Deerhunter's Bradford Cox On Making Music In Trying Times: 'I'm Just Screaming Out Loud' The Georgia-based rock band releases its eighth studio album, Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?, on Jan. 18.
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Deerhunter's Bradford Cox On Making Music In Trying Times: 'I'm Just Screaming Out Loud'

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Deerhunter's Bradford Cox On Making Music In Trying Times: 'I'm Just Screaming Out Loud'

Deerhunter's Bradford Cox On Making Music In Trying Times: 'I'm Just Screaming Out Loud'

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SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

The popular indie rock band Deerhunter is back with a new album titled "Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?" It's an eclectic record written by a pretty cerebral guy, the band's frontman, Bradford Cox. We spoke with Cox about what was going through his head when he wrote the album. And he took us on a winding path that gave us insight into, not just the songs but himself. We started with the song "Plains."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PLAINS")

DEERHUNTER: (Singing) I was listening to the trains. I was up all night, and something glistened in the strange blood-diffused light. My friend was missing.

BRADFORD COX: Well, it's actually - the song's roots were a sort of stream-of-consciousness demo that I made at home years ago. And it kind of reminds me of sort of like a garage rock kind of song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PLAINS")

DEERHUNTER: (Singing) Oh, James. You've got no reason to stir...

MCCAMMON: Much of Deerhunter's new album was produced in the small artsy town of Marfa, Texas. It's a haven for coastal hipsters who fly in for art and music festivals. It also served as the backdrop to James Dean's final movie "Giant," which Cox said inspired this track.

COX: I thought of this song "Plains," which is quite sad. It's quite a melancholy song, but it didn't really have a total context. I guess being in Marfa, I was reminded quite a lot of - there's this sort of haunted - I don't know - feeling about James Dean's last stand, you know?

MCCAMMON: And those darker themes can also be felt throughout Cox's work.

COX: I think, you know, if you look at Deerhunter's catalog, it's impossible to ignore morbid depression and anxiety. I mean, I think it's just - I think it's something that I levitated toward music to work out. And, certainly, you know, on this album, it comes from listening to, you know, the news and being surrounded by a sense of more common and universal unease. It's not just in my head anymore.

MCCAMMON: I asked about another track, "Death In Midsummer," which paints a picture of a place where workers struggle to carve out a living in factories and what the song describes as poisoned hills.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DEATH IN MIDSUMMER")

DEERHUNTER: (Singing) There was a voice that called me. There was a light that burned me.

COX: This song, really, to me, is not a political song as much as it might seem. It's more of a song about the people who are caught - the people that suffer the consequences of these political push-and-shoves, which is - I guess is particularly poignant at this moment, where the government's shutdown, and a lot of people are kind of caught in the crossfire.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DEATH IN MIDSUMMER")

DEERHUNTER: (Singing) ...They just fade away. Some worked the hills...

MCCAMMON: Cox likes to talk in abstractions. But when I asked about the sense of fading away that permeates his work, he got a lot more specific and pointed back to his childhood, which was marked by serious illness.

COX: I spent a lot of time in hospitals growing up. I was born with the disease - a genetic disease, a mutation called Marfan syndrome. And so I spent a great deal of time in and out of children's hospitals, and I had spinal surgery. I had chest surgery. I had a lot of - and I just remembered, you know, being 16. And that's the time you're supposed to be, you know, getting into trouble and driving, getting your driver's license. And, you know, the summer of your 16th year is supposed to be this magical time. And I just remember spending it on the edge of consciousness, constantly on morphine and epidurals, you know, catheters being changed and just a completely desexualizing and, mentally, very disturbed and uncertain states.

And I think, ever since then, I've been traumatized. I think one of my biggest fears is consciousness fading. I cannot stand when I go to bed at night that weird - in between sleep and wake, I hate it. I just - I could throw up thinking about it, you know?

MCCAMMON: I mean, 16 is a really crucial age when a lot is happening, and you're kind of crossing over I think for a lot of people from young person to adult.

COX: Yeah. I was completely derailed. I fell off the bridge.

MCCAMMON: How do you think that, I mean, shaped you going forward?

COX: Well, I think it protected me from a lot of things. It protected me from a lot of emotional injury. I certainly never tried to have any relationships because I was sort of desexualized. I was unsexed by it all, you know? Having nurses poking and prodding at you kind of makes you hate your body. And, you know, I don't mean to sound overly dramatic. I also, you know, was quite privileged to be in a country where I could receive the medical attention I needed, even if it did nearly bankrupt my parents.

MCCAMMON: Yeah, I wanted to ask - I mean, you said you were sort of desexualized as a teenager, and I guess relationship's not really on the table. I mean, you're an adult now. Has that changed?

COX: Oh, certainly not. But I'm very happy. I'm very satisfied, you know? The things that bring me a lot of joy are vacuuming and cleaning things, simple tasks, my dog. My dog brings me more joy than I can describe. And as Duke Ellington said, music is my mistress.

MCCAMMON: Deerhunter's new album "Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?" is out January 18. But before I let him go, Bradford Cox apologized for his accent, which didn't exactly remind me of his native Georgia.

COX: I've been watching all these John Huston movies at night to unwind. And so the only thing I can do to unwind is watch, like, Humphrey Bogart. And you have the villain come in. He's - well, I suppose you think you've got it figured out, don't you, you know? I just can't help - I can't help it. I always mimic whatever it is I'm exposing myself most to at the moment.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NO ONE'S SLEEPING")

DEERHUNTER: (Singing) No one's sleeping. Great unrest in the country...

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