Stillwater’s Deerpeople is most certainly a breed of its very own.
Formed in 2009, the indie-rock group may recall bits and pieces of other bands — Modest Mouse’s untamed feel, Arcade Fire’s grandiosity, The Flaming Lips’ general chaos and weirdness — but the music is its own beast.
Deerpeople’s stomping grounds seem to play the biggest part in that invention.
“I don’t think we ever set out to do something different,” band leader Brennan Barnes said. “Because of the unfortunate situation you are in, being in a small town like Stillwater, you sort of mold your music into its own, weird thing. That’s why no one here sounds the same. It’s about that isolation, I think ... it brings creativity.”
Added drummer Jordan Bayhylle, “It’s very boring in Stillwater. Most of the time you hang out, go to school then go to work. We wanted to do something that wasn’t a waste of time, and it became, I guess, liked by people.”
The band became an Oklahoma artist to watch on the heels of its self-titled, debut EP. Their sweeping, fiery anthems have become local favorites, whether they believe it or not.
“I’m actually not totally convinced that people do really like us,” Bayhylle said.
Added Barnes, “I think people just want to come see a crazy show and dance.”
The stage spectacle Deerpeople perfected is something to remember; exploits have included a puppet octopus, Power Rangers-esque masks and, of course, papier-mâché deer heads.
“I love costumes, always have,” Barnes said. “It separates us from the music that’s coming out. It’s made the anxiety go away; the bigger the shows have gotten, the more I want to be dressed up and the crazier I want it to be.”
Adding to the energy is the sheer number of people onstage at a given time. Excluding extraneous stage performers, Deerpeople sports six members. Before it became the strength it is today, it could be a hindrance.
“It was a problem in the beginning, trying not to muck things up,” Bayhylle said. “Now we’ve kind of got our roles down.”
The band recently took to recording a follow-up EP, “EXPLOORRGASSSMM,” to be released this fall. Instead of refining the edges of the members’ debut, this sophomore effort will do the opposite: uncoiling themselves even more in hopes of moving still closer to the wilder, scrappier animal of the act they’d like to be.
“We wanted a sense of recklessness that we didn’t really achieve on that first one,” Barnes said. “It’s such a delicate balance between sounding audibly appealing and having a sense of urgency, and I think we are finding that. I’m happier with this one because of how crazy, raw and nasty it is — how like us it is.”
Photo by Doug Schwarz.