Deer Leader is the moniker used by Stuart McQuarrie, Ross Prentice and Robin Pringle – three multi instrumentalists who produce introspective soundscapes that marry up loud guitars, spliced up beats, vocal samples and warm layers of reverb. We’ve Met Before, Haven’t We? is the debut record – four years in the making – from the Glasgow three-piece and it’s an absolute cracker. From the reflective opening of We’ve Met Before… to the closing blaze of glory on Infinite Jest, the record takes its listener on a journey of self discovery, inviting self examination and determination.
The title comes from a line in David Lynch’s Lost Highway, which the band say ties in with the structure and feel of the album – one person becoming someone else halfway through its narrative and the externals forces that may be at play in terms of such a transformation. That feeling of losing one’s self is clear on …Haven’t We? as the singer intones over a sparse, then gradually layered outro:
“No, no more, self-destruct switch / And the warm embrace of the scream / What we’ve done / creeps behind us / Like a case, like a shell, like a dream”
The question of “self-destruction” or examining our lives within our filtered, bubble-like existence is further explored across the record, as on Crocodile:
“No shame, and low esteem / Where you can’t tell the weak from extreme / Remade, in the image of the self / And I love you, just not as much as myself.”
And later on Party Mellow:
“Embrace all you hate, so they won’t ignore you.”
The record may initially feel despairing, yet the underlying message across many of the songs is that there is still time. Still time to be yourself, be true to who you are and not worry about what or where your supposed place in life is, particularly highlighted by a audio sample taken of Scottish folk singer, Kathleen MacDonald saying:
“Find out what makes you content. You’ve got to live in the present… in the moment.”
While each song carries us along via dreamy pianos, guitars and spoken word, we are also reminded that sometimes the pressure we feel must be faced. While we increasingly “live for the Gram”, it’s useful to be reminded that we can be our true selves in a world where the exterior view is often the first and last perspective we have of who we are.