The songs are spacious — airy vocals float atop lovely, languid melodies and gentle percussion, adorned with softly-swelling synths and thoughtfully-plucked fiddle and mandolin. It’s a sound that compels comparisons to both songwriting principals like Fleetwood Mac, Neko Case, or Mazzy Star as well as indie folk contemporaries like Jade Bird, Haley Heynderickx, or Shannon Lay. The Deer have formed a breed of indie folk entirely uninhibited, all its own, and absolutely captivating. From Austin, they are borne of a densely creative atmosphere and stand out with their versatile and accessible sound. Members include frontwoman Grace Rowland (The Blue Hit), upright bassist Jesse Dalton (MilkDrive, Green Mountain Grass), guitarist Michael McLeod (Good Field, Linklater film composer), drummer Alan Eckert (Dimitri’s Ascent, A Live One), and string player Noah Jeffries (MilkDrive, South Austin Jug Band). Frequent collaborator Roger Sellers (Bayonne) also adds some of his touch to their songwriting and production.
What began as the solo recording project of singer/songwriter Grace Rowland (formerly Grace Park), the group formed its core membership in 2012 under the band name Grace Park & The Deer, and released “An Argument for Observation.” The songs have a dark, folky feel; eerily lilting melodies with unexpected subjects like stalking, mysterious neighbors, and violent clashes. Through the recording process they found a spark lit by natural chemistry, on and off the stage, and they began performing and touring together with alternating guests – some of whom ended up becoming permanent members. Grace’s screen-printed cover art would later be a finalist for Austin Music Industry Awards’ Best Album Art for 2014.
In 2013 they suffered the devastating loss of dear friend and band member Stephanie Bledsoe to an accident on her farm. The group galvanized under the name The Deer, and collaborated on songs dedicated to her memory for their second release, “On the Essence of the Indomitable Spirit” (2015). Dark with a tinge of hope, it features special guests Dennis Ludiker (Asleep at the Wheel), Roger Sellers (Bayonne), Trevor Smith (Wood & Wire), Karl Kummerle, and Noah Jeffries (MilkDrive). With a maturing sound, The Deer were runners-up for the Austin Music Awards’ Best Performing Folk Band that year, and began touring more frequently.
Their 2016 album Tempest & Rapture marries their brand of moody Southern Gothic with symphonic psychedelia. It’s split into two stylistic realms: the first side is rooted in muddy folk and surf-country, and the other side wanders far out in a dream-pop and psych-rock wilderness – all with their distinctly curious and incantational poetic content printed within. It’s their largest album, boasting 17 tracks on gorgeous 180-gm bottle-green vinyl; a double LP to house its gigantic sound. It saw the return of guest collaborator Roger Sellers, and guest string players Dennis Ludiker and Noah Jeffries (who would soon become a full-on Deer). The jacket design by Grace Rowland features her cut-paper artwork, and ranked among Austin Music Industry Awards’ Top 5 Best Album Art category last year. The Deer were also runners-up a second time for the Austin Music Awards’ Best Folk Band.
The Deer released Do No Harm November 1, 2019 on Keeled Scales / Secretly Distribution. The band share a home with the critically acclaimed indie label — Austin, Texas — where they’ve been honored by Austin Music Awards as Best Performing Folk Act and Runner Up: Best Austin Band. On the new LP, it’s easy to hear why. Though genre-fluidity and sonic experimentation are at the core of The Deer’s work, their new LP lays down distinction with a graceful thump — a beautiful, confident conclusion of audial explorations. You can hear where they’ve been, and where they’re headed.