Unless you’ve been living under a rock throughout the last year, you’ve likely noticed—or have joined—the growing number of private citizens getting involved in the political process and making sure their representatives hear their voices through protest, community engagement, and other forms of activism.
For many of us, the images and stories of everyday people speaking truth to power have been inspiring and energizing in a time often marked by uncertainty. For the members of Deerhoof—bassist/vocalist (and She Shreds #8 cover artist) Satomi Matsuzaki, drummer/vocalist, Greg Saunier, and guitarists Ed Rodriguez and John Dieterich— they’ve also been motivation to write new music.
With “Come Down Here and Say That,” the latest song to be revealed from their upcoming album Mountain Moves, the San Francisco-rooted experimental rock band’s channels the restless, action-oriented spirit of our times—specifically the face-to-face interactions between politicians and their constituents—and juxtaposes it with a modern take on a classic moment of defiance from the annals of rock history; Bob Dylan’s 1965-1966 world tour, where the famed acoustic folk artist caused controversy by performing with a full electric rock band. In fact, the title comes from a retort Dylan made to the audience at his concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall while they booed him for “going pop.”
“Dylan was centering the young and leaving the folk purists in the dust,” Saunier says. “Now the baby boomers he sang to have gone from being radical role models to being the generation that put Trump in office. The numbers say that the young and the poor are trying to save the world for everyone, and the boomers and the powerful are saying ‘you are dreaming.’ Of course they say it from a safe, elitist, corporate-sponsored, media-produced distance, so we wanted to say, ‘come down here and say that to our faces.’”
Along with its sociopolitical (and generational) implications, Dylan’s historic embrace of electric guitar is meaningful to Deerhoof on a musical level. With Mountain Moves, they detour from their avant-garde leanings into more traditional pop (though keep in mind “traditional” is a relative term!). The album features collaborations with guest musicians including Jenn Wasner, Awkwafina, Juana Molina, Matana Roberts, and Xenia Rubinos, among others. Along with twelve original tracks, it features three covers of iconic protest songs—the Staples Singers’ “Freedom Highway,” Bob Marley’s “Small Axe,” and “Gracias a la Vida” by Chilean folk artist Violeta Parra.
“I always thought our music was pop from the start,” Matsuzaki says of their musical shifts. “I grew up listening to pop, and I sing catchy memorable melodies in Deerhoof. When I see audiences singing along with me at shows, I feel overwhelming joy. Music touches and moves people. It’s an unstoppable trigger for people. We have voices and they’re strong.”
Speaking of strong voices, “Come Down Here and Say That” features French singer/multi-instrumentalist (and core member of the iconic experimental band, Stereolab) Lætitia Sadier in an arrangement so smooth that it wouldn’t be surprising if the artists announced they’ve been secretly working together for years. “Usually Deerhoof records are a pretty hermetic affair. We almost always record DIY and always mix DIY. [For this album] we wanted to reach out to some our favorite women musicians. Some were buds and some were people we just admired from afar. Laeticia was the latter. But we sent her the song with a scratch vocal and she recorded herself at home and it was like magic. It was magic!” Saunier says.
For her part, Matsuzaki admits she had an inadvertent head start on the collaboration. “Stereolab’s Mars Audiac Quintet was my most heavily looped music of 1994. I sang along with Laetitia and Mary [Hansen, Stereolab guitarist/vocalist) coming through from stereo over and over. At that time, I was their fan and I never thought that I would even become a musician. What a pleasure to be able to record with Laetitia. This is crazy!”
At first listen “Come Down Here’s…” confrontational lyrics and unwavering message may seem to contrast with the chill, space-pop meets disco vibe of the music with the notable exception being a break in the music where Sadier and Matsuzaki chant the title in refrain. Matsuzaki says that’s by design. “When I was walking down the street one day in San Francisco, a homeless guy yelled at me “Smile!.” I saw him with confused expression and he was smiling. Then I smiled back. I would like our music to be like that. You listen to it and snap! You smile.”
Stream She Shreds’ exclusive premiere of “Come Down Here and Say That” now!
Deerhoof’s Mountain Moves comes out September 8, on Joyful Noise. Pre-orders are available here.