Hitting the sweet spot

Deer Tick get back in the ring
By CHRIS CONTI  |  March 12, 2014

POSITIVITY Chris Ryan, O'Neil, McCauley, Crowell, and Dennis Ryan. [Photo by Anna Webber]

Deer Tick is still flying high on Negativity, the quintet’s critically acclaimed fifth album released last September. The latest crowning achievement occurred just last week when the band performed at Lincoln Center as part of the ongoing American Songbook Series, captivating the room with a stripped-down 20-song set (footage is up on YouTube). Next up is a homecoming show at Lupo’s this Friday (the 14th) before setting out on a co-headlining tour with the Hold Steady (which kicks off at the Boston House of Blues on April 17), followed by dates in May with special guest opener Langhorne Slim.

Life is good for one John J. McCauley III. He recently married singer-songwriter Vanessa Carlton (presided by Stevie Nicks, no less) and he and his bandmates — Chris and Dennis Ryan, Ian O’Neil, and Robbie Crowell — decided to scale back both the nonstop tour schedule and subsequent partying. In fact, McCauley had mentioned taking up karate in a recent Facebook post, so you know damn well I had to follow up on that one. I checked in with John via email earlier this week just before the band departed for the SXSW Festival.

The pictures from the Lincoln Center show look incredible. Where does the experience rank in the pinch-me moments for Deer Tick? That was really cool. We did Carnegie Hall a couple years ago and I was so screwed up on drugs, the show was so disjointed and weird, that I feel like I really blew it. I didn’t want something like that to happen with this opportunity. We played our balls off and we took the time to rework our songs to fit the room. It was really special. Our audiences have traditionally been pretty forgiving. It’s really sweet that they’ve stuck by us this long. We’re finally understanding things like that now.

Speaking of surreal moments, how did Stevie Nicks get involved with the wedding ceremony? Vanessa has been friends with Stevie for awhile now. She just asked her one day and much to our delight Stevie went online and got her minister card from some fake church that specializes in ordaining people to marry their friends.

Are you in RI right now? I heard you were living in NYC for a bit before buying a house in Nashville? We’re heading to Austin for SXSW, and then we fly back for Lupo’s. I just bought a house in Nashville. I moved up to New York last July knowing that I’d be going back to Nashville sooner than later. I love Rhode Island, but Nashville makes more sense for me.

How did this pairing with The Hold Steady come together? We played with them a couple of years ago and we’ve stayed in touch. They’re a great band. I’m kind of surprised this package hasn’t toured together yet.

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