There are moments in indie-punk band Deerhoof’s long-spanning discography in which a song sounds like it’s completely fallen apart, with scattered piano notes and odd sounds, only to launch back in with an impeccably catchy, poppy tune. Singer Satomi Matsuzaki’s high-pitched, singsong voice is an entirely distinctive and refreshing experience for anyone seeking something a little different from your typical indie-pop structure. There can be no mistake when you are listening to a Deerhoof song; you know you’re listening to a Deerhoof song! I spoke with guitarist John Dieterich about his adopted hometown of Albuquerque, where chile is a way of life and “bandwiches” are made with homemade tortillas.
You’re pretty happily based in Albuquerque at the moment. Where are three great places to eat?
If you want to do New Mexico food, and you should if you’re here, you have to ask yourself: red or green? Do you want the red chile or the green chile? I can never choose, so I get both, which is called “Christmas.” My personal number-one favorite place is called Duran’s. It’s a restaurant inside of a pharmacy with incredibly good food. I always get the huevos rancheros, which reminds me in some ways of a really good pizza — there’s not that much going on, but for some reason they mastered the micro-proportions so it comes out basically as a perfect food. Another great place for super old-school New Mexico-style cuisine is [James Beard Award-winning] Mary and Tito’s. It’s been around for a long time for a reason. Then 20 miles north of Albuquerque towards Santa Fe is San Filipe Pueblo. Right when you get off the highway there’s a gas station with a restaurant, and the chile there is some of the best in the universe. It’s incredibly hot, and you have to get fry bread, calabacitas and blue-corn porridge.
Is the food different from what you expected when you moved there from San Francisco?
Yes, I expected Tex-Mex, where it’s kind of all bathed in cheese, but it’s really different here. The sauces also don’t have any citrus, so if you get a red chile sauce there’s no tang. It’s just a really intense chile taste. It’s quite different, much more earthy in character.
Do you have a favorite global food city?
At this point the tempting answer is Albuquerque, even though it’s not really a global city, because you can’t get this food anywhere else. In Portland there’s one New Mexican truck. One place that actually strikes me is Melbourne. It’s similar to California cuisine. They’re obsessed with good local ingredients in the same way, and there’s definitely something special about it.
What’s the most adventurous dish you’ve eaten lately?
It was in Tokyo at this one Okinawan restaurant — we actually were just in Okinawa, but this place is in Tokyo and has this extra-extra fermented tofu they serve in tiny blocks. I don’t know how long it’s fermented, but it’s really thick and intense. The one we had was fermented with fruit, and you take little tiny bites with sake. They also make a peanut tofu, which is good, plus a seaweed that’s hard to describe — it has these little globes that pop in your mouth.
Who’s the best cook in the band?
Satomi. The first meal I ate that she cooked was in 1999. I went over to her place for spaghetti, and it kind of changed my life. She likes her spaghetti really al dente, and I loved it. It actually had texture and wasn’t completely covered in tomato sauce. There was just a tiny hint so you could really taste the pasta. She’s an incredibly good cook and also makes Japanese food.
What’s something cool you’ve learned about Japanese food?
We’ve been to Japan so many times together. So much of my knowledge of Japanese food comes as a result of being friends with Satomi. Japanese food is so meticulous; the smallest details differentiate one food from another or one sauce from another, and all of them have their place. To me, that was really interesting.
If it’s 3 a.m., what are you eating?
Because I’m asleep, probably my tongue. The obvious answer is a slice of pizza cause it’s easy and it’s fast. We played at Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, and there’s a place we’ve always gone for the last 12 years called…I somehow don’t know the name, to be honest. But just a slice of cheese pizza. That’s what I want.
What’s on your tour rider? What’s the most essential thing on there?
I’m not exaggerating at all: We request “a small amout of carrot sticks.” Like, a soup bowl with 10 to 15 carrot sticks. If you put “carrots” on there, you’ll get huge bags of carrots. We’ll eat maybe 10, then there’s carrots floating around the van and they go bad. Every other day we have chips and salsa; the other days we have hummus. I actually think we may have taken hummus off. There’s also a small amount of berries, four coconut waters, then I believe it’s two beers. No specifications. We’re thinking of getting rid of the rider entirely — we can get our own carrot sticks.
Any travel tips for bands who are always on the road?
1. Don’t eat anything at the gas station, ever. Never. The exception being cashews or trail mix, maybe. But that was something I didn’t know for years, not even noticing I was eating garbage because you’re driving six hours a day. Bring stuff with you, too. We toured with Experimental Dental School, who brought a juicer with them and made incredible juices — kale and fruit combos. I think they brought a rice cooker, too. If you have a rice cooker you can put in a bunch of vegetables, whatever you want, and have extremely good, healthy meals.
2. Regardless of what your fashion sensibility might be, always have a show outfit that you put on before you play. You’re going to get supersweaty, but you can take it off after you play so even if you don’t have laundry for weeks, during the day at least you don’t smell to high heaven. That also took us a long time to discover.
3. In general, eat way too much Thai food because you can always find something for everyone, and it’s good. We have two vegetarians, two vegans and an omnivore in the van, so it’s tricky finding a place to please everyone. You can be in the middle of nowhere, Montana, and you’d be surprised — there’s always a Thai restaurant.
4. If you’re going to be jet-lagged, avoid caffeine (which I don’t) and alcohol. Don’t drink and fly — you’ll feel like total garbage. If you drink water, your body can deal with a lot, even if you’re not sleeping enough or in the greatest environment. Water’s your filtration system; if you don’t give your body that, you’re going to feel terrible.
5. We drive ourselves on U.S. tours, but I do about 90 percent of the driving. I like it, and there’s this aspect to being alert and awake but not having the ability to do all the other things I’d be doing if I weren’t driving. It forces me to think abstractly about my life, and I can dream for hours. But the advice is to all have your little stations. We travel in a minivan, five of us including our sound person, with all of our gear and merch. We all have our little corners set out — this person’s watching a movie, this person’s sleeping. It’s nice to have this little space you know is yours.
You just invented a sandwich called La Isla Bonita. What’s in it?
It’s going to be a torta. [Guitarist] Ed’s mom makes homemade tortillas, which she sends him in boxes, so he receives boxes of hundreds of homemade tortillas every month or two. They’re incredible, and they’re quite thick. So the sandwich has two of those, some black beans refritos on there, then you roast squash and onions and put that on top, then chopped cilantro. I’ll make it non-vegan, cause it’s more fun for me. On top of that you put queso Oaxaca shredded up, plus pickled jalapeños, then you grill it, and it’ll look like an island too, because of the two tortillas.
Check out “Exit Only” from the band’s new album, La Isla Bonita, out now on Polyvinyl Records.
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