Listening to Deerhoof on an iPod Shuffle

Hannah Rainey (Shady Bug) pays tribute to the band’s now-10-year-old album Offend Maggie.

When I was in high school, I felt like I was too cool and too lame at the same time to talk to anyone. I was really shy until I felt like I could trust or connect; I was a band nerd wearing Keds decorated with sharpie (which I eventually got Silversun Pickups to sign, lol). In the hallways in between class, I would listen to my iPod Shuffle (and then later my purple iPod Nano after Hanukkah 2008), and jam out to MIA, Fleet Foxes, Bright Eyes, and Sufjan. On my family desktop computer in the living room, I loved checking out new bands on blogs after school and religiously listened to Daytrotter sessions.

Remember when iTunes released a free song every week for different genres? I was obsessed! Deerhoof had a free track on an Alternative playlist called “81” in 2007, and I downloaded it. I had never heard of them, but was I immediately struck by the vocal style and unexpected heavy and soft dynamic range. I learned from the internet that a new album by Deerhoof was expected in 2008, and I was so excited.

My local St. Louis record store Vintage Vinyl has been in the same spot since I can remember, in the Delmar Loop. I’d go there with my dad or my older sisters and browse CDs and listen to new arrivals on big headphones at the listening station. I felt very cool. Afterwards, we would go to the greasy Chinese place down the street and eat fried rice and drink orange sodas. This dirty, grungy, “hip” Loop I used to know is now clean and shiny — it’s the spot for St. Louis tourists or people from the “county” to eat overpriced burgers and buy expensive shoes. But anyway, this is where I bought Deerhoof’s Offend Maggie on CD. Just as I had hoped, this album became one of my favorites. I listened to it non-stop and let my friends borrow it so they could rip it onto their computers.  

I’d put the CD into my parents’ stereo system and turn it up while they were still at work. The title track really resonated with me, maybe because the plucked guitar part with pull-offs reminded me of the music I was learning at the time in my classical guitar lessons. By 2008, I had been playing classical guitar for five-ish years, learning solo pieces and playing in a teen guitar ensemble. I wouldn’t play an electric guitar on stage in a band until 2016, and I’m kind of ashamed it took me that long to get the courage. “Offend Maggie” is a major influence on me musically, although I didn’t realize I too could be in a band like that until years later.  

To hear a record that wasn’t all serious, with songs that changed textures and dynamics was really refreshing. Each track changes vibes and even switched between guitar styles. Sometimes the guitars play heavy, electric, catchy riffs like on track one, “The Tears and Music of Love;” other times they incorporate simple acoustic guitar, like in the 50 second track “Don’t Get Born.” The sixth track is “Basketball Get Your Groove Back,” a funny song about playing champions, making rebounds, and doing “bunny jumps” while the music pushes and pulls and pauses. There is a sense of uneasiness and artfulness of the record. Granted, they had been playing music together for almost 15 years at this point, but it seems like they were always creating and trying to make something new and exciting.

The vocals were the most compelling part of the record for me, even though I couldn’t tell exactly what the singer was saying. Her style was sometimes very sharp and staccato, and then other times melodic and smooth. I later found out the singer — Satomi Matsuzaki — was Japanese. She’d moved to the US in 1995 and immediately became the lead singer of a rock band. I adored her! Even though it was hard to make out the lyrics, I sang along to songs like “Buck and Judy” and “Fresh Born” everyday after school, making up the words I couldn’t comprehend. Later when I looked up the lyrics, I realized she was singing in English, but her way with words was kind of unusual and silly. “Fresh Born” is about a baby fawn taking its first steps after its birth — according to, Satomi sings:

Mini body S.O.S. dotty
Downy hairy tip toeing moony
Tiny hoofies bend oh bend bonny
Puffy butty stand up now waggy

The syllables sound so pleasing and bouncy with the rhythm. I love that she wrote about a cute baby animal, but it doesn’t even matter what the song is about — the words seem to act as another layer of the music, a sweet sound weaving in and out of chaotic rock guitars. Some people listen to songs for the lyrics, but Satomi’s vocals are an equally important part of the composition in an abstract, poetic, and textural way.

Years later, I got to see Deerhoof live at Middle of the Map fest in 2013. It was at 12 AM in Kansas City after seeing Grizzly Bear across town, and my bf at the time — on crutches from a skateboarding injury — was too exhausted to go to Deerhoof. He was being nice to me, I guess, because he let me go while he slept in the car. Hearing my favorite songs live was magical; I jumped and danced and sang. I saw them one more time in 2016 at a festival in St. Louis sponsored by Monsanto that was advertised horribly. They were expecting thousands of people and only about 200 people came, taking up 1/16 of a giant gravel field, which, sort of luckily, allowed me to stand very close. The best part was when they covered “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” which was insane! They are rock gods to me. I cling to my CD copy of Offend Maggie tightly and proudly.

(Photo Credit: left, Mabel Suen)

Hannah Rainey is a musician based in St. Louis, Missouri. She sings and plays guitar in Shady Bug who recently released their sophomore album, Lemon Lime, on Exploding In Sound Records.