Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
A guy's gotta have diversions. He's gotta have something to wrest the mind away from its treacherous preoccupations and give it some breathing holes. He'd do it for the captive crickets and the poor lightning bugs clicking around inside a Mason jar, used now as a portable lamp, never to see their families and friends again. Why wouldn't he do it for himself? A one-tracked mind, to go with a one-tracked world, can surely solve highly involved mathematic problems, but it cannot keep a woman happy (unless that happiness is the one-track it burrows into) and it cannot see those three-dimensional Magic Eye illusions that were all the coffee table book rage last decade. A guy's also gotta have dimensions -- vacuums to get sucked into and out of, each providing a unique branding that works like a tattoo, but is invisible and leaves a pleasant scent of orange peels, cinnamon rolls and laundry drying on the line outside, on a sun-kissed afternoon. Finding fountains of the gluey inspiration weighing a man down begs that the man find a way to make good with it, to let it not go completely to waste as he keeps scratching the same, identical itch that's been made raw with burning. Good examples of scratching the same itch, well, let's see, there's the Red Hot Chili Peppers on Stadium Arcadium and how about the Beastie Boys for the block. Why don't we get excited when we see a jar of apple sauce? Why don't we fall head-over-heels in love with drinking water?
To answer the first query: Because we've seen apple sauce so many times in so many different settings; and to answer the second query: Because we have so much of it. Songs and bands come a dime a dozen. They've been done and done over so many times, but what keeps people still making them is that they hope that theirs makes people forget that they've ever spooned apple sauce into themselves or drank a glass of water. They continue on, try different things, write a lot of lackluster garbage that just rapes the original idea of music and leaves it tattered and embarrassed. Aaron Deer, the masterminding so and so of Bloomington, Ind., -- yes, that Bloomington full of Hoosier-fied Secretly Canadian goodness, a city whose great band per capita is ludicrous -- now-two-piece The Horns of Happiness and the bassist for The Impossible Shapes on the other hand, makes the rare apple sauce and taps the keg on some pretty pristine, eye-opening agua. He splits his time between these two bands, works as a chef and runs an art space/music venue in town. He would probably like it that someone compared his songs to the best apple sauce known to man if that's the metaphor of the hour. Each tour that Deer goes on is followed by another tour, with different songs and different people. His time is split and quartered between intermingling ideas that require two brains, but he just uses valves. The interesting thing about Deer's music is that there is so much parity in its quality. It doesn't suffer from one page to the next or from one band or the next. Side projects are not usually this forgiving. One is normally better because it's better tended to. It gets the good dreams.
The Horns of Happiness -- formerly with bassist Elaina Morgan -- now just Deer and drummer Shelley Harrison, who is responsible for driving Deer's songs of fragmental lyric, hungry organ lines and melodies that never sleep into the ring with the sweet and the spooky armature of wildness and absolute unpredictability. It's invigorating to have to question songs. With the tracks that they recorded for this particular session -- arguably some of the niftiest songs they've laid down to date -- you ask the song countless times (with an outfield fence-sized grin across your face), "What did you just do, song? You just faked me out of my shoes again, you rapscallion."
The Daytrotter interview:
*Did you learn your lesson about bar-menu spinach dip from your visit here? Was that the first time you almost didn't make it off stage to vomit? It would have been so rock star though.*
Aaron Deer: I've learned many lessons about bar food and yet I always seem to stumble into something like that when we're traveling. It tasted fine, so I didn't think anything of it at the time. Three songs into the set I realized there was a situation. I tried my best to hold it off until we were done, but I think we cut one or two right at the end. The stage was carpeted, so I didn't want to make a mess.
*You mentioned how sometimes you felt bad selling copies of "A Sea As A Shore" at shows because you thought people would be disappointed they didn't hear what they just heard in you live. There really is a dramatic change in sound though, isn't there?*
AD: Other than the name, its not really the same project. The first record was just a batch of songs I was working on at the time that weren't used for the Shapes record The Current. When Secretly Canadian decided to release it on its own, I thought I would do my part and play a few shows. At the same time, Shelley was starting to play the drums more and we just decided to try doing interpretations of the songs as a two-piece, drums and keys. It turned out way different and we followed in the new direction. It's much more exciting for me personally and it gives distinction between us and other related projects.
*On the song "New Astrals," which dogs/animals do you think Shelley and Elaina are trying to mimic?*
AD: I'm not sure, but whatever it is, it dwells in the nether regions of outer space.
*Why have Horns of Happiness? Why does Chris (Barth) have Normanoak? Why does Mark (Rice) have Magnolia Electric Co.? Why don't you three just make Impossible Shapes your entire focus?*
AD: I think this is just based on the type of people that all of us, in these bands, are. Everyone has outside interests that are non-music related and we all try to stay busy. We probably could make any one of the projects more successful by putting all of our attention on it. To me, its seems to add pressure and lower excitement. Plus, we get to release three or four times as much music as if we were one band. Its a scam we believe in heartily.
*Does everyone just enjoy their time to do other things too much? With a band name like yours, you must have other bands, maybe less happy ones as your nemesis-like adversaries. Isn't this right? Does anyone ever take the band name to mean something crude and sexual?*
AD: We have yet to come across our nemesis, but we know they're out there. In answer to your second question, I believe most people we come across will look into any name for a crude or sexual meaning. This is America.
*Is the next touring you're going to be doing probably going to be with Impossible Shapes? Do you only see only certain seasons as a Shape and others specifically as a Horn? For instance, do you experience spring and fall with the Shapes and summer and winter as a Horn, or vice versa?*
AD: There hasn't been a conscious effort to seasonalize the touring, though I think we do try to alternate. You would have to add the Magnolia schedule to truly understand how we organize things. I think the Horns sound better when strawberries are in season.
*What's the worst accident you've ever had on the road?*
AD: Van-wise, minimal to none. Personally, I have endured such trials as being mugged for a piece of pizza and towed while sleeping in the van. All have made for good stories at parties.
*Have you had any good schemes or capers lately?*
AD: Not as many as I would like. If I could only find a way to work less and scheme more, I think I would be satisfied. Also, refer to question number 2.
*Elaina told me that she's not really in the band anymore. Is that true? Have you found someone to replace her? Why did Elaina leave? Is Shelley still having tough?*
AD: Yes, it is true that Elaina is not in the band anymore, which is disappointing because it worked so well musically, I think. Much like everyone else that we work with, Elaina has projects and ideas she wants to see realized that she wasn't fulfilling with us. All is well and Shelley and I are doing fine after our return to two-piecedom. We are in no hurry to find someone else at the time being.
*How did you start thinking in such fucked up song structures?*
AD: We've made an effort from the beginning of playing together that we want to keep people on their toes. There's not much more I appreciate in a song than being surprised about its direction. Too much music these days is very predictable. We are happy to avoid that scene.
*Have you been playing piano longer than you've played bass?*
AD: Technically, yes. Piano was the first instrument I started playing as a child, but like most, I found it difficult to focus myself enough to continue. I came back to it about a decade later and was surprised how much I remembered.
*What's something about your childhood that you still think about a lot?*
AD: The first house I lived in from birth to age 3 1/2. My memories of it seem to be fading and I cannot connect any of the dots. It now seems like a clip show.
*Is Deer your real last name or did you assume it for it's showbiz feel?*
AD: It is my real name. I wouldn't know where to begin the process of trying to do something like that. Shelley has talked about it. June Panic did it. I could just ask him.
*How does Horns of Happiness rank in importance in your life compared with your other projects?*
AD: It is as important to me as they all are. There is just, naturally, more involvement and interest in the bands because they are larger, more time-consuming projects. I love both bands as much as the sandwich I made this afternoon; which is a lot.
*What else do you do in your free time?*
AD: Run an art space/music venue, work full-time as a cook, socialize, and generally try to give everyone the impression that I'm more responsible than I really am.
*Has Chris (Barth of the Impossible Shapes) ever put a spell on you? He could you know?*
AD: Chris and I have an unspoken understanding between each other.
*Have you resolved to do anything special this year?*
AD: Not do anything in haste just because others are.