Whose font is bigger on the flyer is a matter of business and personal taste, especially in an industry that doles out the big rewards to an infinitesimal fraction of the amount of talent out there. However, if it’s a question of readiness or ripeness, Los Angeles-based Deap Vally is no opening act.
Deap Vally is an exciting band, and I don’t say this lightly as the bass is one of my favorite instruments and there is no bass player. The omission puts the onus on Julie Edwards (drums, vocals) and Lindsey Troy (vocals, guitars) to make up for it by taking up the as much sonic room as possible. They did and then some when I caught their juicy amalgam of punk, blues and hard-driving grunge at The Observatory last night when they played before Minus the Bear.
It’s easy to fall for hardscrabble backstories but the truth is Edwards and Troy are relatively well-connected. Edwards heads up Desert Daze with husband Phil Pirrone. Mischa Barton and Georgia May Jagger have starred in recent videos, and they have toured with Blondie and Garbage (this summer), Red Hot Chili Peppers, Arctic Monkeys and Marilyn Manson among others.
They’ve also been covered by numerous publications and played sets at Coachella, Bonnaroo, and the Glastonbury festival and they were signed to Island records (now on indie label Nevada Music), and have charted in the UK.
Although the two had other projects before they met each other, Lindsey as a solo artist, (“folky stuff which I was kind of bored of, burned out of”) being together has given them a chance to earn their stripes as Julie attests to when I meet up them backstage before the show.
“For me,” she says in between cuddles with her adorable nearly two-year-old daughter, “We’ve gotten a pretty legitimate chance to be a ‘real’ band. So you know, we’ve logged the miles and done the shows. We are a road weary, legitimate, grungy, touring rock band and it gives you the opportunity to get tight and really…be real, to be coming on stage and representing something that’s happening.”
With Deap Vally, the two push each other out of their comfort zones. Troy has a distinctive voice: high and flexible with a less cartoonish Gwen Stefani vibrato she can call up on command and the ability to surprise with moments of grit. Edwards lays into the drums with veracity and backs up Troy’s vocals with full, lower-toned vocals.
Their music is simple, but not simplistic. Femejism Unplugged is a four-track EP with songs selected from the full-length, thirteen-track Femejism released last year. It’s stuffed with goodies like the addictive fuzzy guitar lick on “Royal Jelly” and the snarly, sexy back and forth melody of “Teenage Dream.”
Together since 2011, early on, Deap Vally was fiercely opposed to recording anything acoustic. “We were like okay, if we are going to do that, we are going to go in and make alternate versions of the songs, you know we want them to be just as good, but different–different versions,” says Julie of the EP.
I note quirky touches the tracks take on in the transition“Smile More” ends up sounding like a dirtier Sheryl Crow, and “Grunge Bond” takes on an early sixties vibe with the addition saxophone by Andrew Stavas of Kiev.
Ultimately, I think makes Deap Vally desirable and refreshing isn’t simply a matter of smart production, talent, and friends in high places. It’s a magnetism that comes through on stage. They are dynamic live performers. Lindsey had loads of lead-singer swagger, and Julie matches her energy, they are equals who feed off of each other as well as the audience and nothing feels contrived or forced.
Viscerally sharpened by years of playing live and soaking up lessons of longevity from the more recognized bands they’ve been touring with have turned sharpened their dynamism and efficiency.
They are quite essentially, rock stars. And no need to put “female” in front of that. Julie adds: “People seem to be under the impression that we’re a female two-piece. We’re a two-piece band. Lindsey cuts in with a deadpan: “Actually, we are transitioning.”
Deap Vally Upcoming Tour Dates:
September 9th: Guadalupe Valley Wine, Food & Music Festival, Ensenada, Mexico
October 13th Desert Daze, Joshua Tree, CA
October 21st Monster Energy Aftershock Festival, Sacramento, CA
November 11 Festerval, Vancouver, Canada