It's a pretty safe bet that Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox won't be lining up at Best Buy to snag a copy of Chinese Democracy when Guns N' Roses finally releases its 17-years-in-the-making album in a couple weeks. "I don't understand what bands do in the studio for all those months," says the 26-year-old singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist for the Atlanta-based quartet. "Unless you're smoking a lot of weed and recording one guitar part for five hours."
And don't think the indie-rocker has it out for only Botoxed dinosaurs who spend way too many years and way too much cash making their records. He's also not keen on Radiohead's let's-go-into-the-studio-and-see-what-happens approach. "They're probably writing their albums in the studio," he says. "When I go in the studio, I know what I'm doing and I do it. And it takes five fucking minutes."
Microcastle, Deerhunter's third album, was made in a week. What you hear is pretty much what the band heard when it recorded it in New York this summer. There are few overdubs, and most of the dozen tracks on the CD were done in one take. Still, Microcastle seems like Deerhunter's Chinese Democracy when compared to last year's Cryptograms, which was recorded in a mere two days. "Twenty years from now, there's not going to be a bonus reissue with take 25 of 'Agoraphobia,'" says Cox. "Because there is no take 25. We did it once. That's it."
Like Cryptograms, Microcastle isn't really about anything ("Lyrics aren't that important to me," says Cox. "I don't even know what I'm talking about half the time"); it's the sounds - a combination of noise, garage-rock and post-punk, spiked with a dose of ambient noodling - that drive it. Cox can be engaging one moment ("Never Stops" drifts along a sort of lo-fi, buzzing current) and off-puttingly repetitive the next ("Saved by Old Times" wields its simple one-two-three riff like a crutch).
Still, trying to make sense of it all, and of Cox's often-impenetrable intent, is part of the Deerhunter challenge and experience. "I was interested in experimenting with a less-focused narrative," he says. "Cryptograms was hypnotic and meditative. I'm sure it's a good record to withdraw from heroin to. Microcastle is just a lot of ideas at once."
Deerhunter's 2005 debut, Turn It Up Faggot, included contributions by three guys no longer in the band (drummer Moses Archuleta is the only other original member still around from its 2001 inception). The 6-foot-4 Cox can be polarizing; in addition to his dismissive words about alt-rock gods Radiohead, he's also currently feuding with Vampire Weekend and relentlessly (and often recklessly) blogs about whatever's on his mind. He occasionally wears a dress onstage, may or may not be gay, and suffers from Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder typified by unusually long arms and legs.
In a way, Deerhunter's music reflects its loose-limbed, motor-mouthed and kinda gawky leader - who can't seem to stay in one place for too long. "We have short attention spans," says Cox. But don't let all the "we" talk fool you. As much as Deerhunter pulls it together onstage, this is Cox's band. He's the one writing the songs, calling the shots and playing most of the instruments on the records. "I tend to take control of things," he admits. "It's kinda like a Woody Allen thing. I retain the same level of weird narcissism and neurotic sense of control."