John McCauley, the songwriter behind the Deer Tick moniker, grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, where he began his career by teaching himself to play drums, guitar, piano, and pedal steel. McCauley started recording his own compositions and touring the area while still in high school, and he widened his circle after graduation by touring the entire country. Although he'd often perform solo, the young musician began piecing together a proper band, occasionally playing as a duo with drummer Dennis Ryan or with a small group. His music fit loosely into the alt-country category, but his vocals -- rough, raw, and ragged -- brought a wealth of rock and grunge influences to the sound.
Following the September 2007 release of his first album, War Elephant, McCauley's Deer Tick project began earning comparisons to Bright Eyes, Modest Mouse, and Uncle Tupelo. Although originally released via FEOW! Records, War Elephant was reissued in late 2008 by Partisan Records. Deer Tick remained with that label during the course of two follow-up albums, 2009's Born on Flag Day and 2010's The Black Dirt Sessions. The band's fourth studio outing, Divine Providence, arrived the following year, and featured 12 rowdy and raucous originals drawing inspiration from the raw power of the Stones and the Stooges. 2013's dark-hued Negativity took a more streamlined approach with producer Steve Berlin (Los Lobos) tightening up the band's occasionally ragged sound.