for camaraderie, an act of resistance against jaded nihilism. Though not explicitly political, the lyrics of vocalists
Graham McLaughlin (guitar, violin) and Sheila Hart (keyboards) reflect the zeitgeist: addressing the anxiety of the
modern age, crying out for a sense of connection, driven by a sense of carpe diem that stems from personal
tragedy. “Trying to create light in the darkness; it’s a mentality we share,” says Graham. They’re not blind optimists
peddling escapism, though their live shows are joyous, celebratory affairs, rich with rousing, orchestral
pop sound built for festival stages.
Common Deer began in 2013 with Graham, drummer Liam Farrell and multi-instrumentalist Adam Hart, who met
while backing up a folk singer in Guelph, Ontario, where most of them were attending university. (Adam attended
Wilfrid Laurier University for Honours Music Performance) Liam brought in his brother Connor to solidify the rhythm
section, while Adam called on his sister, Sheila, to harmonize with Graham and add her own keyboards, lead vocals
and her own songs. Previously, her creative outlet was poetry and short stories; Graham had been writing pop songs
since he was 11. In both their harmonies and their shared leads, they create a male-female dynamic rarely heard in
pop music outside of Stars, an admitted influence. As if two lead singers weren’t enough, competing for an
audience’s attention is Adam, who juggles cello, synth and lead guitar; he is Common Deer’s not-so-secret
weapon.Together with Graham, their string arrangements elevate the band’s sound beyond an everyday rock
band; as a rhythm section, Liam and Connor also take an orchestral approach to their arrangements. There is never a
dull moment on stage at a Common Deer show.
Rather than rush their early demos online, it took Common Deer almost three years to prepare their first EP,
recorded with producer Laurence Currie (Hey Rosetta!, Wintersleep) and released in January 2017. It was worth the
wait, presenting a major new talent with the vivid sonic space they deserve to inhabit. The new follow-up EP, simply
titled II, came together much more quickly: recorded in Toronto with Gus Van Go (Arkells, Whitehorse) over two
weeks, balancing the energy of their live shows with electronic percussion, layered strings, and an increased synth
presence. Their sense of ambition coalesces in the final track, “Gone,” which features a noir-ish new wave synth lead,
a Drake-inspired beat on the verses, Beach Boys harmonies on the chorus, and a double-kick-drum beat on the outro
that channels Liam's hard rock influence and satisfies Adam and Sheila's love of metal. The only weird thing about it is
that it works.
It’s that same sense of ambition that has catapulted Common Deer from most-promising status to that of serious
contenders. They’ve got talent, smarts, youth, the songs and the sonics to make their story an uncommon success.