When Deeper released their last album Auto-Pain, the campaign and excitement around it was undercut by the pandemic. Now, the Chicago band is on the other side of it, with their third album, Careful!, slated to come out on Sept. 8.  

The upcoming album release will take listeners back in time—its groovy guitar melodies, punchy vocals and dance-feel are reminiscent of bands like New Order and Depeche Mode. But their post-punk energy brings to mind The Replacements.

Following Careful!, the band will set out for their fall tour, but not without first playing a set at Chicago’s very own Pitchfork Music Festival next week.

Singer and guitarist Nic Gohl and guitarist Drew McBride have been attending the festival for years as fans. McBride recognizes their set this year as a “dream come true” for a Chicago band—“it’s validating,” he says.  

Deeper came up through Chicago’s DIY music scene, an experience Gohl says was pivotal to their growth as a band.

“That was a special part about growing up in the scene, having all these special spots, like Animal Kingdom was a big one for us,” he says. “We never played Mortville or Treasure Town, but those were influential experiences for me going into DIY spaces back when we were in our early 20s. It felt like there was no limit to what you could do as an artist. There weren’t many barriers.”  

Mortville and Treasure Town in Chicago’s Little Village were both shut down in 2012 after being evicted by their landlord, and Animal Kingdom stopped holding shows in 2014 after enough complaints got the attention of then-33rd Ward alderperson Deb Mell.  

These were spaces where Gohl says he’d run into people like Deakin from Animal Collective. Shows were going on nearly every night, and Deeper was able to hop on a bill in no time.  

It also gave them the space they needed to figure out who they were as a band before even releasing a record.  

“Coming up in the scene in Chicago made it a lot easier to spend time finding our own way,” McBride says.  

The band has aged out of playing DIY shows, and Gohl notes that once those DIY venues closed, the community dispersed. But it ultimately led them to book shows at independent Chicago venues like The Empty Bottle, Lincoln Hall and The Hideout.  

Like many bands during the pandemic, McBride says the response to Deeper’s Auto-Pain was not immediate. It was a slow burn over the course of 18 months to a year, when people would get turned on to it day by day.  

But it drove Gohl to set up a studio in his apartment and send demos to McBride, bassist Kevin Fairbairn and drummer Shiraz Bhatti—pieces of songs he had no intention of turning into Deeper songs, but they eventually evolved into Careful!

Deeper band album cover
Deeper’s latest album ‘Careful!’ comes out Sept. 8 through Sub Pop Records. Cover courtesy of Deeper

The songs on this album came together in a different format from previous Deeper tunes, as the time apart led to writing songs with a drum machine and let them explore building beats.  

“It changed the dynamic of some songs to be more melodic or to put more emphasis on some of the guitar melodies,” McBride says.  

Several of the songs on Careful! were also formerly demos from other records that didn’t work at first, including Sub. McBride says the song was originally recorded in a much slower tempo, but it didn’t quite work for them and felt too long.  

“We took it back to the speed of the demo and built from scratch again,” McBride says. “And then suddenly, it clicked, and the new pace gave it what it needed. The main rhythm part is really circular and hypnotic. This was one of the final songs we put on the record, and prior to that, the album didn’t have an identity.”  

Adding songs like Sub took the album from a collection of indie-rock tunes to include more electronic and experimental sounds. The album’s identity is about reflection, and overall a happier record than their last one. It’s meant to spark movement and playful optimism. There are several hooks and progressions for people to latch onto.

Deeper is still playing around with how to play some of the album’s songs live, because they incorporated more instruments and synths in the recording. But the process allowed the band to create without any guidelines or restrictions.  

“That’s the fun thing about writing without a goal of how to play live is it kind of stretches the band in new directions,” McBride says. “The way we play live is going to actually be fun and maybe even a slightly different interpretation every night.” 

The band recently signed to Sub Pop Records, which Gohl says career-wise, feels like an opportunity they always hoped would exist—allowing them to operate as a band on a bigger scale. Careful! was practically complete before they signed with the label, too, so they were able to see it all the way through the way they wanted to. And McBride notes it feels very “authentic to us.” 

Deeper are often categorized as a post-punk band, but Gohl says they strive to be genre-less, and surprise people each time they come out with new music. Some early influences for the album included Iggy Pop and David Bowie, but transitioned more to Yves Tumor, The Spirit of the Beehive, Blood Orange, Liars and MGMT.  

“For us, this record is like on its way to some other sound and maybe the fourth record will be where we blow things up and make a big-time weirdo record,” Gohl says.

Kendall Polidori is The Rockhound, Luckbox‘s resident rock music critic. Follow her reviews on Instagram and Twitter. @rockhoundlb