Thanks to art rock band Deerpeople, Dr. Gay Washington has her own song.
“It was on our first EP and it’s named after a teacher in Stillwater,” guitarist Alex Larrea said. “The only significance there is that our lead vocalist Brennan Barnes liked the name. It’s kind of the beginning of the original Deerpeople story about leaving their planet and coming to earth.” “Dr. Gay Washington’s” lyrics are performed in delicate lilting French language. It’s a beautiful number even with elusive meaning. The composition concludes with a crashing orgasmic cacophony of instrumentation. “Dr. Washington became aware of the song and contacted us and was very enthusiastic,” Larrea said. “She said she was so excited to be part of our journey and it was very sweet.”
The Stillwater-based sextet will probably reprise the pedagogue tribute song during their upcoming Deli concert June 2. Band personnel not mentioned previously include bassist Derek Moore, Jordan Bayhylle on percussion, Julian Shen playing accordion, violin and synthesizer and vocalist/flautist Kendall Looney. Larrea, Barnes and Looney are transplants to Stillwater from Dallas and have known each other half their 20-something lives. “We were all in marching band together and had a southern rock band in high school,” Larrea said. “Kendall moved to OSU for school and that’s where we met the rest of the band. So it’s the three Stillwater guys and the three of us from Texas.” The band had different permutations for a time but came together to play their first show at a New Year’s Eve celebration in 2009. “We did a lot of house party shows for awhile,” Larrea said. “There hasn’t been a great music venue in Stillwater for avant garde weirdness with fake blood and costumes on the cowboy strip.” Gradually Deerpeople’s virtuosity and obvious serious musical intent impressed university and red dirt scene folks. Outfits such as All American Rejects, Colourmusic and Other Lives had already demonstrated the Stillwater scene could produce more than its respected country and red dirt sound. Expect the unexpected at a Deerpeople concert. Their Norman Music Festival IV performance resembled a medieval masked ball on stage. They’ve played Opolis several times and are looking forward to a show in the Deli’s intimate confines. “Sherree Chamberlain will be opening for us and we’re anxious to play for people there,” he said. “It’s the kind of up close and personal atmosphere we started in and we’re going to make it a party.” Larrea promised a big, loud performance aimed at audience involvement. Barnes is known for leaving the stage with mic for in-crowd serenades. “We want to engage listeners and make it an experience,” Larrea said. “It should be more than just watching something in an aquarium. I’m proud of the way we get people dancing.” Deerpeople have learned the difference between entertainment gimmickry and how to genuinely elicit emotional response from their audience. There’s less theatrical “blood” now but still the occasional confetti bomb. “We know now how to play our cards right on employing certain elements,” he said. “It’s delicate; you don’t want to be known as the band that always throws confetti.” It’s more now about the music carrying the stage show rather than spectacle.
The band’s songbook began initially with a conceptual story line. “It’s about Deerpeople coming to earth and all their experiences,” Larrea said. “Metaphorically it’s about people living through things that are alien to them.” The lyrics come from various perspectives and emotional states. Reading between the lines will tell you that it’s more about the music than poetry. And it helps if you speak French because Looney’s recent semester in France had its influence. “Our songs are more heat of the moment expressions rather than long drawn out stories,” Larrea said. “The focus has been on emotion and engagement without the frills.”
As might be expected among six dedicated musicians there’s a wide variety of musical appreciation in their individual backgrounds. This is naturally reflected in a rock band that brings flute, accordion and violin on stage. Influences range from Tony Bennett and Tito Puente to show tunes and what Larrea referred to as “…Really dirty Doom Metal.” It has informed Deerpeople’s original music in some magical ways. “We’re passionate about what we do,” he said. “Deerpeople is a serious thing for all of us and we picture ourselves doing this for a long time.”
If You Go
What: Sherree Chamberlain opening for Deerpeople in concert.
Where: The Deli, 304 White St.
When: Mon. June 2, 10:00 p.m.