This is another installment of an occasional ZepBlog feature that helps with confusion over similar band names.
So, how to tell 'em apart? Easier than you think. Deer Tick has an alt.country, Americana feel, so the mnemonic device is to think of the tick as a mainly rural phenomenon.
Meanwhile, Deerhunter and Deerhoof have some overlap in terms of their general indie-rock sensibilities, but with at least one notable difference: Deerhunter is led by Bradford Cox, possessor of a Y chromosome, while Deerhoof is fronted by Satomi Matsuzaki, who has a pair of X chromosomes.
So, mnemonically speaking, you could think of hunting as a stereotypically male activity, while the hoof might make you think of the legend of Cinderella.
I am of course aware that people can be plagued by ticks in big cities and that plenty of women are expert hunters, but that's not the point. In this case, stereotypical thinking works with us to help forge visual links to cement the memory. That's your metacognition in action. So, work with me here:
Deerhoof is an experimental four-piece from San Francisco. They first recorded under that name in 1995, then met up with whimsical vocalist Matsuzaki, who sings in both English and Japanese. The band has eleven full-length releases to their name, along with innumerable singles, EPs and free downloads. They have a constantly evolving sound that embraces "echoes of rock and roll of the 50s, 60s, and 70s, garage rock, post-rock, modern classical composition, pop, noise, and improvisation." If your musical tastes range toward the adventurous, they're streaming their newest album, Deerhoof vs. Evil, over at their official site.
Deerhunter is an Atlanta-based quartet with a more consistent style. I think of them in a league with great American indie bands like Wilco and Spoon. Like those bands, Deerhunter is dominated by a single songwriter, and they're also not afraid to add dissonance and angular rhythms at times – just not as often as Deerhoof. Deerhunter are influenced by 70s bands like Roxy, Eno and Bowie, and by 90s bands like Stereolab and My Bloody Valentine. Formed in 2001, they have four solid albums and a couple of EPs under their belts. They maintain a cool band blog which can keep you updated on their many side projects.
Deer Tick has had one constant member since its inception in 2004, songwriter John McCauley. The band, currently a five-piece, is based in Rhode Island and has released three albums. Their sound is an amalgam of folk, blues and country, and they deliver a kick-ass live show. As McCauley notes at his bare-bones website, "We've covered a good number of songs from artists such as Hank Williams, John Prine, Nirvana, The Beatles, Michael Hurley, The Sex Pistols, The Replacements, Sean Kingston, The Shivers, Warren Zevon..." He adds: "I'd also like to note that I had never heard of Deerhoof or Deer Hunter until it was too late. Sorry guys." McCauley also records with another band called Middle Brother, though he has not apologized to the Allman Brothers or the Everley Brothers.
There's also a band called the Deer Lick Holler Boys, but you can figure that out for yourself. Sounds like they're just looking for trouble.
I'm not gonna clog up your bandwidth by embedding three videos, but try these on for size:
Deerhoof, The Tears and Music of Love
Deerhunter, Desire Times
Deer Tick, These Old Shoes