Music4th Fest: Both sides now
Despite their members’ time in several punk and metal bands, the Great Deceivers are pretty much the exact opposite of a local heavy-music supergroup. In fact, the formation of the band was about as informal and unassuming as it gets.
“I had a bunch of songs I had written, and Jeff Ilgenfritz [of Mumpsy] helped me produce them,” says Green. “I wasn’t really looking to start a band, but I got offered to open the Flowers Forever show at Back Booth, and I didn’t want to do it as a solo, singer-songwriter kind of thing.
So Green assembled some of his friends – Ben Rudolph, who played with Green in former hardcore band Time to Die, on bass, original drummer Emily Smith, Deceivers guitarist Tre Hester and keyboardist Tierney Tough of the Pauses – to play that one show. When more gig offers came in, they decided to stick with it.
Two years later, Tough’s keyboard work is gone (“She really just didn’t have the time to do this and do the Pauses,” says Rudolph.). Josh Dulcie, who does time as a contributor to the pounding, instrumental punk of Basements of Florida, has replaced Smith. Dulcie and Rudolph are both members of metal band Khann.
The Great Deceivers have played a diverse slew of high-profile opening slots for the likes of Low, Vetiver, Dead Confederate and Surfer Blood, and made frequent appearances on local bills with the Pauses (“They’re our sister band,” says Rudolph), Bananafish, Mumpsy and others. In the process, the band has transformed from an ad-hoc act into one of Orlando’s most engaging indie rock bands.
“There’s a night-and-day difference between what we’re doing now and those early songs,” says Green. “Basically, in the last two years, it’s come from me having a handful of songs and wanting to get some people to play them live to us being a full band where we work on songs together. It’s definitely less singer-songwriter-oriented and more band-oriented.”
“We all view ourselves as equals,” says Rudolph of the Deceivers’ songwriting process. “Max and I have always had a good musical connection, but sometimes Max will write something, and we just have to say it sucks.”
“There’s something great about leaving your ego at the door and looking to see what we can come up with together,” says Green. “Myself, Ben and Tre have been in the band since it started and we all have equal input into the songs. We literally have songs where each one of us brings in a third of the song separately. One of us will have written a chorus, the other a verse and the other a bridge; we’ll string them all together, and, somehow, they work.”
The disparate influences of those three songwriters span ’90s alternative, early hardcore, indie-pop, metal and more – this is perhaps the only band for miles around that emphatically cite both Kurt Ballou of Converge and Elliott Smith as sonic cornerstones – but the sound that the Great Deceivers produce manages to transcend easy categorization. With complex arrangements providing the foundation for melodies that are both breezy and weary, there’s a thoughtfulness to the band’s pop songs that makes them simultaneously easy to digest and fun to chew on.
“I think sometimes what we play goes over people’s heads,” says Rudolph, “because it sounds pretty and nice to the ears. But I also think that sometimes people don’t hear everything that’s there. If you listen to our guitar players, they’re never playing the same parts, and there’s always something else going on.”
“That’s actually one of the things that I’m the most proud of on the new CD,” says Green. “I really think that my guitar parts, Tre’s guitar parts and Ben’s bass parts could all stand on their own.”
Part of that unwillingness to just be “pretty and nice to the ears” clearly comes from the members’ backgrounds in aggressive and heavy music. By applying a punk ethos to the construction of lilting melodies, the Deceivers hit upon a unique combination.
“I saw a band the other night, and they were great, played really well, but I just couldn’t get into them,” says Rudolph. “They didn’t have any dissonance. I don’t want to hear songs in major keys the whole time. If you don’t let it go to a place where it gets a little noisy, a little dissonant … well, you just can’t ride that happy, clean vibe the whole time.”