INTERVIEW: DEER

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Melbourne producer DEER has proved he’s fully fit to make those fo-fa-di frenzied, Jersey Club jams (case in point: his track ‘Fa La La’ fo fa di, fa la la – these Jersey guys sure do have those two-letter Scrabble scores on lock, huh?), having already opened for DJEMBA DJEMBA, TRIPPY TURTLE, DJ HOODBOI, and RYAN HEMSWORTH on their Australian tours. 

DEER’s appeal extends beyond booty bass, to many and varied collaborations with artists from across the electronic spectrum. There’s ‘Moneyweed’, a joint with the sad, skittering beats of UV BOI (aka Brisbane’s answer to YUNG LEAN), as well as the downtempo, R & B-drenched chiller DEER recently made with rising R & B star MARIBELLE.

Released earlier this year, the Love Hearts EP is a good way to get to know DEER; made extra good because it’s free; grab it here via Perth’s Pilerats Records. Next step being to acquaint yourself with this DEER mix: cult collective Mishka NYC frothed on him so hard they invited him to kick off their ‘Keep Watch’ mixtape series.

Ahead of his West Coast weekender, DEER drank twelve coffees last Saturday morning so he could speak to DANIELLE MARSLAND.

Thanks for talking to me on a Saturday morning. How are you, did you go out last night or anything?

My friend has been working in the NT for a year and just came back, so I hung out with her.

That sounds nice. Do you party a lot or are you more of a homebody?

I used to go out more when I was younger but at the moment I kind of only go out when I have a show to play.

What do you mean “when you were younger”, you can’t be that old…how old are you?

I’m 22.

What! C’mon, that’s not old.

(Laughs) I guess. I still need 12 coffees to bounce back after a big night though!

Were you DJing before you were producing?

Yeah, I started out DJing for a company – one of my Dad’s work friends started this DJing company where you could hire a DJ for wedding receptions, 21sts, sweet sixteens etc, so for a year and a bit I’d go around all of Victoria doing those gigs.

Haha. Those companies have the naffest ads “Mobile DJs for Hire! Playing all styles! ”.

Yeah, it was horrible.

Did you play for rich kids in Mcmansions?

There were a couple of nice mansions but they were usually jerks. I did a couple of fancy golf courses, and the top floor of the Langham Hotel for a wedding. But it definitely got me into doing what I’m doing now. After DJing events for a while I started making my own music.

What’s your local scene like over there, is it a good one? Is there some good forward thinking club stuff coming out of Melbourne right now?

In the nights I go to, the people I hang out with, there’s some cool music coming out – artists like Friendships are doing some future-sounding production stuff. The mainstream clubs are still playing really over the top stuff. Often independent promoters try and put on a cool show with what you think are kinda left-field acts, and the numbers aren’t great, just because there’s so much other stuff happening in Melbourne. But there’s the same people that will always come and support those shows, which creates a nice little scene.

We have a similar situation over here (Perth), maybe with three tiers instead of two. There’s the super mainstream clubs that play trance, pop, and general big room house rubbish, and those places unfortunately rule people’s perception of the nightlife in Perth. Then there’s a series of regular, independently run, crowd-pleasing club nights that play house, trap, and more triple j orientated music. And then there’s the more underground promoters, a small group of people holding it down amongst loads of different venues, delving into lesser known genres and touring more obscure international artists. That latter category certainly has that cult following you talk of, the same pockets of people that go to every gig… even if there’s no lines out the door type thing.

Totally, one of my friends that used to live in Perth but that’s now involved in my scene in Melbourne says that one of the differences she’s noticed is that there’s less of an impetus to go to events in that third category in Melbourne because they happen more often; whereas in Perth you make sure you go when they happen because weirder nights like that are rarer.

How has the response been so far to the Love Hearts EP?

It’s been pretty good! As soon as the EP dropped and Pilerats Records picked it up, the SoundCloud numbers just shot up. I’d listened to/played out the tracks on the EP so many times, I was kind of personally burnt out on them, but it was awesome to see my tracks get that recognition.

I just wanted to make stuff other DJs would want to play, that was the goal in my head for the Love Hearts EP. When I’m DJing, I love playing the Trippy Turtle and Hoodboi stuff, the Jersey Club, a little bit of trap and dubstep, so I thought maybe I should put out some stuff of my own. I’d made some stuff around five or so months prior to the release, and gotten a warm reception for them – I showed a music journalist/publicist friend of mine over here, Mia, some of it, and she was like “we should try and get this released”. She kind of helps me out wherever she can, she calls it “spiritual guiding”, people are always asking her “whose good” so she points them in my direction which I’m really grateful for.

Is that how you hooked up with Pilerats Records?  

Yup. Before the Sable ‘Feels So Good’ track came out and launched Pilerats Records, my friend David, also a producer, showed me the teaser video for the label, and it was so sick, so I was keeping my eye on them, and he was like “you should show them your music I bet they’d like it” so I did, then they did… I was stoked.

There’s that Jersey Club influence in your music. It’s a genre identifier that gets bandied about loosely a lot, but it certainly seems to have clubbers right now in its grip. Wherein do you think the appeal of Jersey Club lies… Why do you think people get so excited about it?

The reason I like it is because it’s a flashback to the 90s R&B stuff, it clicked for me when Trippy Turtle put out that ‘Senorita’  remix, and there’s a couple of Ciara remixes and stuff like that. I definitely think – and especially I’ve noticed that from a DJs’ perspective –  if you get girls dancing on dancefloors, the boys will follow.

I think the chicks like this style – the fact that its bouncy and uplifting makes it easy to have a good time too.

For sure, people feed off the energy of it. All those bouncy kick drums and handclaps. The R & B side of it makes it good-humoured club music too – it’s goofing off, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Would you consider Djemba Djemba, Trippy Turtle, DJ Sliink, DJ Hoodboi your stylistic peers, or what other artists do you think would be a better kind of “if you like this sound you’ll like Deer” indication?

I do like those artists, but I don’t want to be classified as being limited to one genre kind of thing. When I released that stuff, I was DJing it, so I was making it for DJing. Moving forward I want to be making music that I like, whether its genre based or not.

You certainly stepped outside the box recently by choosing to remix Mssingno how did that come about?

That was a song that I liked for a while, a few friends of mine in Melbourne do this thing called Genre Cult, it’s this radio podcast about electronic music subgrenes, where they get down to the real nitty gritty, obscure stuff, and I heard Mssingno on there and was like ‘this is awesome’. The remix came about pretty quick.

Are you a fan of that new wave of twisted grime / futuristic R & B? Do you follow the Goon Club Allstars stuff?

Definitely, I really got into the whole Mssingno EP, I got sent the Moleskin EP and that’s pretty cool. I’ve been getting into the grimier stuff… I really like Mumdance, he does a lot of interesting experimental stuff.

Going back to your not wanting to be limited to one genre – your recent collaboration ‘MoneyWeed’, with Brisbane’s UV Boi goes in another direction again – a melancholy, ominous, slow-burning number. UV Boi is an interesting kid… with all his Tumblr gangsta visuals and sadwave leanings. How did you two come together?

A couple of my friends from Melbourne – David (whose set to have a release out at the end of this year), Soccer Legends (who is also a director behind the festival Paradise) and Survey (who will have an EP out soon) – started up this collective/record label/events company thing in the same vein as WeDidIt, called Livin’ Till I Die. UV Boi had been releasing music via his other alias ‘EP’, and he started following us all on Soundcloud and liking our pages on Facebook. I checked him out and liked his stuff so I followed him back. A month or so later he started UV Boi and I started vibing on that stuff, and asked if he wanted to do a DEER x UV Boi track – he was keen so I sent him over the original MoneyWeed track that I had made in like 2013 sometime. It just so happened that the day we released our collaboration UV Boi ended up being the triple j feature Unearthed artist, so that track, and UV Boi, kinda blew up.

Awesome, I came across him on Golden Syrup on RRR, he did a great guest mix. He’s pretty young, isn’t he?

He’s 17! He just finished his HSC (Year 12) exams!

You’ve also worked on a beautiful, as yet unreleased track, ‘Almost Had You’, featuring a singer called Maribelle, who I see recently supported Jeremih in Australia.  Her voice is heavenly. Who is she?

Maribelle is Mia’s cousin! She’s a really good singer, she started uploading tracks to YouTube and has more than 150,000 Youtube subscribers now. She wanted to do some of her own stuff and Mia pointed her in my direction and she ended up doing vocals for me.

It’s cool to see an Aussie R & B style singer working with weirder, leftfield beats, in the same way someone like Kelela does, over in the States.  

 Totally, there’s not loads of Aussie singers that have that kind of voice not getting pushed in commercial directions, like Jessica Mauboy or whatever. She’s currently working on her EP, which that track will feature on, although there’s no release date as yet – she’s definitely one to watch.

What’s been your performance highlight as DEER to date, like a time when you were like, ‘man, I really nailed it tonight’.

I played a gig a few nights ago supporting Sweater Beats that was pretty great, it was put on by an event company called The Operatives, I got to play a lot of new stuff, everyone really went off to the XE2 remix. Also I played a gig with Ryan Hemsworth and Wave Racer at the Corner Hotel a while back that was pretty memorable – it wasn’t a super busy gig but it was great hanging out with Ryan, and I got to play with Tomderson and Chiefs, too who are two great Melbourne producers I hadn’t met prior to that gig.

Do you have any DEER groupies yet, or weird fans?

Haha, my girlfriend’s probably my biggest groupie. All the messages and stuff from fans are nice. Alison Wonderland follows me on Instagram, which is weird, but cool. Even the collab with UV Boi, I guess that started out as us being fans of each other.

 Tell us something that people wouldn’t know about you.

I like skating a lot. I’ve been skating most of my life. I used to be sponsored in my prime days, like when I was 17, but now it’s more of a hobby. Also, I’m a graphic designer by trade, I’m working at a company called Grand Scheme, it’s a streetwear label. One day I’d like to be a full time music producer, though.

Catch DEER:

Saturday, August 9
Laundry Bar, MELBOURNE
w/UV BOI, BARO & DUGONG JR

Words by Dani Marsland

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