There’s a lot to be said for the ability to stay focused in a world of constant change. And sometimes, it is necessary to think big and open up, say Deap Vally.
“I feel like we live in a postmodern world,” reflects Lindsey Troy. “Something about the traditional aspects of marriage is old-fashioned. We are an old-fashioned band, because we've always been very organic in a very technological, digital world, but we're analogue girls at heart.”
The Deap Vally guitarist and vocalist is talking to Clash from her home in Los Angeles, and she is keen to talk about the duo’s ambitious, new project. Having invested numerous hours and days working to complete ‘Marriage’ with her musical partner, drummer Julie Edwards. It’s the third studio album, and it represents their most democratic, experimental effort to date.
Edwards joins the conversation shortly after. Unsurprisingly, music remains what’s keeping her busy, but studying has become part of her life, too. A student of criminology, law and society, the current academic focus is on the recruitment of police forces. As fascinating as that sounds, it’s also somewhat unexpected. But it does show that Edwards and Troy are people, who are open to new challenges, whether it relates to their careers in music or their lives in a broader sense.
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Bold and free of constraints, the duo’s third record ignites the premise of bringing together key components of ‘Femijism’ from 2016 and debut ‘Sistrionix’ from 2013. Although arguing that it represents a ‘step up’ is met with some resistance. “I wouldn't say it’s a step up,” Edwards insists. “I love all of our albums so much, they're all special to me. Albums capture a point in time. When I think of each of them, I think of a different period of time. This is a different album, but it’s not better than the others.”
The title does invite an interpretation. Playing with the idea of comparing the challenge and intensity of being in band to a marriage calls for some elaboration from the two. “If you look at most projects, there are typically two people at the centre of creating everything, and with Deap Vally, there are absolutely two people,” explains Edwards. “It's definitely an intense experience, it’s like a marriage. The concept of marriage is two people, who are isolated in some way.”
She talks more about the duo’s experience of being part of a band marriage. “There has been a lot of intensity. There's so much creativity and communality. It's intimate, but it's rigorous, hard work, which isn't to say that it's a bad thing. But there’s something inherent in any really deep, intimate relationship.”
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Paradoxically, the knowledge and appreciation of what they already have would in fact instigate their desire to shake things up by bringing new people in and reinvent the setup, have more fun, and freshen everything up in the process. Mirrored in this was their approach to writing song material, which focused on introducing alternative methods and ways of working.
But sound-wise the duo’s inherent, recognisable bluesy core is intact. For Edwards it’s a component she just wouldn’t want to abandon, and Troy strongly agrees. “I guess the blues is like an electric guitar that just runs through our band, it comes across in the vocals as well, the type of vocal melodies that we write, and in the guitar parts as well. I think that's just something that runs through our DNA.”
But there is more on display, a broader, more fluid, and eclectic sound is unveiled on this record. Troy sees it as much more of a journey, a process that has transformed them. “I think it's a really fun album, because it has a lot of different flavours on there. It's got classic blues, rock-punk, and the songs are real rock bangers. Then it has got more evolved stuff on there as well. So, I think it's really cool, and it spans time.”
The list of collaborators meant that Deap Vally embraced a wide range of sound. Working with several musicians such as Peaches, KT Tunstall, Jennylee, and Jennie Vee, they worked with artists and friends whose musical body of work they admire, people they feel add distinct style and characteristic. Again combined, it shows a democratic approach to production, songwriting, and the creative process.
“It doesn't need to be this life or death struggle over several weeks, or whatever, to get to give birth to it,” admits Edwards. “We felt this was really fun. We did a lot of collaborations with people that were also on the two EPs we released. We really opened up our approach and operating theory. It’s a picture of our marriage, and what our marriage has. It has stuff that just the two of us did that was created live in a room together, jamming away, and lots of partnering with people we love and respect.”
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With a view to building a rich sound came the idea of distributing recording time across several facilities. This came to include Dave Grohl’s Studio 606 at Sound City, Allen Salmon’s Nashville studio, and Josiah Mazzaschi’s Cave Studio, it was the right decision. They also found songwriting camps productive as a tool. Being organised, having days dedicated to writing and recording songs blocked off was effective. Their approach to selecting collaborators was a blend of a wish list and what they felt a song needed.
“We thought it would be sick if we had a female rapper on it,” Troy says with excitement. “It was like a lightbulb went off, when we thought of Peaches, she’s our friend, and we’ve also toured with her. So we called her up, and we asked if she was around. She stopped by, listened to the song, and she said it sounded great. She was ‘super down’ for this and would write something. The songs just kind of summon that energy.”
There is clearly a chemistry between Troy and Edwards, it is just something they have as musicians, as people, and it relates to a combination of character and personal quality. It also sparks questions about the shaping of their roles within the band. “Julie's very organised, which is a great skill to have,” Troy initiates. “She's very judicious in that way. I definitely have a bit more chaos theory at work.” Edwards nods in agreement, “I’m like the domestic servant, and Lindsey is more like the head of household”, she says with a grin.
“But I think we’re real opposites,” Edwards decides. “I'm super feet-on-the ground, and I’m predominantly practical and pragmatic. That's the way I cope in the world. Lindsey is the complete opposite, she is creative and spontaneous. Now, spontaneity comes with a lack of control, which is not as tenable for me. It’s like genius doesn't really know that it exists, because there's no system. We're super-opposites, and that way we always balance each other out. There’s this inherent tension.”
Tension is clearly a good thing in this instance, it continues to fuel Deap Vally’s creativity. Their creative activities up to this point have been more than enough to inspire the making of three acclaimed albums, and their creativity shows no sign of slowing. They will stop at nothing, and that’s the only way to be.
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‘Marriage’ is out now.
Words: Susan Hansen
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