The New Deal isn’t trying to impress you. They just want you to dance.
Drummer Darren Shearer, bassist Dan Kurtz and keyboardist Jamie Shields met at a jazz club in 1999 and decided they should speed things up. They recorded an impromptu show they did together in Toronto and voilá! A first album was born. The New Deal has been rocking impromptu style ever since. Shearer spoke with us after deadline to break down the intricacies of The New Deal.
Artsweek: What exactly is live progressive breakbeat house?
Darren Shearer: It can be summed up simply as house music with the element of breakbeat in it. It’s progressive because it’s something that is pushing ahead. It’s not like we’re just doing French deep house or Chicago hard house. It’s something that’s moving forward and forming its own label. It’s New Deal house.
Spin magazine called you “The Kraftwerk of the new millennium.” That’s tall praise for such a new group.
It’s great to get praise like that. I think Kraftwerk comes from a much more programmer, tech background, whereas we, or at least I, come from more of a pure, live-drumming, trying-to-get-people’s-attention-and-get-them-moving approach. I remember back in the day my babysitters were listening to Kraftwerk. It was very alternative. House music today isn’t alternative at all. It’s in pension plan commercials. As far as the genre of music that we’re a part of, it’s not as high as Kraftwerk. But we like to take those raw elements and exploit that, give it a live flair. We continue to strive for that. I don’t think we’re there yet – it can get a lot better.
Is it difficult to sustain continuous hour-long sets?
Yeah, it’s physically demanding as well as mentally demanding. Mentally it’s like playing chess; we are constantly thinking two moves ahead. It’s not just like we’re jamming for an hour and a half. We’re actually creating songs through a vocabulary of hand signals and reading lips. That’s the most pure way for us to make music right now. There is a lot of contrived house right now, and we don’t want to be a part of that.
You’ve gotten a lot of good press besides Spin. Have you guys blown up to the point that long-lost uncles are calling you up pretending they’re down?
We’re more like a grain of sand in a huge desert. Whatever popularity we have is on an underground level. We still play at the local bar and pack it with friends and people from your city. I’d like to achieve enough commercial success to be able to make a living out of the music, but I don’t want it to affect the integrity of the music.
You’re playing Coachella on Saturday. Being from Toronto, are you going to be ready for that heat?
Being at Coachella is a great honor, so we’ll be ready. It’s nothing compared to some of the clubs we’ve played. I’m from Canada; I’m tired of the winter. So bring on the heat!
The New Deal plays Friday, April 27, at the Edge at 8:30 p.m. $8 tickets.