Bay Area art-roc kers Deerhoof have crafted some of the most critically acclaimed pop of the decade and built a growing cult with unpredictable, ADD-inducing sounds the All Music guide calls “by turns cuddly and chaotic.”
And for all practical purposes, it all started at Olympia’s Capitol Theater.
The band will return there on Sunday, for the first time since Kill Rock Stars founder Slim Moon signed it after a serendipitous 1995 appearance at the Yo Yo A Go Go festival.
“That Olympia show, everything about it was just pure luck,” said drummer Ed Saunier. “I’m really looking forward to playing in the Capitol Theater again. It was really amazing.”
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Sunday’s lineup will feature Saunier and multi-instrumentalists Satomi Matsuzaki, John Dietrich and Ed Rodriguez. But back in 1995, it was just he and bassist Rob Fisk, the leftover rhythm section from short-lived San Francisco outfit Nitre Pit.
“That was the band that got booked to play the (Yo Yo A Go Go) festival. Then the band broke up between the booking and the actual date of the show,” Saunier recalls, laughing.
He and Fisk had only met shortly before the show and had little in common musically. “But one thing that we seemed to be able to find some meeting ground on was basically just bashing our instruments as hard as possible and turning everything up all the way.”
That made them square pegs on a round bill Saunier recalls being heavy on mellow “love rock.” At least, they found some kinship with Godheadsilo, a noise-rock duo that influenced Deerhoof’s initial aesthetic.
And an up-and-coming Beck played post-modern folk from his lone K Records release “One Foot in the Grave.”
The duo didn’t draw the biggest crowd at that year’s festival, but it impressed Moon enough that he invited it to record a 7-inch single.
A full-length record, “The Man, the King, the Girl,” followed in 1997.
“Our first two albums, I think, probably were last and second to last in terms of the sales ranks for the label,” Saunier said. “I’m just eternally grateful and can’t believe how loyal they were to us, even as we were doing nothing but losing them a bunch of money.”
On Monday, Deerhoof will headline the Vera Project in Seattle, another city that has a special place in Saunier’s heart. It’s there where Matsuzaki played her first show with the band in 1996.
“I feel really connected to the Pacific Northwest and have since basically the very beginning of the band,” he said. “I just feel like it clicks when we play there. And I feel almost more at home playing in cities like Portland and Seattle than I do playing in our supposed home of San Francisco where it still feels like a little bit of a gamble or something. I really like it up there.”
Saunier promised at least one new song for his band’s Northwest appearances. He was interviewed the day Deerhoof debuted “Escaped Bird” at a show in Nebraska.
“We’re on our way to Omaha, at the end of a 26-hour drive,” Saunier said, elaborating on how he was putting the time to good use. “Basically, we just recorded all of our new songs for a new album, and I’m holding John’s laptop in my lap and mixing it through the car stereo.”
He was at a loss how to describe his band’s ambiguous new sounds.
“This time we set out to do an album that had no guitars and no drums, and I can say that we failed at that,” he said, laughing. “But I can’t say yet what we ended up doing. The day we send it off to the factory will be the day we realize, you know, what we’ve done – and sometimes even after that.”
What: Deerhoof plays with AU and Parenthetical Girls in Olympia, and the Donkeys and Southeast Engine in Seattle.
When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday and Monday
Where: Capitol Theater, 206 Fifth Ave. S.E., in Olympia on Sunday; the Vera Project, 305 Harrison St., in Seattle on Monday
Tickets: $8 to $10 in Olympia, $13 in Seattle
Information: 360-754-6670 (Olympia show); 206-956-8372 (Seattle show)