“Not camouflage, which everyone is saying. I don’t think it’s that. If I had to guess I would say, pastels.”
Although I’d love to believe this was his attempt at converging the changing aesthetics of fashion into a larger metaphor, his smug, self-satisfied expression rushed that idea out of mind—this answer also drew nervous laughs from the rest of the room. No one wanted to look stupid under Cox’s cutting, sarcastic heavy retorts, but no one wanted to miss getting a serious answer out of him either.
It’s always been Cox that has been the heartbeat racing behind Deerhunter’s swaying loops and grizzled garage rock and it’s always been Cox at the center of their tumultuous public unraveling. A brief examination of Deerhunter’s history reveals his obsessive control, members left or were asked to leave, albums were recorded and then kept “hidden away forever” only to be posted on the blog, his stage antics, dress and behavior are continually difficult to parse. He co-founded the group in 2001, first as just a duo composed of himself and Moses Archuleta, but they quickly grew into a full-fledged band—one that has undergone numerous few lineup changes, most recently, the departure of longtime bassist Josh Fauver.
Now, it seems, it’s Cox who has nothing but the band left—the other members are now married, settled down, they don’t need the aura of the spotlight or the drama of celebrity—some even fall asleep during the lengthy monologue-like two hour group interview. What’s easy to see, though, is that Cox wants to be noticed. In a world of Instagram selfies, Facebook statuses and immediate life-updates in the succinct 140 characters of a tweet, Cox chooses to stretch out his exposure for all it’s worth. It’s fascinating, in a way, to meet a man who is so eagerly about himself, so hyper-actively ready to share his sharp, dissenting opinions. “I wouldn’t say that aesthetically I draw from anything current, I wish I could,” he states just as dismissive of the current musical climate as he is of the now worn-out avant-garde movement.
“I wouldn’t say that aesthetically I draw from anything current. I wish I could.”
Back in 2007, Tom Breihan writing then for Village Voice described his behavior thusly: “Bradford Cox's aggressively desperate look-at-me antics” which really hasn’t been surpassed as a neat summation since, nor have the shenanigans at all rescinded. A short recap includes an old, now deleted but well-documented poop blog and a supposed onstage blow job from a man. The Voice also called out Pitchfork’s obsessive coverage of the band—which is enormous—when was the last time someone reviewed a live iTunes session album? Leading to the question, just how good of a band is Deerhunter? Is it really the music that has drawn extensive coverage of the band’s interstitial garage rock jams, or is it the idea of the spectacle that Cox promises? Are we drawn to the idea of a rock star still, something different, something we can’t quite pinpoint on normal terms?
In a way, Cox has become more interesting than this music, the mix of art-punk, shoegaze, ‘70s rock and more is compelling, but it’s buoyed by the uncertainty of its unpredictable creator. Deerhunter’s music is haunting, and the new album is perhaps their best yet—it lingers in the ear, it’s intricate and shifting, a prism of sounds projected out in angled, rainbow striped tracks. It’s very clear that Cox takes his art seriously, but it seems that it’s about the only thing he will take seriously. He’s so deadly serious about it that his flippancy at the event, as that press conference became, is disheartening.