On their upcoming debut album, Fredericksburg quartet doe deer captures years of musical and personal metamorphosis.
doe deer (the lack of capital letters is intentional) is an emerging indie-garage four-piece hailing from Fredericksburg, VA. The group, which consists of vocalist and guitarist Nabeel Mirza, bassist Paul King, guitarist Matt Leibowitz, and drummer Forrest Fallon, is currently working on their debut album, Weekend, which has been years in the making.
The roots of Weekend date back to before doe deer became an actual band. Having begun as Mirza’s solo project, Weekend revamps his older solo works alongside newer songs that mark doe deer as the full band it’s grown to be. In this way, Weekend will provide the rare opportunity to hear years of musical growth all in one album.
“It’s mainly the older stuff that was [Mirza’s] solo project,” said Leibowitz. “I think we have two or three new songs on the album that we wrote together.” While the album will encapsulate years of songwriting, the subject matter, which explores topics like depression and relationships, keeps the album tight and cohesive despite the span of time between tracks.
“The themes are generally the same,” said Mirza. “I’ve always written about personal experiences and feelings, and I’ve realized that some themes are repeated in different ways throughout songs on the album.”
As the band expands, so is their sound, as they slowly move away from their lo-fi beachy roots.
“The older stuff on the album is different, in that it’s more surf-rock in comparison to the newer stuff,” said Mirza. “The songs are shorter and fast-paced, whereas the new music we’ve been writing together has been a bit slower, heavier, and more dynamic. There’s a lot more room for instrumental experimentation with the newer ones, which is always rewarding when it’s a collaborative process.”
doe deer’s songwriting often happens organically during band practices when someone will come in with a new idea for a riff or the group takes a moment to play around and rework older ideas.
“It comes down to playing together,” Leibowitz said. “I’d say now, we’re super comfortable playing together, so it’s easy for us to just snowball off of another song into something new.”
“We just click together,” adds Mirza.
For a band that started out as a solo project, this represents quite a change. But it has evolved smoothly; the two began playing music together after Leibowitz filled in for Mirza in his former band Shirt/Pants, back when both were still living in Washington DC. They later connected at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, which is where they met Fallon and King.
“All of us have been playing music together for a pretty long time,” said Leibowitz. “I’ve been in a couple of projects with Forrest before and Nabeel and I have been jamming for years.”
The original full-band version of doe deer was a trio, with Fallon backing Leibowitz and Mirza. King was a later addition to the band, a friend of the guitarists who often traveled with them to shows across Virginia and DC.
“I pestered Nabeel and Matt for a week to get to in the band,” King said.
“We were just like, ‘Dude, why wouldn’t you be in the band?’” Mirza said. Recently, the group pitched in to buy King a new Hofner Violin bass.
“It’s the bass that Paul McCartney plays,” said King, “It’s a really nice bass. I cried when they gave it to me. I legit was not expecting it.”
Still in the process of recording and mixing, the current recording sessions represent the band’s third time recording the material; first as Mirza’s solo work, again as a three-piece, and now a final time with all four members.
“It sounds a lot better, but takes a lot longer,” said Leibowitz.
“We’ve also got more mics this time around,” said Fallon.
With three out of the band’s four members still attending the University of Mary Washington, recording has been difficult, especially with the band’s busy booking schedule.
“The original plan was to finish recording in January, but we didn’t realize how many shows we had gotten together,” said Leibowitz. “We ended up playing a show every weekend when we could have recorded.”
The shows are what keep doe deer alive and electric, from their more musically intense moments to Leibowitz selling his homemade sauces and spicy pickles as band merchandise between songs. The energy they create on stage can be felt in the room, even by the band themselves. The group’s positive and exciting experiences at their first few shows are what solidified them as a band.
“We started out with a couple really good shows,” Fallon said. “A few of those shows went really well and we just decided, you know, let’s keep it going as far as we can.”
Leibowitz, Mirza, and King will be graduating from UMW in May, and their post-grad plans will decide the future of the band. doe deer isn’t ending anytime soon though, with future releases and shows already lined up. This summer, the three UMW grads plan on moving to Richmond, where Fallon has since made his home since graduating from the university in 2017.
“We have some stuff we’re working on,” Leibowitz said. “We plan to go on tour this summer with some friends too.”
“Ideally I would like to keep playing more shows and putting out music for as long as we can,” Mirza added.
The band plans to release Weekend in the next few months, though they are reluctant to set an official release date at this point in the process. For now, doe deer is hard at work ensuring that their third time recording the album will be the charm. By paying tribute to their evolution with their debut album, doe deer will turn their focus on the future.