Mission Creek Festival: National acts Deerhoof, Jeff the Brotherhood, Divine Fits, and Mucca Pazza to wrap up week with unique performances

BY AUDREY DWYER | APRIL 04, 2013 5:00 AM

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Often blended into the background, the drummer makes his voice heard through his sticks, following the music without a moment’s hesitation. Carrying the beat from beginning, middle, to end, the drummer remains the backbone to the tempo.

This year’s eighth-annual Mission Creek Festival will not only feature drummers, but also a vast array of national and local bands in a juxtaposition of styles, rhythms, and talent. The music portion of Mission Creek Festival started on Tuesday, and it will continue to bring an energetic set of performances beginning through this weekend.

San Francisco-based Deerhoof is one of those acts.

Creating sounds without being stuck in any one style of music, Deerhoof comprises members who joined by “accident.” Drummer Greg Saunier said “by accident” is the essence of the band’s music.

“I like seeing what happens when you don’t know what you’re doing,” he said. “You can keep changing what you are doing and test out or try different things to see what happens. You don’t feel like you have to do it right and follow any rules.”

Deerhoof — a name inspired by a cassette tape decorated with fallen leaves and metallic gold paint with a black outlined logo of a deer-hoof print  — is a noise band originally from San Francisco known for its high-energy, erratic, interchangeable style. Each new album is more multifarious than its predecessor.

Satomi Matsuzaki, John Dieterich, and Ed Rodriguez, the other band members, say they know each other so well that the music just happens.

“Think of it as an endless make-out session — you have that kind of tension in order to have chemistry with someone,” Saunier said. “With Deerhoof, we talk a lot about a record we would like to make, but when it comes to recording, magic happens when there are no words involved. We don’t spend a lot of time analyzing what turns each other on while playing but become familiar with it. You could say I know what turns them on musically by creating frustration along with the release of tension, and they do as well.”

The music of Deerhoof is not calm; feelings of suspense and intensity grip your curiosity with the rise and fall of every song. The wildness, however, is not necessarily loud but instead, a rambunctious mixture of various noise.

“I’m a perfectionist in a way but am also interested in surprises and things going wrong with accidents, confusion, and chaos,” Saunier said. “I think of it more like having a conversation with my bandmates or whoever I’m playing with around here in New York. I try to poke at the fire or dare them to do something risky or funny in the music.”

Saunier said the most influential lesson he learned throughout his drumming career came from role model Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones.

“I learned to listen,” he said. “After studying the way Watts played, he doesn’t even listen to himself. It was more of a response to what the other band members were doing. It was a constant conversation; I was always really inspired by that. I like sometimes to lead with what I play and also to be ready if something changes.”

Jeff the Brotherhood — a two-piece rock band consisting of brothers Jake and Jamin Orrall of Nashville — relates to the spontaneity found in Deerhoof.

“We always said from the beginning we didn’t want to have rules,” said drummer Jamin Orrall. “If we wanted to change something, we wanted to make sure we could do that at any moment.”

A relatively simple pair, they started the band originally called JEFF in 2001 while still in high school. Performing a style of music described as psychedelic rock, garage rock, punk, and pop, the two tour all across the world and have performed at such venues as Coachella, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and the Bowery Ballroom.

Even with a few notches in their belt of major festival venues and concert halls, they prefer a more laid-back, closely knit atmosphere of a smaller show.

“At live performances, it’s exciting because of the energy and you feel like anything can happen,” Jamin Orrall said. “It’s loud, it’s something fun to do, and you get to see your friends and people who actually want to hear you play.”

The newest album, Hypnotic Nights, was named after a flavor of a frozen daiquiri in New Orleans the brothers had a long time ago. The nonchalant, easygoing pair recorded the album in a matter of days with the help of Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys.

“We like to be spontaneous and let anything happen,” Jamin Orrall said. “Music is creative and exciting. It makes me feel satisfied when I listen to it and others as well.”

Noel Nissen, the drummer for the local band the Olympics, shares the strong dedication and eagerness in creating music.

“I just do what feels right; sometimes, I will have something in my head, but more times than not, it’s just playing,” said Nissen, who is also the drummer for local bands No Coast and Gem Jones. “It’s pretty close to second nature now. I have to think about what I’m doing to a certain extent, but it is very freeing to not totally have to focus but just be in the moment of the music.”

Being in numerous bands keeps him from getting stuck with one style of music, he said, and that allows him to step out of the box to keep improving.

“While having to create a structure, I try to have a catchy drum beat, one you can get stuck in your head,” he said. “Working with these guys has given me a lot of experience on what works and what doesn’t.”

The Olympics is a indie, dark-pop group, while No Coast is a folk-influenced indie-rock band. Gem Jones incorporates different elements of no wave, R&B, and free jazz.

On the other end of the band spectrum, Mucca Pazza is thrown into the mix of the Mission Creek Festival lineup. The Chicago-based “circus-punk marching band” will march in psychedelic-colored blur in the confines of the Englert, 221 E. Washington St.

“I was a punk weirdo in high school, but I also loved marching and concert band,” said drummer Paul Brannon. “Mucca Pazza feels like a beautiful synthesis of all of my strange musical experiences.”

Each member dressed in her or his own version of a band uniform, so the band provides a visual and musical kaleidoscope of styles. For example, a snaky Balkan-style tune mixes with the rata-tat-tat of drums from a traditional concert number to form a modern improvisational number of the Latin-inspired “Tube Sock Tango.”

Chaotic as their antics may be, this 30-plus-member band is an exceptionally tight, well-rehearsed unit.

“Strangely enough, there seems to be a point where it’s actually helpful to be this big,” Brannon said. “A four-piece rock band can get away with being haphazard on the administrative and logistical side, while we’re forced to be organized. It’s certainly not easy, but we have some great people holding it all together.”

Percolating through the mix of local venues, bands from all over the nation have high hopes to create a resonating effect in Iowa City.

“We all believe deeply in the power of the arts and really love our community here in Iowa City,” said Mission Creek Festival cofounder Andre Perry. “This small project is one way we can be involved in the arts and bring something new to our community.”

Click here to hear a playlist of songs from all the Mission Creek Festival headlining bands.

Thursday April 4
•What: Jeff the Brotherhood with Pujol, and The Olympics
•Where: The Mill, 120 E. Burlington
•When 8 p.m.
Tickets: $12 in advance and $15 at the door

Friday April 5
•What: Divine Fits with Emperors Club and No Coast
•Where: Blue Moose Top House, 211 Iowa Ave
•When: 8 p.m.
Tickets: $18 in advance and $22 at the door

Saturday April 6
•What: Mucca Pazza with Mumford’s, Brooks Strause and the Gory Details
•Where: The Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington
•When: 7 p.m.
Tickets: $12 in advance and $15 at the door

Sunday April 7
•What: Deerhoof with Love Songs for Lonely Monsters and Wet Hair
•Where: The Mill, 120 E. Burlington
•When: 8 p.m.
Tickets: $15

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