Record of the Week: Deeper’s ‘Careful!’

Chicago-based quartet Deeper is currently touring in support of their third full length and our Record of the Week Careful! I spoke with the band when they stopped in Nashville earlier this month.

The 13-track album marks Deeper’s debut on the revered indie label Sub Pop and demonstrates a wow-worthy evolution of their already tight sound. While the post-punk outfit calls to mind classic guitar rock from the likes of The Cars, David Bowie, The Cure and Television, these guys have modern tools in their arsenal that obviously weren’t available in the ’70s and ’80s like effects pedals allowing for loops and layers, drum triggers and endless options for tone.

Singer, lyricist and one of the band’s two guitarists Nic Gohl said, “We’ve all started collecting pedals. It’s more fun that way. Vintage amps are cool, but having your own sound and tone is way cooler in my mind. When you’re like a kid in your room and you don’t have anyone else to play with, pedals are your best friend.”

The songs on Careful! were, indeed, born out of individual bedrooms during the COVID-19 lockdown. Shortly after the release of their second record Auto-Pain, the band had to abruptly cancel American and European tour dates and spent months apart, unable to collaborate in-person. Whereas they’d previously and preferably jammed together to flesh out songs for their records, this time they leaned on the virtual trading of ideas and sounds. The extra experimentation they did separately made a straightforward four-piece band sound much bigger on record.

In many moments, Deeper’s bigger, thicker sound on Careful! equates to darker undertones, like the hard turn into chaos within the last 90 seconds of “Everynight,” and a trance-like build to Gohl’s screaming and a skronking sax on “Fame.”

Inspired by the pedal board explorations of his bandmates, drummer Shiraz Bhatti pushed himself to hone in how he tones his snare and utilizes various effects in concert with the guitar parts. Drew McBride, who jumps between guitar and synthesizers, explained that having two weeks in-studio to record Careful! yielded some wild early versions of the songs, as all four band members continued to iterate and embellish. “There was a version of ‘Everynight’ where the drums totally dropped out and it was way more experimental, like Nine Inch Nails. What was good about having 14 days [in the studio] was pursuing various versions like that and then pulling it back in.”

On the flipside, that timeline took away the band’s sense of urgency. “It was like, ‘OK, cool, we have 11 more days so let’s come back to that,'” remembers McBride. Bass guitarist Kevin Fairbairn added, “We started spending like two hours a day doing ambient jams.” Not much of that in-studio improvisation made the record, but it did inform how they would recreate the songs once back on tour.

“It’s been fun to explore how we can do this live,” said McBride. “There are six instruments on the recording, how do we restructure this? We’ve been more strategic, like ‘How can the four of us occupy all the space that we need?'”

Deeper plays a hometown show this week at Chicago’s gorgeous theater Thalia Hall and then heads abroad for two weeks in Europe. Listen to Careful! in full below.

Deeper · Careful!