In a major city like Chicago, there's always ample opportunities to catch local bands playing live music every night of the week. Especially with venues like The Empty Bottle, Schubas, and Lincoln Hall, you can often discover a new favorite hometown band by just getting to the show early enough to catch the opener. I first discovered Deeper by doing just that; showing up early to Twin Peaks' ACLU benefit show held at The Empty Bottle back in March of 2017.
Since that show, Deeper has continued playing all around the city, from bars shows at The Whistler to a support slot at Whitney's Valentine's Day show at Thalia Hall. The band's four members, Nic Gohl, Drew McBride, Mike Clawson, and Shiraz Bhatti, have also been hard at work putting the finishing touches on their debut record, which will finally be out on May 25th via Fire Talk Records. Around the release, Deeper has put out three singles; "Pink Showers," "Pavement," and "Feels," all of which have garnered buzz and kept the momentum surrounding the album in full swing.
Just ahead of the album release, I met up with Nic Gohl and Drew McBride to get to know more about the band. Check out these six things I learned about Deeper so that you can also be in the know before their release show featuring Earring and Pool Holograph, at (you guessed it) The Empty Bottle. At the show, you'll get to hear songs from the new record played live and you can even snag a copy of the album early, so tune in and get to know Deeper.
Growing Up, They Had Split Opinions on The Strokes
"I hated The Strokes," said no one ever...except for Deeper vocalist and guitarist Nic Gohl. "I like them now!" Gohl continues. "I had this vendetta against MTV and all that shit. I think I had a really shitty taste in music. I was into Ska bands at one point..." Unlike his bandmate, bassist Drew McBride talks about a fascination with The Strokes while discussing his early influences. "I think for me, the moment I was like wow I wanna play music, I was 12 or 13. I was a total nerd loser kid, so I would check out a ton of CDs from the library. I didn’t know much about indie rock before this, but I checked out The Strokes Is This It and-- it almost sounds cliche looking back on it, but I listened to that and I was like oh my god, this is the coolest thing ever. That was sort of it for me," McBride says.
Despite Gohl's self-proclaimed questionable taste in music growing up, he still managed to get into making music at an early age. "I think it was like second or third grade and my best friend had gotten one of those Squier starter packs. I was super jealous and really wanted to start playing music because they were, so I played my brother’s shitty guitar through his practice amp, and put the distortion on, and just started kinda hitting it," he recalls about his early days of playing.
The Group Completely Changed Up Their Sound Two Years Ago
Gohl's music taste isn't the only evolution the band has had over the years, it turns out. The original lineup that formed in 2014 actually had completely different songs and contrasted with the signature sound that the present-day Deeper has honed in on. For the group's self-titled debut that's out May 25th, the process only dates back to 2016, a couple of years after the start of Deeper. "It kinda started in 2016 when Drew joined the band. The name has been around for four years but before that, we were approaching music and trying to make something different," Gohl says. "It's essentially a different project, but the name stayed through," McBride chimes in, Gohl joking that they basically didn't feel like making a new Facebook page for the rebirth of the band.
"When Drew came on we basically got rid of every song we had before. So none of the stuff we were playing in the earlier form of Deeper came on. It’s different, completely. We were just starting from scratch. We would have a few and be like fuck it, we should get them down on paper before we forget them," Gohl says about the writing process. "I think there’s some more guitar pop songs, and also some punkier songs that are a result of like when we recorded them. We were in a phase of writing songs that were a little more straight forward."
They Used a Piecemeal Process When Recording
Since the band first started writing for Deeper 2.0 in 2016, their recording process has been an ongoing journey. "We started slowly recording with Dave Vettraino, who recorded the whole album and was also Drew’s roommate. They used to live in a place called Public House, where numerous records....the first NE-HI--" Gohl recalls, and McBride tosses in the names of Melkbelly, The Hecks, and Pool Holograph, just to name a few of the fellow Chicagoans who have recorded with Dave. "Everyone has recorded with Dave," he says.
"Yeah, Dave’s the best. We basically started recording tracks down there. We’d do like two days, one weekend, and then we’d maybe get back together a month or two later and record another one. Slowly we had all the bones after about a year and a half. It was a long process," Gohl adds, admitting it wasn't the most efficient process.
About halfway through the recording of the tracks on the debut, Dave moved out of Public House and started working in other studios, which Deeper couldn't afford at the time. "So we just had him come to our practice space and we recorded the rest of it there. So there’s definitely some differences in some of the songs you can hear," the band says. While there is that difference in tone that comes from the multiple recording locations and sessions, the band also sees a positive side to piecing everything together. "The tones are a little bit different from song to song cause it’s not like all the drums were tracked at the same time and mic'd in the same way. It creates a wider range of sounds," McBride says.
"The nice part about it, for a long period of time when putting the record together, I was kind of afraid of it sounding super piecemeal. That element makes it better for the listener. It evolves throughout the record, and kind of brings you in the different mind sets we were at when we wrote and recorded those songs," Gohl reflects.
They Believe Exposure for Some is Exposure for All
If you're a fan of music in this city, you've obviously noticed the growing buzz around the current scene, which has sent more and more bands out on national tours. In the past few years or so, we've seen bands like Whitney, Twin Peaks, NE-HI, Post Animal and more start to regularly tour the country and drastically grow their audiences. With bands popping up over night, between either new musicians just starting up and established bands kicking up side projects, it can seem daunting to try to stand out among the masses. However, as Deeper points out, it's more about camaraderie in Chicago, not competition.
"I forget who I was talking to, someone...it might have been Drew actually," Gohl says, "But, it’s not like there’s a limit on opportunities. You know? I guess city wise, you’re fighting to get the bigger shows from bands coming from out of town. As far as getting on a record label or booking agency, if you’re gonna get on it, you’re gonna get on it. You’re not fighting those people necessarily. Focusing on that, you’re never gonna be able to do this. There’s no fucking point. I think I would never call each other competition. It helps out each other. Having like Twin Peaks and NE-HI definitely have helped us out a lot. Those are some of our closest friends. We got to watch them go through becoming a national act. Being able to see what they had to go through kind of helped us figure out how we want to attack this and make sure it can be as successful as possible."
Elaborating on the communal spirit in the city, McBride says, "When people like Whitney or Twin Peaks are successful, then people start looking at what else is going on in Chicago, so I never think yeah it’s this competitive thing. Exposure for some is exposure for everyone. If someone is like 'Oh man, Twin Peaks are cool. Who else is from Chicago?' Oh you also like NE-HI? Check out Deeper!"
All in all, the band just want to keep their focus on their work and moving forward in their own time. "We really enjoy playing together, and we’re really happy to finally get a piece of music out. I feel like we’ve definitely been humbled through the process and with that, we have no set expectations of where...we definitely want to shoot for as far as we can go, but I think we know what we’re doing more and I think that we have an honest approach. I just want it to stay fun, and keep on progressing and be able to reach more people," Gohl says.
Tour Horror Stories Won't Keep Them Down
Every band, especially those just starting out, tend to have some battle wounds when they return from a tour. As Deeper get ready to hit the road after the album release, they recall some eventful shows in both Nashville and NYC.
Starting off with the scarier of both tales, the band describes the time they played a Halloween show at Fond Object in Nashville, which is a record store with a performance space outside of a house. "We played with Jack White’s girlfriend at the time, who was on Third Man Records. I forget her name. We also played with these guys called the Boo Dudes. They were a Halloween cover band. They covered a bunch of songs and changed all the words to Halloween themes. Then they all wore costumes onstage. So the drummer was the Headless Horseman so it looked like he was drumming with no head," McBride says. Gohl says they hung around with the Boo Dudes afterwards and had a great time, but the night had started off rocky when they found out the promoter had double booked, and they didn't have the night. Despite the double booking fiasco, they got added onto the spooky bill and the night went from a dud to a great time.
The last time Deeper performed on the east coast, they also had an epic comeback while in NYC. "We’re having an album release show in New York as well because that’s where Fire Talk, our record label, is based," McBride says. "To me, I’m excited for New York so that we have a little bit of redemption. Last time we played New York, we played two shows on a Friday and Saturday. As we were leaving the show on Friday- I didn’t realize it- but the car keys for our van fell out of my pocket and I didn’t realize until mid way through the next day. We’re about to go to load in and I’m like, oh my god, the keys!" McBride says they looked everywhere for the keys to the van they had rented through a service that's the car equivalent to Air BnB, but they were nowhere to be found. After even checking with the Brooklyn precinct to see if anyone had turned the keys in, the band had to let the van owner know what had happened, and Uber their gear to their Saturday show. Just as they were about to give up hope of continuing their east coast tour, McBride says Gohl convinced him to check with the police station one more time. McBride recalls, "So I go in and check again and he’s like these? And pulls out the keys. I remember sprinting out of the precinct as he was filling out the discharge forms. I kicked open the door and I was yelling THEY HAVE THEM!" Gohl remembers the band members all going crazy with excitement over the return of the keys, mentioning they all went out all night in Chinatown to celebrate.
Hopefully when Deeper plays in NYC this time, they'll only be celebrating a successful album release show, not the return of any more lost items.
Most of Their Favorite Music Sounds Nothing Like Theirs
When shouting out other Chicago bands that they like to support, Gohl's and McBride's lists include the likes of Bunny, Pool Holograph, Clearance, The Hecks, The Knees, and so many more...a lot of bands that exist under the same Chicago rock umbrella. However, when it comes to listening to music from outside of the city, their picks come from all different genres.
"I am obsessed with this band from Philly- they’re a part of the 80's post punk scene-called Crash Course In Science. They’re playing the Bottle for Cold Waves Fest, so I’m really excited to see them play. Besides that, honestly, I’m just obsessed with listening to DAMN. still. I think that will be my forever album," Gohl says. "I’ve been listening to a lot more electronic music. I’m really into synthesizers and drum machines, which is definitely something we’ve been pursuing with some of the newer stuff," he continues.
McBride agrees, adding,"I honestly have been listening to a lot of electronic or experimental electronic music instead of solely just indie rock. Like Nicolas Jaar and Jon Hopkins and things like that. I feel like all the other music that we listen to allows us to not get burnt out on what we’re doing. If I was only listening to the same kind of music that we’re making, I just don’t think I would enjoy it as much. I think also to evolve the sound, you can’t just listen to the things that sound the same as you. Otherwise the album is going to be similar to what you’re already doing or what your peers are already doing. By listening to like other genres, or electronic music, I think it allows us to find what we think is cool in music that’s not the same as us. Then bring that back. If these other artists did something cool in this way, I don’t wanna do that same thing, but I like the concept of how they did that."