Home Read Albums Of The Week: Greg Saunier | We Sang, Therefore We Were

Albums Of The Week: Greg Saunier | We Sang, Therefore We Were

NIrvana meets Mozart & Andrews Sisters (?!) on the Deerhoof leader's wild solo LP.

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: On April 8, 2024 drummer, composer and founding member of Deerhoof Greg Saunier announced his debut solo LP We Sang, Therefore We Were. That founding took place 30 years ago to the day.

“It was 1994 and I was playing in a grunge band in San Francisco,” says Greg. “The two guitarists were literally living with members of the Melvins. Rob Fisk, the bass player, and I had been listening to an AMM CD at home and decided we wanted to give free improv a try. So we came to practice an hour early. That was Deerhoof’s first rehearsal. An hour later our two bandmates walked through the door with the bad news: Kurt Cobain had just been found dead.”

Despite the ominous start, Deerhoof have gradually gone on to achieve legendary status in the ears of many, releasing 19 strange and wonderful albums in the process. And during those 30 years, Greg has produced, mixed, composed, or played on hundreds of others (Discogs has him credited on over 300 albums). So it is remarkable that this is, in fact, his very first solo record. He sings and plays all the instruments, save for a few birds who join in now and again.

“When Satomi, Ed, John and I were chatting between shows in Austin in early December, they encouraged me to make a record on my own, as a way to cope with the restlessness I’ve been feeling,” says Greg. “It came together quick. Intrigued by the announcement that the new Rolling Stones record was going to sound ‘angry,’ I thought, ‘Good, I’m angry too.’ But when Hackney Diamonds turned out more like cotton candy than punk rock, I ironically went back to Nirvana: Not just the clever melodies over massive distortion, but also that dark Cobain sarcasm which still resonates in this age of phony blue-check-washing of fascism.”

The lyrics, “on the familiar topic of interspecies absurdist operatic anti-Cartesian revolution,” are drawn from the text that spreads itself across front and back of the album cover. In this long poem Greg recasts White House spokespersons as The Queen of the Night from The Magic Flute, recasts The Queen of the Night as a mockingbird singing Mozart’s famous aria in an all-night battle for survival, and ultimately recasts the mockingbird as a campy drag artist taking pleasure in her own relentless, aggressive musicianship.

Just how relentless Greg’s musicianship is is something that even fans of his celebrated drumming may not have realized. It turns out Greg is an excellent guitarist and bassist, if a bit more rudimentary and slicing compared to his Deerhoof bandmates. He does play more angry guitar solos. We Sang, Therefore We Were’s self-production is shambling and anti-slick, the arrangements in a constant state of impatient agitation. Big-hit earwigs abound but are delivered in a delicate, whispery falsetto, tending towards three-part harmony, sometimes sounding almost like Deerhoof fronted by The Andrews Sisters. The hints of Mozartian euphony that insinuate themselves here and there finally take over in an unexpected climax at the end, the drums breaking off into a laugh-or-cry orchestral outpouring that may be the rawest part of the album.”