Sydney singer/songwriter Edward Deer had recently released a beautiful melancholy single called ‘Washed Ashore’ which has received plenty of radio play. We sat down with Ed to find out more how he approaches his music, and whether Deer really is his last name. Here is what he had to say…
First up, who is Edward Deer? Is that your real name (which is really cool if it is) or just a stage name. If its a stage name, how did you come up with it?
Edward is my real first name, but Deer is not my real last name. It started as kind of a joke. The sister of a friend of mine couldn’t remember my name, so she said to my friend “oh, you know who I mean – that guy who looks like a deer”. I found that pretty funny/bizarre and it stuck. I question it sometimes, mostly cos there’s so many bands with ‘deer’ in the name (eg. Deer Tick, Deer Hunter, Deerhoof etc.). And does it sound a bit wussy? Oh well.
Were you involved in other musical projects before setting out on your own? Any atrocious band names?
Yeah, I’ve been obsessed with music since I was about 12 or 13. I played in a band called Tokenview for several years. These days, in addition to doing my Edward Deer stuff, I also drum in a band called Cogel. Plus I’m helping my brother out with some electronic music he’s started making under the name People Physics.
I’ll leave it to you decide if any of those band names are atrocious – maybe they all are!
What is it that makes you want to make music?
I find that the allure of music is so mysterious in many ways, but I’ll do my best to answer this. I’ve always been interested in the craft of writing and songwriting in particular really intrigues me, because you have to try and distill whole ideas, narratives and feelings into 3 minutes or whatever. And you’re playing with so many ingredients – melody, rhythm, words, arrangement, EQ – so the process is full of variety.
Music is such a personal artform and it’s so subjective. Sometimes I think I’ve written a great song but the people around me hate it, or vice versa. I find that fascinating. Nowadays it’s completely habitual for me – so you could say my desire to make music is no different than a smoker’s desire to have a cigarette. If I go too long without writing a song or doing a gig, I get withdrawals! Is that a cheesy analogy?
What music do you listen to? What is the first album you bought? What is the one album that never gets old?
I listen to everything – all genres. Recently released records I’m into include the latest by Hot Chip, Dirty Three, Tallest Man on Earth, Sigur Ros, Jonathan Boulet, Gaz Coombes, First Aid Kit and Dirty Projectors. The first album I bought was Bon Jovi’s ‘Keep the Faith’ I think (!) As for something that never gets old, I dunno – it probably sounds like a cop out answer, but The Beatles catalogue never gets old for me. Maybe ‘Abbey Road’?
Do you have a particular method you use when writing new songs? What comes first, how do you approach it?
I don’t have a rigid method that I follow for every song. Obviously a song will start with me fiddling on an instrument, usually guitar, keys or a beat on Logic. Then I try and turn my brain off as much as possible, cos that’s when decent stuff comes. There’s moments when I’m writing that I try and vague out and just play riffs over and over – kind of like chanting I guess. Usually the melody comes before the lyrics, but I think 95% of songwriters would say that.
Starting on the computer can be interesting, because then you’ve got a visual representation of the song’s arrangement at the same time as you’re trying to write it, which can be distracting.
There are a lot of singer/songwriters around, what is it that makes you different?
I think every singer/songwriter has their own identity and deserves the right to express themselves, but it’s human nature to look for reference points in everything. Which is fine. I can’t say if there are aspects to my sound that make me different, that’s for others to decide. I just hope people feel something when they listen to my stuff, even if they hate it. Any response is a good response.
What has been the best place you have played so far? And if you could play anywhere, where would it be?
I’ve never had a bad show at the Vanguard in Newtown. The sound engineers are great, the atmosphere is cool and the audiences are super respectful. Love it there. Which is a good thing, because I’m launching my album there soon!
And if I could play anywhere, it probably wouldn’t be somewhere on this planet. It’d be Saturn or something.
You have your album ‘About Monsters’ coming out in September. What can we expect?
13 songs and roughly 48 minutes of audio – 11 originals, 2 cover tunes. Programmed beats, loops, drums, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, keyboards, bass, my voice & my friend Nic’s voice!
What are Edward Deer’s big plans for the future?
I’m gonna save up all my pennies and bail Fairfax out of their financial predicament!!