Deap Vally makes rock tunes that are as noisy as they are bluesy. Lead singer/guitarist Lindsey Troy and drummer Julie Edwards mix big, gritty vocals with blistering guitars and thundering drums. They are powerfully feminist, belting out anthems of empowerment. Deap Vally declares financial independence with "Gonna Make My Own Money." They take the indignity out of the "Walk of Shame" with punk rock energy. They've even turned the latter into a weekly contest for fans bold enough to share their stories. It's not simply an excuse to swap anecdotes. Deap Vally states on the band's website, "Let's transform our embarrassment into empowerment and turn this walk of shame into a walk on the wild side that we survived with pride."
The duo has made big waves in a short amount of time. Since Deap Vally's formation in 2011, they've toured extensively, including a stint opening for stadium rockers Muse. This year, they hit the festival circuit with some high-profile dates, like the Sasquatch! Festival in Washington, on the schedule. Troy and Edwards have formed a musical partnership that stands to make a major impact and their story begins with a crochet class.
Edwards used to own an Atwater Village shop called The Little Knittery. Troy wanted to learn how to crochet. Troy signed up for a class at Edwards' store. It was a three hour session with only two students in it. The friendship began.
"And then I kept coming into the store after that, asking for help with my project, and just basically wanting to hang out with Julie," says Troy. Eventually, Edwards asked Troy if she would like to start a band with her.
"I think we were just kindred spirits, you know," says Troy. "Just one of those things you can't really explain."
Troy gave Edwards a five-year-old EP that she made of "folky" tunes. "Just me and an acoustic guitar," she says. She hadn't been playing music much at the time that the two women met, but was looking to get back into it. Meanwhile, Edwards had played as part of The Pity Party, an indie rock duo that earned a respectable amount of acclaim during its heyday. The women jammed together, bringing Edwards friend Ashley Dzerigian, from Great Northern, into the earliest sessions. Things went well. They came up with a tune with which they were proud, but Dzerigian headed out on the road, playing for a pop star. Troy and Edwards were left on their own.
They were broke and worked with what they had. Troy picked up a guitar from her dad and patched it to a keyboard amp that remained from Edwards' Pity Party days. They played with borrowed amps frequently. Troy wonders if they would have a different sound if they had a big budget. She surmises that maybe she would have bought more pedals. That was something she couldn't afford. But, playing with what they had worked to the duo's advantage. "Minimalism," Troy says, became the Deap Vally sound. It's part of their message too.
"We didn't want to be obscure and esoteric and interpretive," says Edwards. "We really wanted to communicate directly. We wanted people to know what we were saying."
Feminism is part of their lyrics that's evident on songs like "Gonna Make My Own Money." "The feminism comes in 'cause we also were doing, were playing a type of music that men usually play," says Edwards. "So it just seems cool to totally infiltrate that by, lyrically as well, covering our own ground rather than like, covering their ground, you know? That's like the ultimate appropriation of that music. "
Deap Vally's 2013 album, Sistrionix, opens with the raw "End of the World." It was based on Troy's guitar riff and spent a substantial amount of time as an instrumental track. Edwards listened to an iPhone recording of the song's early incarnation repeatedly before the lyrics hit. "The end of the world was just in there, you know?" she says. "It just, was there. And then Lindsay started preaching over it and fleshing out what the end of the world is."
Troy adds, "I was driving through LA one day in my crappy car listening to the voice memo and then I just started like, having this idea for the preachy part and I recorded it."
Deap Vally rose quickly. Edwards says that it didn't take long for them to go from playing the Echo to opening for Muse. They spent long stretches of time on the road. "You like, lug a big suitcase into your hotel room, open it up, get ready for bed, go to bed, get up, repack, take your suitcase back out, put it in the van. I mean that's every day," says Edwards.
Their crochet and knitting hobbies helped pass time during the hours spent in the van. It also helped them earn a little more cash on the road. They knitted Deap Vally hats with wool that they picked up on the road and sold the crafts at tour stop merch booths. They event taught a couple crochet classes while touring Europe.
They had to get used to playing for the massive crowds that turned up for Muse in large venues as well. "I remember our first sound check sounded like a disaster and I really felt full of doom," says Edwards. "We tried to win everybody over," she says. "And we just played as hard as we could, and as well as we could, and got into it, and got sweaty. We tried to seduce them with the transformative powers of rock."
They came back with a different appreciation of the musician's life. Troy mentions that she used to harbor "hostility" for pop tunes and the people who made them. She still doesn't listen to much pop stuff, but her attitude has changed. "I know how hard those people work," she says.
Deap Vally is planning on hitting the road again come May. They're touring with Band of Skulls and have some music festivals on the itinerary. They're also working on a follow-up to Sistrionix.
"I think it's still an exploration," Troy says of the forthcoming music. "We just started writing again and it's been really fun to sort of crack that open again."