Deap Vally: The Craft of Rock | KCET
Deap Vally: The Craft of Rock
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."
Low Leaf's music doesn't belong to any specific place or point in time. It doesn't fall under a strictly defined genre. She's trained in piano and self-taught in the harp. She plays with electronics, producing beats that can drive soothing melodies. Her voice often bears a jazz influence, but, on some songs, it's layered with other sounds to appear as if it's a not-quite human texture.
Watch a collection of performances by boundary-breaking Latin Alternative musicians. Featuring performances by La Santa Cecilia, Quetzal, and Ceci Bastida.
Cathartic pop artist MILCK performs an intimate set which includes her viral song “Quiet,” which provided a post-election call for people of all races, creeds, and colors who have suffered and survived gallantly in the face of trauma, trials, and tribulations with resounding piano chords and shuddering, soulful delivery.
Once the frontman for Brazil’s popular rock group Los Hermanos, troubadour Rodrigo Amarante performs a stripped-down, solo set of his ballads on Studio A. When Amarante relocated to Los Angeles, he started the indie rock act Little Joy with the Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti, but his recent debut solo record reveals pensive and heartfelt songs inflected with subtle bossa nova vibes.
Buyepongo is an L.A.-based outfit that makes music in the style they have called "buyangú." It's a mix of rhythms and textures influenced by L.A. and the Modesto's travels to Latin America. Crucial to Buyepongo's origin story is a trip that Modesto made to Central America after the band temporarily folded in 2010. During his time abroad, Modesto found inspiration in Garifuna culture.
Los Angeles surf-punk trio Tijuana Panthers performs set of frenetic beachy rock on KCET’s Studio A. The group got their start at Long Beach backyard parties, but have evolved into an upstart act that distills various eras of California rock ‘n’ roll into a unified powerhouse sound.
Singer-songwriter Aloe Blacc performs new music and a cover of Joni Mitchell's 1970 classic "Big Yellow Taxi," a fitting union for a contemporary pop artist who is also an activist for various different causes.
Pairing deft guitar with his lithe falsetto, Moses Sumney performs his soulful folk on KCET’s Studio A. Sumney grew up splitting time between Southern California and Ghana. He recently broke into the Los Angeles music scene with his solo performances, which feature a vibrant choir of his looped vocals.