Deap Vally: “Critics can bring out the worst in people”
One of blues rock’s most formidable duos, Deap Vally are back.
Published: 10:00 am, September 17, 2016
Less than 24 hours ago, Deap Vally played their first ever festival headline slot at Y Not in Derbyshire. “It was great,” vocalist and guitarist Lindsey Troy muses. “It felt like a classic UK festival, people were super rowdy and having a great time. The crowd was packed in there, it was pretty chilly but as soon as you start playing you don’t notice that.”
The Los Angeles duo have a lot of love for the UK, and in their years since forming in 2011, they’ve done a lot to keep themselves busy over here - from live sets at Maida Vale, to playing Glastonbury. They even bagged a slot at Reading & Leeds just a year after they started the band. “It wasn’t even a conscious thing,” she says. “We just have a really great fanbase over here, and we’re super fortunate to have that, so it’s fun for us to come over.”
It’s apt then that Lindsey and her bandmate, drummer Julie Edwards, have decided to coincide the release of their new record ‘Femejism’ - the follow up to 2013 debut ‘Sistrionix’ - with a UK tour.
“‘Sistrionix’ is blues rock throughout, but with ‘Femejism’, we still have guitar, drums and vocals, so it’s true to what we are but I think we’re a bit more experimental now,” she says of the record. “We didn’t feel like we had to adhere as much to one genre, I guess because with ‘Sistrionix’, it was our first record and we really wanted to define our sound as band. But with ‘Femejism’, we really wanted to play around with different sounds and experiment and have fun.
“There’s a lot of different flavours on there, some of it’s a little bit surfy, psych, blues rock, and with some of it there’s a world vibe too. There was some influence from Kurt Vile, Father John Misty, Beach House, Tinariwen, Savages, a lot of LA bands. There’s maybe a bit more of an LA aesthetic to it in a sense that we were surrounded by a lot of friends doing psych rock or surf rock, so I think that they had a little bit of influence on the record: local bands and LA bands that we toured with like The Mystic Braves.”
“It was amazing,” Lindsey’s voice brightens as she recalls the recording process. “We actually recorded at loads of places. We started at Sonic Ranch, and that place is so magical. It’s on the largest pecan orchard in North America, and it’s a mile from Juarez in Mexico which is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. It’s just super, super vibey and secluded, and you sleep there and work there, and you just get totally emerged in the process, without any distractions.
“The first few songs that we did on the record, and that we did with Nick [Zinner, of Yeah Yeah Yeahs and their producer], were a really intense and magical experience, it was very emotionally charged. It was really inspiring working with Nick. I’ve been a Yeah Yeah Yeahs fan for years, and they’re one of my favourite bands. It was really cool for me to get to work with him, it was a dream come true. He also just gets us, ‘cause he’s in a band that’s along the same lines as what we do; they were a three-piece when they started, a guitar, drums and vocals band.”
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“The record was a long process,” she continues, “because it was made over the course of two years, and we [went back and forth between] going on tour and then being back at the studio. We were also between labels which was really cool, because we didn’t have anyone giving us opinions on anything or anyone breathing down our necks, we had all this amazing freedom to explore and do whatever we wanted and just there was no pressure.
“We don’t need to be on a label to write singles, ‘cause I feel like we have a tendency to write catchy stuff anyways, so I don’t feel like we need that at all. It was a really good process. We did a handful of the songs on our own, cause Nick was away - he was back and forth bicoastal - so there were times were we got to produce tracks by ourselves, and that was really cool and empowering.”
In contrast to how optimistic the recording process felt, the basis of the lyrical matter of some of ‘Femejism’’s tracks differ. Lindsey sings about some of life’s negatives on ‘Critic’: “It was my frustration with the music business, and just being in the public eye, and all the politics within that. I was just having a moment of bitterness that I really had to get out of myself.
“I feel like sometimes critics can just bring out the worst in people, and that’s not just music critics, it’s everyone in the age of the internet. The record is a rainbow and the songs are each a colour within it. But ‘Critic’ is a really special song to me, it’s a departure. It’s very stripped back, very raw and that makes us vulnerable or something. That song’s super dear to me.”
The second single released from ‘Femejism’ is the irresistibly bluesy and also lyrically punchy and cathartic ‘Smile More’, that retains a real Courtney Barnett / Sheryl Crow vibe with spoken style vocals. On the track’s influence, Lindsey says: “There was someone at a bar, you know [it was a] classic thing, and also there was someone in my personal life I was frustrated with as well, I was kind of venting about it.
“There’s a handful of songs where I sing more relaxed, and part of that is because when we were touring so much. I was at times struggling with losing my voice, so I wanted to have some songs on the new record where I could chill out and rest my voice a little, and it was fun to explore that.”
Garbage frontwoman Shirley Manson is one of many to have praised ‘Smile More’, saying that she wished she had written it herself. It’s clear to see why, as self-aware and blithe lyrics are second nature to the 90s gods. “I was definitely inspired by loads of rad ladies,” Lindsey states. “The majority of stuff I was inspired by were badass chicks like Hole, I love Hole, and when I was a youngster, when ‘Jagged Little Pill’ came out, I was super stoked on that. I thought it was so cool. Also Karen O, Garbage… I was super into No Doubt during the ’Tragic Kingdom’ era, it’s a great record. So loads of stuff like that, those role models mean everything to me - it’s very important.”
“I come from a pretty musical family who really value it.” she continues. “My dad was at Woodstock, and he wrote some books about The Grateful Dead. My siblings write music, my brother and sister are both in bands. My brother’s in a band called Safety Orange in San Diego, and my sister’s a solo artist called Anna Troy. We all grew up playing the same piano, which was this really beautiful upright piano from the 1880s or 1890s, and then we picked up random instruments later.
“I was basically, simply put, in a family band growing up, so that was something that there was a lot of pressure on us to do as adolescents. I’ve been doing [music] from a young age; I had a lot of awkward moments of playing to many empty rooms as a young person, so it’s really empowering to be in Deap Vally. I finally feel like I’m doing the type of music I always wanted to do; coming into my musical self.”
Deap Vally’s album ‘Femejism’ is out now.