They are called Common Deer, but this band is anything but common. You’ve never seen anything like them. Onstage they are mesmerizing; one musician jumps from vocals to violin to guitar while another moves from guitar to electric cello, or steps over to the synths and drum machine. This is done so seamlessly in a single song that it’s truly a well-rehearsed game of musical chairs. Few musicians could pull o such a thing without awkward gaps, tripping over cords or distracting the audience, but Common Deer – Graham McLaughlin (vocals, violin, guitar), Sheila Hart (vocals, keys), Adam Hart (cello, guitar, synth), Liam Farrell (percussion, synth, samples) and Connor Farrell (bass) – are exceptional multi-instrumentalists, and this becomes part of their engaging set. Add to that the unique fact that of the ve bandmates, two sets are siblings.
You don’t have to experience Common Deer live to get sucked into their music. Their debut EP, simply titled “I”, was written and recorded in 2016 and produced by Laurence Currie (Sloan, Wintersleep). It includes the creepy and crisp “Damages”, a re ection on toxic codependency, and the bright, harmony-heavy “Settle Down”, a call to arms for rejection of normative adult- hood. These are two examples of the diverse musical potential the band possesses; with both Graham and Sheila as the primary lyricists, this creates a perfect balance between light and dark, optimism and realism.
The EP also includes “Feather and Bone” – which received thousands of plays online prior to its o cial studio recording with Currie – a song that came to Adam after attending an EDM show and considering the deeper corporate and political interests of such events. And for the record, the band has never been concerned about who wrote what; they share writing credits to avoid getting attached to any one part. “It makes it easy to look at what’s best for the song as a whole and it keeps ego out when we’re all working together,” says Adam. Overall, the band describes themselves as having a “signature post-classical sound with new wave in uences, weaving themes of the natural world with broader issues of modern life”.
Born and raised in various cities across Southern Ontario, each band member had diverse academic and career pursuits prior to joining Common Deer, spanning from mechanical engineering and business to classical performance, culinary arts and social work. Now music is their full-time job, with one of Canada’s top managers on their team, Jake Gold of The Management Trust (which developed The Tragically Hip into an arena act). Gold hooked them up with Currie to record a follow-up to their rst demo. Released in 2014 before the current lineup was solidi ed, their original folk sound quickly – and consciously – has devel- oped in a more progressive direction.
The band aims to honour their more traditional musical training by breaking down the perceptions of classical instruments as inaccessible and carving a place for them amidst synths, drum machines and modern ri s. Quoting Graham, “Classical music can sometimes come across as intense or rigid, but with this band we’ve put an emphasis on letting go and really enjoy what’s happening in the moment”. Adds Adam, “It would be great to see more classical musicians not using these instruments as a gimmick to gain popularity, but rather to explore and push boundaries and incorporate other genres.”