colorful.
You have reiterated the fact that you don’t like being put into a box or category when it comes to your music. Although you personally don’t like to define your sound, how does it feel hearing others try to peg your sound down and tell you what kind of music you play?
Nic: By saying we don’t like being put in a box, it’s more about having the flexibility to make what we want to. If someday we decide to throw out the guitars and make an electronic album, fuck it, let’s do it. You can peg this record as whatever you think it sounds like, but we don’t want this band to be thought of like that one record or sound.
Drew: I think it is easier for people to categorize things and put a box around us so that when people are looking for music in a certain category they can discover a band.
Nic: Which that category can also turn people off. I think it is important to explore different things and attract different crowds.
In September your Deeper on Audiotree Live album from Audiotree was released. What were the main differences you noticed throughout the recording and the final product of a live verse pre-recorded album?
Nic: We only had one shot to do it for Audiotree, which actually made it less stressful. It was like playing a live show and having it recorded.
Drew: It was less stressful because once a song was done, it was done. There was no going back. If you messed up that was that. When I went to listen to it, I couldn’t believe how good it sounded.
You guys are about to go on tour at the beginning of 2019, as a band that has done multiple tours now, what have you learned from touring?
Nic: You have to pace yourself.
Drew: Nic learns that on night one of every tour. Even though we have been on a number of tours the one coming up at the beginning of next year is double the length of our previous tours. There will be an adjustment to deal with long drives and The Districts are younger guys so they may be a little rowdy.
Nic: We’ll see. I can throw down. The main difference with this tour too is that we have music behind us now. Before, when touring with only had one song it was hard to get people out to the shows, but with a whole album, we have more coverage. We’ve also learned that you have to tour. You can get big in one city, but when you go out of that city people have probably never heard of you. To get exposure you just have to keep touring and putting yourself out there. You see more progress that way too. Actually, that’s how the band got to be part of The Districts tour. We met the band’s manager while out touring and she liked us and put us on the tour with them. Stuff like that wouldn’t be possible without being on the road.
Drew: Honestly, that is where you make all the money too. From selling merch to records, it adds up.
Now that we can officially announce this, you will be beginning your tour in Chicago on January 11th. How does it feel to kick off your largest tour yet in the city where your band began?
Drew: We haven’t played a headlining show since our album release this past May. I’m excited to test out some new songs at home before we hit the road. I think the show will be nice and a bit sentimental because it will be the last time we see a lot of people for basically a month. Chicago is the best because people are actually excited and turn out to shows. I think that’s something that can be taken for granted until you end up touring and see how hit-and-miss some cities can be.
Has touring together helped the band develop closer relationships?
Nic: Drew is Dad. He gets up early, goes to a coffee shop, and then picks us up.
Drew: I work while on the road so I usually get up early to hit a coffee shop and aim to be done by the time we hit the road. Touring is a marathon of me trying to make my employer and the band happy. The first week or so is always an adjustment. Touring definitely develops closer relationships though – all the highs and lows experienced together really bind the group.
Nic: No fistfights have happened yet. I torched Mike’s eyebrow once because I thought it was funny. He didn’t, but Mike and I made up that night. Who knows, you will have to hit us up for another interview after the tour and let you know what happens this round.
How does it feel when you guys get done with the tour and aren’t seeing each other every day?
Nic: I miss everyone, to be honest. I never lived in a dorm at college so I feel like this is the closest thing to that. Traveling with the band is great and then you get to a point where you are ready to be alone back in your own apartment.
Drew: As you get older, you get less and less friend time. On the road, you are forced to get in as much bonding and friend time as possible, which is nice. It is weird coming back because you are sad it’s over, but also happy to be back home. At the end of a tour, we definitely need to refresh.
In your Noisey interview, it mentions that the band thrives on nervous intensity and it stems from anxiety. As a band, how have you been able to be open and honest about mental health issues like anxiety through your songs, such as in your track “Feels”?
Nic: For me, that is how I get through that kind of shit. Not only through the lyrics, but also the music itself. The way the songs are put together is purposeful. The songs go into this anxious place and then get out of it as soon as possible.
Drew: I think that’s what is cool about “Feels” it is an intense song. Even though it is short, you feel that frazzled sensation of anxiety and right when it builds up it is over. I also get super anxious when I know people that are in the audience. There was a show in DC and a few of my friends and co-workers were there and I was so nervous. But overall, the band is my outlet for my anxiety, honestly.
Nic: It helps me out. That’s why I enjoy playing music. Before a show, I don’t like talking to anyone because sometimes I do have panic attacks before the shows. Once I am on stage, it helps clean the slate. I like to keep my lyrics’ meanings more hidden and cryptic. One of the reasons they are cryptic is because Mike once gave me shit and told me that all the love songs I was writing about my girlfriend Natalie were so obvious so I started to tone it down and mask my lyrics a bit. The lyrics themselves aren’t met to be super personal and aren’t met to tell someone else’s story, just relatable and real.
Written by: Colleen Kennedy
Header Photo by: Brendan Carroll