Few performers have managed to subvert the role of rock ’n’ roll front man so completely as Bradford Cox. The 28-year-old lead vocalist for Deerhunter and Atlas Sound has proven himself adept at writing songs that are both deeply nostalgic (teenage loneliness is a recurring theme) and sonically expansive (walls of guitar, echo, and feedback swirling around hyper-melodic pop hooks). Add to this equation Cox’s general awkwardness, his skinny six-foot four-inch frame (a result of Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder responsible for, among other things, extra-long limbs), and his history of ruffling feathers via blog rants, album leaks, and the questionable use of vintage gay pornography on his website, and you’ve got a perfect example of what a rock star for the current age should be: incredibly complicated, constantly Internet accessible, and borderline unruly. Cox has fronted Deerhunter since 2001, and the Atlanta-based four-piece finally released their first album—the unofficially titled Turn It Up Faggot—in 2005. Over the course of four more highly lauded records, Deerhunter has risen from cult act (cemented by early shows involving dresses, fake blood, and the occasional simulated sex act) into a bona fide success story. The new album, Halcyon Digest (4AD), out last fall, is the most compelling to date—a beautiful, blurry pastiche of reverberating guitars and forlorn songs about lost boys. “We recorded Halcyon Digest in two weeks,” says the notoriously fast-working Cox. “For most bands that would be impossible, but for us those two weeks felt like two years! I don’t understand why things need to take so long.” Described by Cox as “ambient garage rock,” the record is more minimal than previous Deerhunter efforts, though no less melancholic. On “Sailing,” Cox sings, “Only fear can make you feel lonely / Out here / You learn to accept whatever you can get” as a strummed guitar line drifts around him. “I’m a simple person,” says Cox, who, shortly after the release of Halcyon Digest, posted four volumes of unfinished demos on the Deerhunter website for free download. “I sit at home and play guitar, making demos. I do our graphic design and typography for our releases. I devote my life to all of these little details, so there’s not really any room for me to develop a social life,” he continues. “I don’t have a private life to speak of, really. Everything is out there in the music.”
Photos: Bradford Cox in New York, August 2010. Left: Jacket: Comme Des Garcons. Necklace: Artist’s Own. Right: David Delfin. Pants: Viktor & Rolf. Bow Tie: Burberry London. Shoes: Florsheim by Duckie Brown. Grooming Products: Tresemme, including Fresh Start Dry Shampoo. Styling: Lester Garcia/Total Management. Grooming: Wesley O’meara/The Wall Group. Special Thanks: Splashlight Studios.