Get to know Deer Scout
A rising third year at Oberlin College (Ohio, USA), Dena Miller spent the first week of her freshman year in her dorm room, writing her first songs. She found a home in the Philadelphia music scene and she released Customs, titled after the orientation program she skipped. The songs on 'customs' are introspective, haunting and melodic. They were reflections on childhood and growing up. Her latest single, Sad Boy is a new pop direction for Deer Scout, while maintaining the precise lyricism of her previous releases. In the music video directed by Haftom Khasai and Nick Morgan, Miller chugs a 40 oz beer alone, wanders around a party, and does a keg stand at the Philadelphia punk rock fraternity Pi Lambda Phi. It paints a visually stunning picture of “affected collegiate despondence with a satirical wink”. ‘Sad Boy’ is a portrait of the liberal arts bro in the digital age of aestheticized male emotion. Continue reading for an exclusive interview with Miller, discussing love songs to teachers, keg stands, and her upcoming tour.
Hey Dena! Let's start from the beginning. What is your earliest music memory?
Oh this is funny! I had a big crush on an elementary school teacher and when the year was over I recorded my first original song, 'Sheets of Nasty Homework,' on a CD for her as a parting gift.
How did you get your start in making music?
I guess you could say that was it! Or even before that as a really little kid I had a toy cassette machine that made recordings and I used to make up songs and record them all the time. I grew up in a house of musicians but I didn't start making music seriously until my first year away from home at college. Right before I left my dad helped me record two demos, which took a lot of encouraging from my mom and him, and then I came home and recorded an EP over winter break.
How do you think your sound has developed since the Release of your EP Customs. What can we expect from you in the future?
Ok I guess I'm gonna talk about my parents a lot but they really have been a big influence on me musically. They are in a folk band and the first songs I wrote feel very folky, but I just put out a song called Sad Boy that I think sounds pretty different! I was talking to my dad, who made early video game music for Sega, about synth-pop and the '80s comeback and he had the idea to record one of my songs with synths. I'm going to start working on an album soon and I think it will have the same folky/bedroom pop sound but I'd love to add something like a lap steel or saw or cello and keep working with synths.
Your recent music video for Sad Boy perfectly captures a gloomy, nighttime Philadelphia. Can you explain a little more about your idea for the video?
It's actually Philly! I started playing shows in Philly and the city has a really special place in my heart. Friends of mine in a punk rock frat at UPenn called Pilam, Haftom Khasai and Nick Morgan, do really incredible film work and I had the last minute idea over this past winter break to reach out to them to make a video. Pilam is notoriously full of real life sad boys so the concept was pretty straightforward. We threw a party there and filmed it, trying to capture drunken college loneliness. I wanted to do a keg stand and play smash bros so we made that happen too. It was really incredible to work with friends who are so talented and dedicated so much time and energy to the project.
What does being an independent creative mean to you?
Two things come to mind. I've been learning more about how to do the promotional/business side of things myself recently and something I'm coming to terms with is the fact that that even bands I view as having 'made it' are working really hard for everything in ways you can't see. I'm working on getting over the fear of asking for favours and putting myself out there. Another thing is that I very rarely write songs when I don't have a solid block of alone time--I go months without writing anything and then when I have some time to myself I write a bunch [gosh I sound like a sad boy] but the whole thing is very self-directed and it is what you make it!
What are you looking forward to most about your upcoming tour? (U.S. tour dates at the bottom of this article)
It's the first time I've ever been on tour and I've never spent such a concentrated amount of time focused on just doing music--I think it's going to be really cool. I'm also really excited to get to know the folks in Francie Cool who I'm touring with better because I think they're great!
To conclude: can I put your song Train Song on my playlist of songs called Train Song?
Yes! I have a playlist of songs called 'Pop Song,' we should exchange.
Tour dates w/ Francie Cool: June 24th Philadelphia @ All Night Diner June 25th NY @ Silent Barn June 26thth Hartford @ Bloomfield Village Pizza June 27th Boston @ BBV June 28th Brattleboro @ Brattleboro Printmakers June 29th Western Mass @ The Internet June 30th NY @ Carl Sage Inn July 5th DC @ Comet Pig Pong July 6th Richmond @ Gallery 5 July 7th Baltimore @ Baltimore Free Farm July 9th Philadelphia @ PhilaMOCA