Tonight a 19 strong army of Congolese and Western musicians will come together to destroy the Barbican and all its inhabitants. Daniel Offen caught up with Deerhoof and Wildbirds & Peacedrums, two of the artists involved with the Congotronics vs Rockers band, to find out more about the project.


Wildbirds and Peacedrums, with their percussive, experimental sound are one of the most individual, and unique bands out there. Having released two great albums, the band have become involved in the Congotronics Vs Rockers project, a creation of a huge band out of many different bands, such as Deerhoof, Juana Molina, Konono N°1, Kasai Allstars, and Matt Mehlan. An exciting project we can all agree. I spoke to the band about their involvement within this, among other things.

You are performing at the Congotronics Vs Rockers event, how do you feel your music fits in with idea behind the show?

Since we manly work with just percussion and voice there's a lot of space in our music. So it's been easy to make new stretched out versions of our songs. It's also based a lot on energy which suits us perfect.

How have you found working in such a large assembly of musicians?

It's been fantastic and frustrating at the same time. It's been a slow process because everyone can't speak to each other, and there has been no artistic leader so everything has pretty much been made up just by jamming and playing together. Everyone has participated almost equally to create the music.

How did you become involved in the project?

We were asked in the beginning of this year to join - when we heard who was in the project it sounded like a dream. All of our favourites, and we're in it. Luckily it fit our schedule almost perfectly so it was a big yes.

You've played with Deerhoof a number of times before, do you consider yourselves to be similar in style to the group?

Kind of yes - we've always admired their freedom and their explosive performances - I guess we're aiming for a similar way to play regular songs but with a lot of freedom in it.

Are you working on new material?

Not right now, we've been busy playing our latest record Rivers. We've performed this material with both choirs and organ players around the world. After a planned brake we're hoping to get lost in the process of next record this winter.

Do you feel you have crafted a very unique sound?

We do what we can with what we have. It has somehow ended up in a special place with a special sound and approach.

Would you consider your music experimental?

We experiment a lot with different sound and songs structures but it all comes down to the beat and the melody so, even if it sounds "experimental" we just try to write catchy tunes with the instruments we can play.

Do you consider stripped down basics, and simplicity to be a big part of your music?

Yes, from the beginning it's always been about to find the core in the music and for us to strip down and take away as much as possible is the key. Music has to breathe and you have to let the listener be a part of the music.

Are there any extra challenges you have encountered working as a duo?

The limitations are both our strength and weakness. You still have all the individual freedom to play as you like without being in the way for someone but it puts a a lot more pressure on you at the same time. You have to 100% focused all the time. otherwise it'll fall.

Are there any new bands you are particularly excited about?

We had this amazing support band on the US west coast recently - Therapies Son. They're recording their first album now and I can't wait for that to come out.




Deerhoof have been around for a long time now, the triumphant Deerhoof Vs Evil was their tenth album. The band, however, has not lost any of the youthful energy and weirdness that made them great. As well as releasing an album, the band have re-issued one of their past greats (Milkman), played in an ATP don't look back event, and become involved with in the Congotronics Vs Rockers project. It's an exciting time to be a Deerhoof fan, and we were delighted to ask the band a number of questions.

You recently released a new album, Deerhoof Vs Evil, are you proud of it?

Haha, ask me again in about five years. Or 10. You can lose perspective on something if it's the only thing you listen to for half a year.

What was the thought process behind the title?

The thought process? Oh, it would be so great if we could use a thought process. But for us ideas don't come that way. They come from out of nowhere. At unpredictable times in an unpredictable manner.

You have a reputation of having a diverse set of work, do you feel the album stands out from the rest of your discography?

Well of course it stands out for us, we made it. This is our life. Not like it all blurs together. But I understand that you're asking whether it stands out for the listener, but to find that out you'd have to ask a listener...

Deerhoof Vs Evil is your eleventh album, do you feel you've significantly progressed over your career, or do you feel much the same now as your did then?

I don't feel the same but it's not progress either. We aren't better than we used to be. There's no pattern to our career. Or maybe there is but I can't see it yet. I'm too deep in it. Every new album or every new song feels like a miracle to me. Like I'm always expecting that we'll run out of ideas, but after 17 years the little birds keep chirping in our ears.

What would you say are your career highlights?

How much space do you have? When you form a rock band, you don't really expect to make it past your first show or two. The whole career has been one surprise after another. Maybe the biggest highlight is when we play well, nothing beats that feeling of being in the middle of a song and you feel like the band is just going to lift off.

6. Do you consider yourselves to have a very different, and independent sound from your contemporaries, or is there a clear line of influence for everything you do?

Our contemporaries? That's billions of people... I feel a lot in common with those of them that play music. Because why on earth would anyone do that? I struggle to find any reason. So when I find that there are other people doing the same thing I feel pretty connected to them. I also feel influenced by our audience, they encourage me a lot. I try to imagine what they hear when they hear our music.

You also just re-issued Milk Man, why did you decide to give the album another airing?

Because people were selling it for $80 on ebay.

8. Milk Man was unusual in that it was something of a concept album, can you talk to us about how the concept came about?

All our albums are concept albums. That one came from our friend Ken Kagami. We thought he was a great artist. He used to draw a character he made up called Milk Man. He was all white with a mask, and strawberries and bananas stabbed into his body.

You played Milk Man in full at Alexander Palace on the 1st, how did you find this experience?

Awesome. We were nervous about it because we don't usually put that many slow songs in our set. But the audience was just amazing, they were so respectful. London always impresses me.

You are also performing at the Congotronics Vs Rockers event, how do you feel your music fits in with idea behind the show?

Congotronics Vs. Rockers is not an event, it's a band. And although CVR is doing one Deerhoof song in our setlist, it really isn't a question of Deerhoof fitting into it. It's a totally new band of 19 people, and we have our own style. The way I play drums in CVR, it's like I had to teach myself a whole new way to play. In Deerhoof I tend to be kind of wild, playing really quiet and then really loud, speeding up and slowing down, going out of rhythm sometimes, or just stopping. But in CVR I really have to hold the rhythm down, and be precise and consistent. It's been an amazing challenge and I really love it.

How have you found working in such a large assemble of musicians?

Unbelievably hard. Because no one is in charge. And we can barely communicate with each other. None of the band members from The Congo speak a word of English. Yeah, my French has improved over the past month! It's been a crash course, not just in French, but in being a human being. When things come together and you can feel that all 19 people are happy, it feels like we've achieved the impossible. It's incredibly exciting.

How did you become involved in the project?

Crammed Discs was releasing Congolese bands for 10 years and decided to make a tribute album - artists not from The Congo doing covers, remixes, and songs inspired by the Congolese originals. They were really into our cover of Kasai Allstars and decided to invite us to be part of a crazy new group they wanted to put together. Members of Konono No. 1, Kasai Allstars, Juana Molina, Wildbirds and Peacedrums, Matt from Skeletons, Vincent from Crammed (the one who produced all the Congotronics records), and us.

Are there any new bands you are particularly excited about?

Thulebasen.