Deer Tick
Anna Webber

The first thing you notice about DEER TICK is the distinct voice of John McCauley (above, center). But listen longer, and you may be startled even more by the band’s diversity.

On its fifth album, Negativity (Partisan Records, $12), the Rhode Island quintet hopscotches smoothly from greasy rock ’n’ roll to surreal blues to honky-tonk stomp. While McCauley credits producer Steve Berlin for pushing Deer Tick to explore new turf on the CD, the singer has always been a restless musical omnivore. He talked with American Way about some of his far-flung influences.

“As a kid, I got their cassette, Meet the Raisins!, and they became one of my favorite groups. These little Claymation characters schooled me in Motown and R&B and became pretty important to my musical development.”

“His voice was extremely powerful, like an opera singer. Some people considered him a country artist, but if I can quote Billy Joel, ‘It’s still rock ’n’ roll to me.’ I love his sense of timing and melody, and I still listen to his last album, Mystery Girl.”

“They were definitely in control of their career, even if they were out of control. My favorite is Tim, which is a pretty crazy album for a major label. I guess they had bad attitudes, but they also had such a free attitude, especially onstage. And that’s what live music is supposed to be: spontaneous.”