The New Deal | Interview with Darren Shearer

FDR, Laundry, and Sore Glutes – Darren Shearer of the New Deal

Contributing Writer – Garret K. Woodward [TheRFW.com/blog/Garret]

Falling through the cracks of the music industry, there are a handful of mesmerizing groups who seem to vanish into thin air after a breakthrough album or never-ending year of touring.

Peter Prince & Moon Boot Lover, RAQ, and Particle are prime instances of bands following a path of success, but, for reasons unknown at the time, veer off course and into the dark abyss until, finally, they rise from the depths and back into the public spotlight.

On the heels of their latest release, Live: Toronto 7.16.2009 (SCI Fidelity Records), electronica sensation the New Deal will resurface from hibernation and ride the rails on their largest and most ambitious trek to date.

The tour, which slingshots from Colorado to North Carolina, will showcase the trio sharing the bill with the likes of Toubab Krewe, King Britt, and Brothers Past.

With 800 performances and counting (over the last 10 years), percussionist Darren Shearer looks forward to another decade of improvisation and innovation.

What is the New Deal?

The New Deal was a series of economic programs passed by the U.S. Congress during the first term of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President of the United from 1933 to 1938. It’s also three Canadians who wanted to play electronic music live and reclaim the dance floor during the heavily DJ-saturated era of the late 90’s. We were one of the first to do so and it is so amazing to see how many acts out there are creating with the same sensibilities now.

If someone had never heard of you, how would you describe the sound? Who are the influences?

Our sound is pretty much it’s own thing, but we started off playing down-tempo trip-hop kind of stuff but moved into drum and bass, Progressive house and techno as the crowds got bigger and wanted to rock the dance floor a bit more. We’re now definitely in an “electro” era, which I think could best be described as more minimal and funky than progressive house but with more bottled up intensity.

What does improvisational music mean to you? How does it affect your approach to the band?

Improvisation has always had a bit of a stigma or fixed concept in the musical world, associated with endless guitar solos or jazz free for alls. In the New Deal it’s never been about that. It’s always been about creating real songs, sets and shows, in the moment but not relying on the usual  “whatever happens is cool” approach to a lot of improvised music. It’s actually quite methodical and strategic. And the audience plays a huge role in what will unfold.  I’m constantly looking out at them and seeing where they’re at and where we should be.

How did come the New Deal about? When? Where? Why?

In the 90′s, we all played in acid-jazz and funk based bands and we’re just a bit sick of it as a genre. We were all listening to electronic music, Pepe Bradock, Banco de Gaia, Portishead, Eric Morillo, etcetera, and we wanted to do that live. I came from playing hip hop and breaks for years, Jamie had an amazing ability to spread himself over many keyboards and had awesome natural rhythm, helping him emulate sequences manually and Dan was very interested right away at taking the bass instrument to new places, sonically. So it just worked. Our first real gig was recorded in front of about 10 people and became our first record “This Is Live”. It’s been one of our biggest selling records to date.

What are you thoughts on the current music industry? How do you want the New Deal to be different, or contribute to the evolution?

Currently, the New Deal doesn’t really involve itself in the music industry per se. We go out and play our shows to our fans and make new ones via word-of-mouth. We’re not really reliant on mainstream channels to get our music out there. But that doesn’t mean that I’m a grassroots naturalist when it comes to promotion. We’re stepping into a new realm and putting together plans to take the band into a much broader audience and I’m very excited about that.

How do you stay relevant in the electronica scene, a genre often diluted and over saturated?

I think that the electronic music scene used to be way over saturated with music that was not all necessarily good, but it’s become a lot more refined and the audiences are a lot more selective and discerning now. I think that it’s stopped being this novel thing and has really moved into a stable place of growth. Wow, I sound like I’m reading a quarterly statement for a financial company. But the idea is pretty much the same.

How receptive have audiences been to your creation onstage?

Amazing. And they continue to follow us on this crazy journey that we started in 1998.

What are you feeling onstage? What’s going through your head? Where do you go?
I think about my laundry and what I will be watching when I get back to the hotel. Seriously, creating a great show requires a perfect balance between thinking ahead, being in the moment, and learning from the past all in a two-and-a-half-hour window.

You latest release is a live album from Toronto. Why that show? What do you remember about it that made it stick out?

Once in a while, we’ll reflect on a show that we thought was really good. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that it was the best show that night. Sometimes those shows don’t translate very well onto disc and you end up with something a little too intense for your morning drive to work. But our Toronto shows are a little more bridled for some reason, so this one worked well on record.

800 shows under your belt and 10 albums. What do those numbers mean to you? Did you ever think it’d go this far?

I had no idea. If you had told me that this little project that we started in Toronto in 1998 in front of ten people in a crappy bar in Toronto would be playing to hundreds of thousands of people all over the world 12 years later, I would have thought that you were talking about some other band. It has been quite amazing. And what I love the best is that the band continues to get better. As do our audiences.

What do you like or dislike about being on the road? What’s your dream venue to play?

The waiting around is the worst. That’s why they invented laptops. My dream was to play Red Rocks, and we did that last year. Next one? Maybe somewhere in China? Germany?

What do you want the listener to ultimately witness or walk away with when they see you perform?

I want them to walk away with sore glutes.

What’s on the horizon for the band?

Some new recorded material and continued sonic expansion from where we are now.

Thoughts on your next performance?
I hope I’m not late. That would be bad.

the New Deal – Fall 2010 Tour

11/03/10 Pittsburgh, PA – Mr. Small’s Theatre (w/ Two Fresh & Mimosa)
11/04/10 Scranton, PA – Eleanor Rigby’s (w/ Eclectic Method)
11/05/10 Charlottesville, VA – Jefferson Theater (w/Toubab Krewe)
11/06/10 Baltimore, MD – Bourbon Street (w/ Toubab Krewe)
11/09/10 Blacksburg, VA – Attitudes (w/ Eclectic Method)
11/10/10 Knoxville, TN – The Valarium (w/ Toubab Krewe)
11/11/10 Athens, GA – New Earth Music Hall
11/12/10 Asheville, NC – The Orange Peel
11/13/10 Live Oak, FL – Bear Creek Music Festival