Deerhoof is a San Francisco musical group, currently consisting of Satomi Matsuzaki (usually vocals and bass), John Dieterich (usually guitar), Ed Rodriguez (usually guitar as well) and Greg Saunier (usually drums).
Although typically classified as indie rock due to their having been on an indie rock label (Kill Rock Stars) for the entirety of their career, the unconventional nature of Deerhoof's music makes genre identification difficult.
In 1991, Greg Saunier, classically trained at Oberlin Conservatory of Music, moved to San Francisco and joined a short-lived quartet called Nitre Pit, on drums. When this quartet broke up suddenly with shows still booked, Saunier and then-bassist Rob Fisk formed a duo, dubbed Deerhoof by Fisk. They forged a convulsive, improvisatory playing style to make up for their lack of material and stark instrumentation.
One such show where Fisk and Saunier were called upon to substitute for their former band was the 1995 Yo Yo A Go Go Festival in Olympia, WA. In the audience was Slim Moon, founder of the independent Olympia record label Kill Rock Stars. Moon signed Deerhoof on for one 7" single. The duo, budgetless, recorded themselves on four-track and released "Return of the Wood M'lady", featuring distorted bass and heavy drums. Side B was especially cacophonous, presenting separate songs in the left and right channels. The xeroxed covers were drawn, and the vinyl etched, by Fisk. Deerhoof's do-it-yourself ethic turned out to be an appropriate match with Kill Rock Stars, and Deerhoof has remained on this label for the entirety of their career, ultimately becoming the longest-running artist on the label's roster.
The histrionic instrumental style and massive volume of the early duo made vocals difficult to perform, so in 1996 Fisk and Saunier began looking for a singer. In May of that year, through a mutual friend (Grux from San Francisco band Caroliner), they met Satomi Matsuzaki, who had just arrived in San Francisco from her native Tokyo in order to study film. Although she had no musical experience, all three quickly agreed that her inexpressive singing style was what had been lacking in Deerhoof's sound. Within one week of her joining, Deerhoof went on their first tour as a trio.
The Man, The King, The Girl—Halfbird
Deerhoof released their self-recorded first album The Man, the King, the Girl in 1997. Swirling noise and wild improvisation were set against facile, even cheerful, melodies sung in Matsuzaki's childlike voice, creating an unresolved tension that has remained a hallmark of their style. The production featured a broader sound palette than the first single. The artwork was painted by Fisk.
The trio began working on Halfbird, again self-recorded using a cassette four-track. Fisk switched to guitar on most of the songs. A slow process of layering guitars and other instruments took place over a four-year period.
Meanwhile Matsuzaki began teaching herself to play bass, and Deerhoof toured the U.S. several times over the next several years. In 1998, Deerhoof added Kelly Goode on keyboard (the monophonic Casio VL-Tone). By the release of 1999's Holdypaws, Deerhoof had drastically altered their sound, which now featured extremely strict performance of tightly composed songs, completely removing any element of noise, improvisation, or unusual instrumentation. The cover artwork was once again by Fisk.
Sales were low, band and label were losing money, and both Fisk and Goode quit in fall 1999. Halfbird was completed by Saunier and Matsuzaki and released in 2001. The artwork was by Fisk.
Reveille—The Runners Four
In late 1999 Saunier and Matsuzaki found a replacement in self-taught guitarist John Dieterich, and spent the next two years writing and recording. The result was Reveille, released in 2002. Dieterich's guitar playing added a new element of guitar virtuosity to the band. Matsuzaki's vocals were often very minimal, sometimes acting as another instrument. Though still self-produced, it was recorded in a combination of home and studio settings, for certain songs using the engineering aid of Jay Pellicci and Ian Pellicci. As a result, the sound quality was sometimes more powerful and more polished than on previous releases. The stylistic contrasts between and within songs were more unpredictable. The artwork was by Matsuzaki, and had religious connotations and a grandiose tone that was echoed in the lyrics and musical style.
By the end of the recording process, the band had developed a close relationship with Chris Cohen, then playing in his band The Curtains. Cohen joined Deerhoof, primarily as a second guitarist. For the next three years Deerhoof toured as a quartet, and released Apple O' (2003), Milk Man (2004), Green Cosmos (2005), and The Runners Four (2005).
Apple O' abandoned the multi-layered and often electronic sounds of Reveille in favor of simple, live-sounding production without overdubs. Most of Apple O' was recorded in one nine-hour session with Jay Pellicci engineering. Exceptions were "Sealed With A Kiss", which was created using only samples from songs about apples, and the final two tracks which were recorded at home on acoustic guitar. Apple O' focused its lyrics and artwork (again by Fisk, though he was no longer in the band) around mythic themes of love and war, featuring repeated allusions to Adam and Eve, the atom bomb, and extinction.
In 2003 the quartet decided to leave their jobs and tour fulltime. Matsuzaki had been editing a San Francisco Japanese magazine, Dieterich and Saunier had been doing data entry for legal and consulting firms, and Cohen had been a waiter at a Thai restaurant.
The starting point for Milk Man was a cartoon character created by Japanese artist Ken Kagami, a longtime friend of Matsuzaki. In contrast to the earnest guitar rock that predominated on Apple O', Milk Man featured a broad palette of orchestral colors, echoes of music theater and camp, polished and gaudy arrangements, Stravinskian harmonies, and a more stylized, anonymous playing style resulting partly from recording most of the instruments at separate times rather than playing together as a band. Milk Man's connections to both music theater and to children were embodied later in a theatrical version created by Courtney Naliboff and performed by children of the North Haven Community School in North Haven, Maine in fall 2006. The Milk Man Ballet was later released on DVD.
The EP Green Cosmos was the first Deerhoof release to be sung almost entirely in Matsuzaki's native language of Japanese. Musically Green Cosmos took the aesthetic of Milk Man a step further by combining an even more expansive orchestral sound, and references to disco that at times completely replaced live drums with programmed beats and samples. Artwork was created from original tarot cards designed by Dawn Garcia.
In the fall, Deerhoof released The Runners Four. Unlike the short albums of Deerhoof's past, The Runners Four was 20 songs long, the result of several months of recording together in their rented practice space in Oakland. Arrangements were worked out as a live band rather than in the computer. Matsuzaki and Cohen reversed instrumental roles, with Matsuzaki playing guitar and Cohen bass. All four members were featured as vocalists at various points. Certain motifs - time travel, sports, smuggling, allusions to Noah's Ark - recurred throughout the unusually wordy lyrics. Artwork was by Trevor Shimizu.
After an extensive world tour, Deerhoof was invited by the San Francisco International Film Festival to perform a live, original score to a silent film of their choosing. They chose Heaven and Earth Magic by Harry Smith, and performed their hour-long soundtrack, largely composed by Dieterich, in spring 2006. This was to be Cohen's last activity with Deerhoof. The split was apparently amicable and, to commemorate Cohen, Deerhoof posted a free EP on their website.
Now back to a trio, and using the Heaven And Earth Magic score as a starting place, Deerhoof began recording a new album in summer 2006. Matsuzaki, Saunier, and Dieterich did not divide their contributions according to their onstage roles, and each contributed percussion, guitar, bass, keyboards and production. It was mostly recorded in Dieterich's Oakland apartment, between two legs of a concert tour opening for Radiohead. Though self-produced as usual, some portions were recorded once again by Jay and Ian Pellicci. It was mixed on computer, largely while on tour. Friend Opportunity was released in January 2007. Its interchangeable cover paintings were by Scottish artist David Shrigley. During the same time period, they began working with director Justin Theroux on the soundtrack to Dedication, released in fall 2007. Dedication Film Soundtrack featured four tracks by Deerhoof.
In January 2008, guitarist Ed Rodriguez (formerly of Colossamite, the Flying Luttenbachers, XBXRX, Sicbay, Iceburn, and currently a member of Gorge Trio along with John Dieterich) joined the band as a full-time member, and Deerhoof began writing and recording Offend Maggie. Before the finished album was released in October, one of the songs ("Fresh Born") was released in the form of sheet music, with the intention that fans create their own versions of the song before hearing Deerhoof's version. Fans uploaded more than 40. Offend Maggie was stylistically rough and relaxed compared to Friend Opportunity, and highlighted the guitar interplay of Dieterich and Rodriguez. All four members contributed songs. Lyrics were mostly by Matsuzaki and alternated between English and Japanese.
On December 9, 2008 Deerhoof's remix of "Goodnight Goodnight" by Maroon 5 was released as part of the latter's album Call and Response.
In 2008 Matsuzaki formed OneOne, a collaboration with Saya, singer and songwriter with the Japanese band Tenniscoats. During their live tour of Japan, in September 2008, their live performances were bolstered by the presence of Greg Saunier and Takashi Ueno.
- The Man, the King, the Girl CD (1997)
- Holdypaws CD (1999)
- Halfbird CD (2001)
- Reveille CD/LP (2002)
- Apple O' CD/LP (2003)
- Milk Man CD/LP (2004)
- Green Cosmos CD EP(2005)
- The Runners Four CD/LP (2005)
- Friend Opportunity CD/LP (2007)
- Offend Maggie CD/LP (2008)
- "Come See the Duck" (1998)
- "C" (2002)
- "Wrong Time Capsule" (2005)
- "The Perfect Me" (2007)
- "Matchbook Seeks Maniac" (2007)
- "Fresh Born" (2008)
- "Offend Maggie" (2008)
Selected Compilation Appearances
- Dedication Film Soundtrack (2007)
- Green Owl Benefit Compilation (2007)
- Call and Response compilation of Maroon 5 remixes (2008)
- Gore in Rut (directed by Children of Hoof Education Center) on Video Fanzine #1 (NTSC VHS, Kill Rock Stars, April 1999, KRS200) 
- Wicca Wind (directed by Aida Ruilova) on Video Fanzine #2 (NTSC VHS, Kill Rock Stars, 3 October 2000, KRS300) 
- Dog on the Sidewalk on Video Fanzine #3 (NTSC DVD, Kill Rock Stars, 12 July 2005, KRS400) 
- Wrong Time Capsule (directed by Martha Colburn, November 2005) 
- The Perfect Me (directed by Eric Landmark & Peter Venuto, March 2007) 
- Fresh Born (directed by Mitch and Deerhoof, September 2008)
- Chandelier Searchlight (directed by Clyde Peterson, October 2008)
- Family of Others (directed by Sara Magenheimer and Eben Portnoy, October 2008)
- Offend Maggie (directed by Vice Cooler, November 2008)
- Basket Ball Get Your Groove Back (directed by Jamie Stewart, November 2008)
Biography from Wikipedia