John McCauley, singer-guitarist of Deer Tick, is a Newport Folk Festival veteran. Last year, he even acquired a special moniker from a great influence of his. "Ramblin' Jack gave me a nickname last year: 'Captain Tipsy.' I was particularly tipsy, so we had that moment," he recalls. "I think I snuck in a bunch of liquor."
McCauley sat down with Rolling Stone backstage at Newport last weekend to discuss the future of Deer Tick. The band plans to record after they make a grand tour of Europe, which includes a visit to Portugal for the first time. "We are going to go to Europe and do some festivals there, but I'm eager to work on some new material, personally," he explained. "We want to rework stuff."
The singer noted that his writing process is mostly spontaneous. "I just kind of wait around and when I feel like writing, I'll write, but I've never forced myself to write. Different songs come from different places," he said. "The good ones, I usually get the lyrics and the music done at the same time. The not-so-good ones, I write the music and the lyrics separately. If I could just sit down and get a song done in one sitting, that's usually when I feel most accomplished."
Deer Tick tend to cover the artists who have influenced them. "We have done entire sets of Nirvana songs before; that was a tribute, and we weren't trying to put our own spin on it," he explained of the group's popular 'Deervana' live act. "Nirvana is my favorite band."
Kurt and the gang have competition in McCauley's heart, though. McCauley is covered with tattoos and, when asked about them, he smiles and explained in turn, "That's Lick Broccoli. It's California Raisins' arch-nemesis. Here's Banana White. I love the California Raisins. They are my favorite band."
Ian O'Neil, Deer Tick's guitarist, blurted out, "I thought Nirvana was your favorite."
John grinned. "Well, they were my favorite."