Blues-rock duo Deap Vally scratches an itch few bands can reach. The outfit's blend of heavy, groovy blues and acerbic lyrics from a woman's perspective makes for a liberating experience for fans.
Ahead of the band's show at the Sloan's Lake Alamo Drafthouse, guitarist and vocalist Lindsey Troy spoke to Westword about collaborating and writing new music, whether musicians should be expected to be political, whether it's necessary to be "friends" with bandmates, and recording commentary for Femijism TBT.
Westword: Since you’ve put out a few singles recently, should people be expecting a new album or EP soon?
Lindsey Troy: Yes. We’re in the process of finishing up our LP, trying to get it done. We're really excited about it so far, and just have to buckle down and finish it now.
What has you most excited about it?
Well, we’ve done a lot of collaborations on this record, which is something we’ve never done before. Originally, it started off as a concept collaboration project, but we’re still figuring it out as we go. Half the record is collaborations, so we’ll either continue with that or finish the record on our own.
We’ve written some amazing songs with Jamie from The Kills, KT Tunstall, Peaches, Jenny from Warpaint, Ayse [Hassan] from Savages, a lot of our friends and contemporaries in other bands. It’s been a really fun way for us to experiment with adding more instrumentation while getting to collaborate with good friends and open up our sound. It’s been really liberating. I think people will be really surprised and into it.
Did it just feel like the right time for this sort of album?
We just thought it’d be fun. We just like playing music. We like jamming. We’ve always toyed with the idea of adding some more instrumentation or a bass player down the road. This was a way for us to experiment with that idea without actually committing to officially adding a new member.
It’s been rad — really rad. We’ve also gone out to Oklahoma to do some songs with the Flaming Lips, which was crazy cool. So much fun.
What's the story behind you and Julie playing bass for other bands recently?
I’ve been out on the road a couple times with my friends, White Lung, a really cool punk band, and I play bass with them. That was very fun for me to get my chops up on bass and kind of sit back, not be the frontperson, and chill. Just being in someone else’s band was low-pressure.
And then Julie did that with her husband’s band, as well, which she had a lot of fun doing on bass. We both tried out playing bass in other bands, which was super-fun.
Julie is also involved in the Desert Daze, so she’s been busy working on that festival. That’s where we’re at; we have all these new songs and are really excited to put them out. We want to make sure that it’s at the right time when we have the full record done.
Did touring with White Lung teach you anything about your music?
For sure. It was interesting. It definitely taught me how sort of groovy our music is. We have a lot of mid-tempo songs and grooves, whereas White Lung’s music is very fast, and it’s punk. It took me awhile to learn those songs at first and to sink into that groove. It was so different from the groove I was used to playing.
With Deap Vally, it’s such a different feel. It’s this relentless, fast-driving punk feel. It was good for my playing to be able to play in such a different style. It was cool.
Taking a break from your own stuff makes you appreciate your own thing, too — when you can take a minute from it. It’s also nice when you’re in someone else’s band. Bands have so much in common — like, we all go through the same experiences. But they’re all different; there are always different dynamics in a band. It’s really funny and cool.
White Lung are my pals, and it was just really fun.
Did collaborating with other friends get you thinking differently about collaborating with Julie?
Let’s see. It’s always just interesting working with different personalities. It always changes the dynamic of how you work together, and sometimes it becomes more of a democratic process, maybe.
With Deap Vally, we try to keep it a democratic process, but sometimes it’s hard with two people. If you disagree — I mean, that’s why it’s nice to have a producer in the room, to help you if there’s a disagreement or if someone’s being too stubborn. If there’s a third person in the room in the creative process, you can do majority rule most of the time.
I guess it taught me that a lot of the stuff that we’ve done with other people have been more melodic and less heavy. We realized how weird and heavy, for whatever reason, it is when Julie and I come together to play. We tend to make pretty heavy music.
When there’s more melodic instruments in the room, it tends to become a more melodic experience, which is fun. A lot of the people we’ve worked with have been on bass, so it opens up the way I’m able to play guitar and not having to cover as many frequencies. I can play with some cleaner tones and more single notes and sparseness, because I have that bass to support it.
It’s fun to play around with different melodies and instruments, for sure.
How do you feel about artists being expected to be somewhat of a moral compass these days?
Some bands are maybe inherently more political than others, and as a woman you’re already political, but I don’t think anyone should be expected to become political as an artist. If you want to, that’s cool; it’s cool if you feel strongly about something. Charities are good things for people to support, and being a part of the Girls Against: Compilation LP was like that for us. We were like, yeah, of course we’ll support that.
Of course, your art is always the first thing, and that’s what defines you. You talk about politics all you want, but at the end of the day, you want to talk about your music, obviously. Not just the other stuff.
It seems like it could be frustrating to want people to judge you on our work, but because you’re an artist — and especially a female artist — that isn’t always the deal you actually get in the end.
Yeah. It’s a crazy time we’re living in right now, and obviously, the country is super-divided. People are very outspoken about their politics — unless they’re on the other side, which is interesting. Unless they’re conservative, then they’re not allowed to talk about politics, or else they’ll be shunned in the music industry.
I have noticed that weird double standard. It’s an interesting time now. We have this platform with social media and the Internet, which is good because it gives all these different types of people a voice; it gives women a voice.
But then it’s like the peanut gallery swoops in to shut everyone down. I now feel like people are afraid to be radical or have their own opinions because they’re getting torn down.
You're saying if you say something, it has to be hollow. You can’t completely share how you feel with people.
Yeah. It’s interesting. Definitely an interesting time we live in. I think it’s important to let everyone have a voice – it shouldn’t just be people on the far-left or far-right. It’s important to let everyone have their intricacies of opinions, because that’s how you have a real conversation about things.
The people that go off the deep end, saying crazy stuff and then are shunned — I don’t know [laughs]. It makes me not want to talk about stuff.
You and Julie went through a form of couples’ therapy to get your working relationship back on track; do you think people need to be friends to work together?
Well, define "friends". You obviously need some sort of working relationship to make music together, but the band dynamic is almost familial. You spend so much time together, and you go through so much together and are stuck together, in a way. It does have that familial feeling to it.
It’s like any relationship: It has ups and downs. We’re super-close. We’re very close. She’s like family. But of course, does it help when your relationship is better? Probably! Then again, some of the greatest bands had crazy rivalries between them, and sometimes that would help. Like between Paul and John, you know?
I don’t know. Sometimes rivalries can be good, too. I think you can have different ways. You don't have to have it just one way, and you’re not always going to get along perfectly with each other, either.
Like you said, it's family. It's going to be complicated. Why did you two want to record and release commentary for Femisjism called Femijism TBT?
We did it like a year after we recorded the record, and got to sit down with [Yeah Yeah Yeah's guitarist] Nick Zinner, who produced the record, and Chris Kasych, who engineered a lot of it. We were just drinking beers and having a good time and talking, remembering shit about the record. It was just fun to reflect on the whole process after the fact.
I also think it’s super-cool to give that gift to the fans — to contextualize the process and also for ourselves. As more time passes, you forget certain details of stuff, so for us to be able to go back and listen and say, “Oh, I forgot we did that!” was nice. It’s a little piece of history, which is cool.
It was for the music nerds. I talk about some dorky stuff on there like pedals and stuff like that, and sometimes people really want to hear about that stuff.
Is that something you’d want to do again?
For sure, yeah. It was really fun, and we had a good time doing it. it was valuable to just get all those details and stories recorded before they’re forgotten.