Deer Tick finds greater dose of rock ‘n’ roll The latest Deer Tick album, Black Dirt Sessions, is a rising tide of sonic despair that ends with singer John McCauley howling for redemption on garment-rending lament “Christ Jesus.” When the echo of the last pounded piano chord floats away, it’s hard not to feel like McCauley may be the saddest bastard you’ve ever come across, but fear not, says guitarist Ian O’Neil. “John’s a perfectly functional human being. A happy guy,” O’Neil says of his cohort in the Providence, R.I. indie-Americana rock band. While most of Black Dirt Sessions comes off as tormented elegies of lost connections, love and otherwise, they are a way of coping and moving on, not wallowing in it. O’Neil says that’s the point of the song for songwriters. “When you write a song, the baggage goes away,” O’Neil says. O’Neil says the current incarnation of Deer Tick is busy embracing other sides of the band’s personality. O’Neil has brought some of his own songs to the band, after joining the group as the band was wrapping the final bits of recording on Black Dirt Sessions. On stage, the band has reworked some of McCauley’s personal narratives, matching them with some newer, more rocking material and a reservoir of off-the-cuff covers the band can draw upon. “The live show is much more band oriented,” O’Neil says. “We play a really long set because we need to represent all that the band has to offer.” Shows have also taken on a party vibe, with plenty of drinking and other shenanigans, O’Neil says. “The whole point of the show is to not take it too seriously,” he says. Deer Tick wants the audience to have a good time, because they are having a good time on stage anyway. And when the show wraps, carnage is left behind, as at a recent gig in Tempe, Ariz. “The stage was completely wrecked by the end of the night,” O’Neil says. This tour, 10 weeks total, is also letting the Deer Tick members experience more and more of what life on the road is like. “This is the longest tour any of us have been on,” O’Neil says. O’Neil says he feels pulled back onto the road when he arrives home, but when he’s in the middle of a tour, the pull toward home is strong. “It kind of ebbs and flows,” he says. “It depends on what happens on the tour and how the shows go.” Those tours have helped Deer Tick grow together as a band, even during the songwriting stage with one member writing a song, taking it to the band and then watching it bloom. “It’s more of a democratic, communal kind of thing,” O’Neil says. O’Neil joined Deer Tick following a short break after leaving New Jersey indie band Titus Andronicus. O’Neil says he knew all the guys in Deer Tick when McCauley asked him to join the band. O’Neil says he was recruited to be another guitarist and songwriter. “I moved to Providence and John and I got a place together,” he says. For a while the entire band in the same place, making it into a sort of clubhouse. When the band left on tour in June, they failed to renew the lease. “It was pretty debaucherous and insane at that place,” O’Neil says. In O’Neil’s short time with the band, he’s contributed to some overdubs and extra pieces to Black Dirt Sessions. But he stands to make more of an impact on the next Deer Tick record, which is mostly written. O’Neil says the new songs, which the band hopes to record this spring, are more rocking, and that vibe has become very present in the live sets. “It’s kind of what we’ve been doing the last year,” he says. Deer Tick plays w/ Mark Sultan and the Amalgamators Thursday, Oct. 28, at the Bourbon Theatre, 1415 O St. in Lincoln, at 9 p.m. 18+ show is $10 in advance and $12 day-of-show. Visit

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