Photo by Alexa Viscius
Chicago natives Deeper are a patient and dedicated bunch. They spent almost two years holed up in their practice space, crafting their self-titled debut with friend and engineer Dave Vettraino, who has worked with Melkbelly and Damien Jurado. The result is a jangly post-punk treasure, shimmery gold and all. Nic Gohl’s lyrics hit on existential quandaries and pushing to get more out of life. Gohl’s smooth yet commanding voice hovers over his and Mike Clawson’s tangle of erratic, slippery guitars. Drew McBride’s bass playing supports the mass of shine and noise as Shiraz Bhatti’s percussive stylings hop along with the group, keeping everyone’s ducks in a row.
What’s your practice space like?
Nic Gohl: It’s an old Frank Lloyd Wright building. But it looks like something out of Hostel or one of the Saw movies. So, not very pretty.
Drew McBride: I think it used to be a Polish sausage factory. You can Google it. E-Z Polish Sausage.
Your self-titled debut is coming out in May on Fire Talk Records. Can you tell me a bit about the album?
Nic: The album is a collection of songs from the past 2 or so years that we slowly recorded in our practice space with our old friend and longtime collaborator, Dave.
Drew: He’s like one of our best friends. He’s a collaborator, he’s my roommate...
Nic: Mostly his roommate [laughs]. Dave Vettraino.
Drew: But yea, he’s also recorded some other Chicago bands like Melkbelly who’s playing Pitchfork this year. In my opinion the record has like some pretty diverse sounds just as a result of us all learning how to play together over that time.
Shiraz Bhatti: We actually did “Pink Showers” and our first single that we dropped in 2016, “Transmogrified,” in Dave’s basement. Then we decided to demo out the record in our practice space, and we were really surprised at how things worked out, so we spent the next year and a half taking weekends here and there to finish it off.
Nic: So, long grueling process.
Your album art is great. What inspired it?
Nic: I guess living in a big city and seeing all the darker buildings and old structures inspired a lot of the art. We tried to take stuff from that and push that over to Dean [Bengtsen] who did all of our artwork. He came up with all the stuff we’re going to be putting out over the next month until the record comes out.
Mike Clawson: We also helped with the design.
Nic: Yea. The picture of blue rocks on the cover is from a photo that I developed from a camera my mom had in the ‘90s and, over like 20 years, it just turned all fucked up and blue and shit, so we wanted to use that. He incorporated that into the artwork and we just kinda like went from there.
Shiraz: We were sitting on that photo for so long. Nic developed it like two or three years ago and was so psyched on it. We were really happy to find a home for it.
Nic: It’s like, why wouldn’t you use that, right? Luckily, there’s more, so maybe our future artwork will have some more of that in there.
What gets each of you up and going every morning?
Shiraz: Chicago winters are real dark and long and we had our first 60-degree day today, so throughout the Winter I was looking forward to the Spring. I’m pretty psyched that it was a nice day out today.
Mike: I agree with Shiraz, but do you mean what motivates us to play music?
More what your driving factor is in life—or what excites you.
Nic: That’s hard for Mike, because he’s not excited about anything [everybody laughs]. For me, I say just straight up money, man. I need to make money and pay rent, so my dog and my girlfriend can eat.
Drew: This might sound corny, but I just want to get up every morning and just try to make like a tiny impact.
Nic: Oh man, it does sound corny, right?
That’s so legit, though.
Drew: I work for like a health app.
Nic: Oh man he’s plugging his job!
Drew: No, I’m not going to say what it is. But, [I'm] just trying to make a difference little by little, and I think there are a lot of different ways to do that, and I hope our record can do that in some capacity as well.
Where in the world do you find yourself returning to time and time again, and why do you think you find comfort in that place?
Mike: Well, it’s still Winter right now, so a lot of our time has been spent in houses and bedrooms.
Nic: Yea. A lot of chilling time. One of our favorite places to go is The Empty Bottle. It’s just like the best club to play and see shows, and all of our friends work there. It’s a tight place to go.
Drew: The Empty Bottle is situated in this area of Chicago that’s at the fringe of an area that’s gentrified. Gentrification kind of went in a different direction than where it’s at so, even though the area is pretty commercial [nearby], it still feels very genuine. It still attracts a strong sense of community without feeling like it’s been commercialized. It’s still sincere. [The Empty Bottle has] been really good at fostering and helping to promote what we’ve been doing over the last couple of years.
Nic: I feel like a lot of the venues have stepped up the past few years. [There’s] The Hideout— Sully runs a great lineup of bands every year. And Schubas and Lincoln Hall are doing great things too. For a while, there were a ton of bands coming out of DIY spaces, and slowly those got shut down, whether they were knocked down and made into condos or the police were shutting them down—or, you know, people just didn’t wanna live in a show space anymore. Because of that, we had to find other places to play music. I feel like all the venues around here really stepped up to accommodate a flourishing music scene.
Drew: I think it’s probably pretty similar to New York, but I feel like it happened so much faster in New York. We definitely experienced it, but we could savor it a bit longer because the entire process of a venue going up and coming down may be a little bit longer [here in Chicago].
Have you ever been on Chica-go-go?
Nic: No! I don’t know how to get on there. I feel like it has slowed down. I wanna meet that rat. Is it a rat or a mouse?
Mike: Gotta be a rat. Chicago and rats are synonymous.
Nic: One of these days! Can you plug us in with them somehow?
Nic: I can’t remember the last time I saw one of those videos.
Mike: It’s been like three or four years.
Drew: Yea. It’s been a minute.
Nic: If it’s gone, let’s bring it back. Bring back Chica-go-go! We’ll start hitting them up on Twitter and stuff. Do a blast.
What’s your favorite 3AM drunk food in Chicago?
Shiraz: Either tacos or Chicago dogs. We have great Mexican food.
Drew: Tons of great Mexican food. I love some late night tacos
Nic: I like Uber Eating McDonald’s.
Mike: Lucky Vito’s is dope.
Nic: Lucky Vito’s is great. It’s a pizza place by Mike’s house. Then there’s Express Grill. It’s 24 hours and they have all the meats.
Drew: Nic and I live in Pilsen, which is primarily a Mexican neighborhood in Chicago, and we’re sort of between a 24-hour hotdog stand and a 24-hour taco spot.
Nic: They’re both really good. Los Tamales is the taco place. But seriously, I probably Uber Eats McDonald’s more than anything else.
Nic: It’s sick dude! You can watch it come to your house! You’re drunk, you can see your food coming to you, and it’s faster than regular delivery too because it’s McDonald’s.
I gotta do this now
Mike: That has to be like, the most expensive McDonald’s order though. So you’re paying $10 for a quarter-pounder or something?
Nic: Yea, but it’s not like I can walk in there, they close the doors at night. I’m not gonna do the drive-thru for that shit.
Do you guys drive?
Mike: Most of us drive.
Nic: I drive around the city all day for work.
What’s stuck in your tape or CD player right now?
Nic: Right now I have our CD. [Everybody laughs]. We have to listen to it on all formats, man! Then I have this CD from this awesome Chicago band that is no longer [around], Heavy Times. They were a HoZac Records band.
Drew: You were rippin’ that Cross Country tape for a while, too. But it’s hard, because I have such a limited amount of CDs and cassettes now. I’ve been listening to the new US Girls record. Love the new Amen Dunes record. I’ve been listening to Cate Le Bon again lately, too.
Mike: And the new DRINKS album sounds good. That’s Cate Le Bon and Tim Presley.
Shiraz: What radio station do you listen to?
Drew: Yea, NPR. I also listen to V103; it’s like the old school R&B and soul station.
Shiraz: There’s a new station in Chicago, 104.3; they play our generation’s classics such as early Kanye, Tupac…
Drew: It’s funny. You’ll get some really crazy Ludacris songs in there once in a while.
Nic: That’s gonna be my new jam. I just use my phone and have a cassette that goes into my player that plugs in. Been jamming Kendrick—the backward version, though. DAMN Special Edition. It makes me feel way cooler than I am.