Deerhoof began in 1994 as an improvisational project for guitarist Rob Fisk, with drummer/keyboardist Greg Saunier joining him a week later. After performing at that year's Yoyo A Go Go festival, the duo signed to Kill Rock Stars, which issued the 7" "Return of the Woods M'Lady" in March 1995. Early releases such as this and For Those of Us on Foot had a harsher, no wave-inspired sound than Deerhoof's later efforts, though they also hinted at the playfulness that would soon surface in their music. In mid-1995, Fisk and Saunier were joined by vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Satomi Matsuzaki, who became a member of Deerhoof soon after moving to San Francisco from Japan and had never been in a band before. Matsuzaki appeared on1996's self-titled double 7" on Menlo Park, but other members passed through Deerhoof during this time, including Chris Cooper of Angst Hase Pfeffer Nase. Arriving in October 1997, Deerhoof's debut album The Man, The King, The Girl, found the band making their own kind of pop songs, which incorporated toy instruments and highlighted Matsuzaki's clear yet unpredictable vocal melodies. The "Come See the Duck" 7" arrived on Banano a year later. Fisk left Deerhoof after 1999's Holdy Paws, an experiment that found the band stripping away much of the improvisation and noise from their music. Late that year, former Gorge Trio guitarist John Dieterich became the band's new guitarist. The live album Koalamagic appeared on the Australian label Dual Plover in 2000. During this time, Saunier and Matsuzaki completed sessions recorded before Fisk departed that became Halfbird, which Menlo Park issued in July 2001. That year the group also released the "My Pal Foot Foot" 7", a cover of the legendary Shaggs song that also appeared on the Better Than the Beatles tribute. The first album to include Dieterich, June 2002's kaleidoscopic Reveille, became Deerhoof's critical breakthrough, winning them acclaim for its wide-ranging sounds and engaging melodies. By the time of Reveille's release, guitarist Chris Cohen had joined the band. He made his recorded debut with the following year's Apple O', which unlike Reveille, came together quickly, with most of the album recorded in a single nine-hour session with engineer Jay Pellicci. Like its predecessor, Apple O' earned significant praise, and the members of Deerhoof quit their day jobs to focus on the band and touring. Also in 2003, the band appeared on Azadi! A Benefit Compilation for the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, while Saunier collaborated with Hella's Zach Hill and Joanna Newsom as Nervous Cop, who issued their self-titled debut album in November. Deerhoof returned in March 2004 with Milk Man, a concept album inspired by the illustrations of Ken Kagami as well as Broadway, Igor Stravinsky, and prog rock. That April, the band played the All Tomorrow's Parties festival curated by Sonic Youth and Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks. On the following year's mini-album Green Cosmos -- the first Deerhoof release sung in Japanese -- the band underscored its classical and electronic influences. To make their seventh album, Deerhoof spent months working in an Oakland, California rehearsal space. The results were October's ambitious The Runners Four, another conceptual effort that found the band trading vocal and instrumental duties over its sprawling length. The following year was another busy one for the band: not only did they tour with the Flaming Lips, the Fiery Furnaces, and Mary Timony, among others, they also featured on Danielson's album Ships and performed an original score to Harry Smith's acclaimed animated film Heaven and Earth Magic at the San Francisco International Film Festival. Following this performance, Cohen amicably parted ways with the band, and Deerhoof posted an EP of free music on their website in his honor. Continuing on as a trio, Saunier, Matsuzaki, and Dieterich began work on their next album, toured extensively, and collaborated with composer Ed Shearmur on the music for Dedication, a film directed by Justin Theroux. Later that year, a children's ballet based on Milk Man was performed in North Haven, Maine. January 2007 saw the release of Friend Opportunity, a polished, concise yet eclectic set of songs. Following a world tour that saw the band play New York's Highline Festival at David Bowie's invitation, Deerhoof added guitarist Ed Rodriguez (also of Gorge Trio, XBXRX, and the Flying Luttenbachers) to the fold in early 2008. That year, the band released sheet music for "Fresh Born," a song off their upcoming album, so that fans could record and share their own versions of it. Arriving in October 2008, Offend Maggie echoed the expansive style of The Runners Four while returning to the dual guitar attack of the band's earlier albums. Deerhoof's live performances from this time found them performing with luminaries ranging from Wadada Leo Smith to LiLiPUT's Marlene Marder. The following year, the band appeared in Adam Pendleton's film BAND as the Rolling Stones and contributed the song "I Did Crimes for You" to its soundtrack. Along with performing Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures with their friends Xiu Xiu in Australia and Brooklyn, Deerhoof spent much of 2010 working on their next album. Months ahead of the album's release, the band leaked songs to different media outlets, creating a virtual musical scavenger hunt that culminated with the arrival of their tenth studio album. Their first full-length for Polyvinyl, January 2011's Deerhoof vs. Evil incorporated synth pop, Tropicalia, the Beach Boys, and more into its chameleonic sound. Deerhoof complemented the album with a series of 7"s that featured Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, David Bazan, and Busdriver performing their own lyrics to various Deerhoof vs. Evil tracks. The year's other projects included a track for Polyvinyl's benefit compilation Japan 3.11.11, which provided aid to the country in the wake of its devastating earthquake and tsunami, and the collaboration Congotronics vs. Rockers, a touring group that also counted Juana Molina, Konono No. 1, and Kasai Allstars among its lineup.
By the time Deerhoof were ready to record their 11th album, the bandmembers lived in four different cities. Collaborating via email, they made September 2012's Breakup Song, which took an empowering and positive approach toward songs about falling out of love. The following month saw the release of "Sexy, but Sparkly," a track they recorded for the documentary series Masters from Their Day with Chris Shaw; it was the first time in their history that they worked with an outside producer. In March 2013, Chicago's 22-piece contemporary classical music group Ensemble Dal Niente premiered their piece "Deerhoof Chamber Variations," which interpreted songs from throughout the band's body of work, at New York's Ecstatic Music Festival.
For 2014's La Isla Bonita, Deerhoof's members convened at Rodriguez's house and recorded songs inspired by the Ramones and Madonna in just a week. The following year, they became the first band to perform an improvised set at CERN's Large Hadron Collider and appeared on 50 Bands & a Cat for Indiana Equality, a compilation to benefit Indiana's LGBTQ community released by Joyful Noise. Also in 2015, Deerhoof released the live album Fever 121614, which captured a Tokyo date on the La Isla Bonita tour. Early in 2016, the band teamed up with composer Marcos Balter and Ensemble Dal Niente for Balter/Saunier, a collaboration that featured a medley of Deerhoof songs arranged for the ensemble. That June, Deerhoof released The Magic, an uninhibited set of songs featuring three unused tracks written and recorded for the HBO series Vinyl. As Joyful Noise's Artist in Residence for 2017, Deerhoof issued a number of limited-edition releases and the politically informed Mountain Moves. Arriving in September 2017, the album was a call to resistance that featured collaborations with artists including Laetitia Sadier, Wye Oak's Jenn Wasner, and Juana Molina, and covers of songs by the Staple Singers and Bob Marley. To commemorate their 25th anniversary, in 2019 Deerhoof released remastered reissues of The Man, The King, The Girl, Holdy Paws, and Halfbird. They returned with new music in May 2020 with Future Teenage Cave Artists, a darker -- but still hopeful -- meditation on the era's political crises that featured some of Deerhoof's most overtly challenging and experimental music in some time. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi