Deerhunter have established themselves as one of the best and most prolific bands in contemporary indie rock over the past half decade. They've been building in popularity with each release going back to their breakthrough LP Cryptograms in 2007 and are poised to reach even more people with their new album Monomania, which will be out on May 7. They premiered the title track from that album this week with a memorable appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in which band leader Bradford Cox wore a black wig, red lipstick, and bloodied bandages on two of his fingers. Cox, along with his bandmates, chatted with BuzzFeed about why he wore those bandages, his goal of making Deerhunter one of the great American rock bands, and, well, mostly about how much he passionately loathes Morrissey and The Smiths.
When you meet people who don't know your music, what do you say your band is like?
Bradford Cox: I say rock 'n' roll.
Lockett Pundt: Yeah, that's what I say.
BC: Because I don't want to assume too much or too little about anybody's scope of interests. You never know who is into what, you know what I'm saying? You'll meet a mousy dentist and you talk about music and suddenly they're like, "I saw Richard Hell in 1981 at Club 688, which is some dive club in Atlanta at the time. Lockett's dad, for example, he collects guns and I think he's a registered Republican. He's a real man's man, but if you start talking to him, it's all Roxy Music, XTC, Bowie. You can't assume anything about anybody, and especially in the South.
I was wondering because one of my main impressions of your new album was that I kinda wish it was the first one that I'd heard, because it sounds like a good starting point.
BC: Really? In what sense?
In the sense that a lot of my favorite records when I was a teenager were the third, the fifth, the eighth album by someone. It seems like if you were coming into Deerhunter on this record, it'd be…
BC: Cool to go back and investigate?
Yeah, and I think any of the records would've been like that, but this one feels like coming in to R.E.M. around Document.
BC: I can take that as a compliment.
You definitely should, I'm a big R.E.M. fan.
BC: They're one of the greatest American rock 'n' roll bands of all time.
I don't think people appreciate them as much now.
BC: That's because people have short memories. But you know, R.E.M. is a band I think of when I think about Deerhunter. The one thing I aspire to is to be a great American rock 'n' roll band. And when I think of that, I think of Pylon, R.E.M., even bands I don't even particularly like. There's just a lineage, and a history, and a respect for elders. Sonic Youth and things like that, these are bands that paved the way, and none of us would have a job if it weren't for the work they did.
What is the Americanness of it to you, as opposed to being, like, a British band?
BC: There's lots of different ways to answer that question. The Sex Pistols or The Smiths are two bands I don't really care for at all. In fact, one of those two bands I absolutely hate passionately mainly because of their incredibly arrogant singer.
That could go either way!
BC: That did not have an amazing band called Public Image Ltd to save themselves with. God, if I talk about The Smiths and I talk about R.E.M., which do you levitate towards?
R.E.M., no question.
BC: There's a distinctive Americanness about R.E.M., it's a respect for elders. The first thing I ever tell someone when they ask me about my distaste for The Smiths and Morrissey, it's always, well, have you ever read Morrissey's description of The Ramones? If I ever meet that guy…whatever! He makes me want to wear fur. There are Smiths tunes that I find more acceptable than others, but I'd rather just not hear any of them. Frankly, all it took was that one criticism of The Ramones to permanently…you know, if you want to be on that side of the fence, cool.
BC: I will always be on Team Joey, and Team Dee Dee. I come from America, where Bo Diddley was born!
They've got The Beatles.
BC: Yes, they do! And they can keep them. We have Bob Dylan. We have The Everly Brothers.
BC: Jaaaaames Brown! The Beatles, James Brown…I mean, seriously! Anybody who says they dislike The Beatles is a pretentious jerk. Like me. But I actually like them, I like The Beatles. I like all music, really, except The Smiths. Anyway! This is not an article about Morrissey, as much as he'd like it to be, as much as I'm allowing him to permeate the air with his foul and fey musk. His weird, lethargic perfumes.
OK, so you guys were on the Jimmy Fallon show last night wearing some pretty cool costumes. I was genuinely concerned about your hand, because it looked like you had lost a few fingers.
BC: My father had a terrible accident last week, and he sawed off two fingers while woodworking. He was building a bookshelf for my nephew. He's not an amateur, so it was very shocking. And I thought, if my father has to have these wounds and scars and bandages, then so will I, in solidarity. We all love my dad, my dad's a real great American. He's a sweet man and I don't know what I'd do without him. So it was a tribute to my father, who would also hate The Smiths if he ever heard them.
Moses Archuleta: Yeah, it's true.
Are you moving back toward a more theatrical stage show? You had kinda moved away from that on the past couple tours.
BC: Well, theatrical is such a negative word. To me, that sounds so…
Josh Mckay: We were on TV.
BC: If you're on TV and you don't make interesting TV out of it, then you're wasting everyone's time. It doesn't mean you have to make a fool of yourself, like I sometimes choose to do and make a crazy gesture or this or that, but you should at least show a little bit of gratitude for this wild spotlight you find yourself in. So many people try to look so cool, like Morrissey, for example. Or he even refuses to go on TV because he can't control the world, like that Kimmel thing. Because he doesn't agree with someone else, everybody else has to accommodate him. God, Morrissey, honestly! The idea that you're so entitled. What gave them that legacy? What are they, the same size as Bauhaus?
MA: The Smiths?
Yeah, they're definitely bigger than Bauhaus.
BC: Show me numbers!
I think they're about the same level of popularity as The Pixies.
BC: Well, the difference is, Pixies wrote wild albums that challenged the imagination, that mixed science fiction with nautical themes, and The Smiths wrote complaint slips that nobody read. Morrissey's influence is so crippling that it could even deteriorate the flower of modern creative thought. It's like a pungent death shroud over the future and the past.
MA: You know what's funny about this is, we pretty much have never talked about Morrissey ever.
BC: I don't really care about Morrissey.
JM: This is the first time it's ever come up.
BC [to Frankie Broyles, who is scrunching up a cowhide rug with his foot]: Would you stop making this wrinkled? Smooth it out. See, Morrissey would have a fit. If he came into this room and saw this rug, he wouldn't stay at this hotel.
MA: I wonder where there's a vegan hotel.
BC: Well, if they're not vegan, they don't get the astounding honor of hosting…what is it, Sir Morrissey? Order of the British Empire? And isn't he racist?
Yeah, he's had these quotes attributed to him about Asians.
BC: Well, Moses might have something to say about that. Do you have a message for Morrissey?
MA: All I can think of is like, racist things to say. "Hey, Morrissey, me love you long time." But I don't want to fight.
BC: Anyway, let's talk about whatever you want to talk about, Matthew.
I actually came in with very little planned, but you you should probably talk a bit about Monomania.
BC: It's definitely better than anything The Smiths ever did. It might not be as good as Vauxhall & I, or whatever the fuck that shit is. I like Johnny Marr's guitar playing occasionally. I like the rhythm section of The Smiths better than any other part of that band.
Those might actually be the people that Morrissey hates most in the world — he's gone out of his way to sue them.
BC: The only Smiths songs I remotely like, the rhythm section makes the song. What's the song, "I haven't got a stitch to wear…?" "This Charming Man," the bass and drums on that song are pretty good, and I think the guitar is pretty good too. Basically everything except the terrible vocals. I should say this, though: There are worse lyricists. I can't think of any. But none come to mind. Can you just imagine The Smiths fronted by Darby Crash [of The Germs]? It might sound a little bit like Deerhunter. I mean, not to say I sound like Darby Crash. His lyrics, honestly, are comparable to, like, Rimbaud.
MA: It's such a good idea. I'm texting Goldenvoice right now, next year's Coachella has got it.
BC: A Darby Crash hologram fronting the rhythm section of The Smiths.