I can still remember that Facebook notification two and a half years ago: “Colour Revolt updated their event.” As I clicked on the notification, I was disappointed to see that my favorite band had added an opening act to the lineup. My initial thought was “Who the hell are The Pity Party anyway?” A half-hearted Internet search led to minimal results, and I planned on getting to the show late.
For a Friday night, there was a surprisingly low amount of traffic, and I accidentally showed up on time, but thank God for that because when Julie Edwards and Marc Smollin took the stage, I had my face musically blown off. I was floored by the band’s energy, the layered vocals, and Edward’s multi-talented ability to balance drums, lead vocals, and keys, all while bantering charmingly with the crowd. I had to know more about this band. I followed up with them the next day and got my hands on an EP thanks to Julie’s generosity. I followed them, attended shows whenever I could, and told countless people about them, but like many great bands, their talent was under-appreciated.
When I saw that Julie took on another duo, this time with Lindsey Troy, I quickly began following the new band, Deap Vally. I noted when they played local LA shows and was so excited to see them announce European tour dates. As I continued to follow and support the group, I witnessed the grungy rock-and-roll duo gain rapid attention and play to increasingly larger audiences. They recently opened for Muse (Muse) and are finally starting to get the attention they deserve. Who’d have thought a duo that formed after meeting in a knitting class (taught by Edwards) could lead to international fame?
The band, which has been a consistent display of pleasant surprises, was able to spare Julie for a few minutes to speak with me about the adventure this past year has been for Deap Vally.
I originally learned about Deap Vally through your previous duo, The Pity Party. What made you decide to leave that project and create Deap Vally?
I didn’t really leave The Pity Party and move on; I was just diversifying. With The Pity Party, we had kind of hit a plateau when Lindsey walked into my life. She and I started to jam together, and I honestly never, ever imagined any of this at all, but Pity Party isn’t over — it’s on the back burner at the moment. Marc [of The Pity Party] comes on tour with us and actually is a guitar tech for Lindsey, so I still get to have him in my life and share these experiences with him, which is really awesome.
I feel like you ladies were just going to Europe, opening for the Vaccines, and the next thing I know, you’re opening for Muse. Granted, those are both amazing bands, but Muse seems to have a significantly larger scope of fans. What was it like moving from concert rooms like Hotel Cafe to playing arenas?
It was pretty fast. The way I felt about it was that every band deserves that experience. Every band deserves to learn what I’ve had the privilege of learning over the past six months, and the thing is, every band doesn’t get to. It gives you so much perspective on performance, and it gives you so much knowledge on how to conduct your career. The things I’ve learned are so valuable. I always think, ‘God, if I’d known this during the Pity Party days,’ and I get the sense that we got those big shows because we had to be tested quickly about whether we could handle rooms that size.
The biggest show we played with Muse was 14,000 people, the smallest was 11,000, and I just thought they were going to be a nightmare. After the first soundcheck in an arena, I was depressed, but then we came out and played the show, and the shows were great. It was exhilarating and really fun to play in front of that many people and to get that many people excited and get them to react to stuff. It was so much fun. We were touring in Eastern Europe, so I would learn phrases, like I’d learn how to say ‘We’re so happy to be here’ in Latvian, and say it to the crowd. It was so much fun. I’m looking forward to going back to Europe in a couple weeks and learning more stuff that I’ll forget.
It’s awesome that you’re making that effort to connect with the cities that you’re playing in.
It’s just so cool to go to all these different places with all these different cultures where all these people are speaking different languages and eating totally different foods. They love when you talk to them in their language. It makes them so happy, so when they see an opening band that they’ve never heard of before, it’s a nice way to break the ice.
And now you’re playing Coachella. I know last year you played an opening, kick-off party, and now you’ve got a spot on one of the festival stages. What’s next for you? Are you going to be releasing an album?
I believe our first release in the States, which is our Get Deap EP, is coming out in March. The four songs on it are four of our favorites, and we’re so excited to finally be releasing something in the States. That’s our home country, you know? It’s really been an adventure to go touring in Europe, and we even went to Japan, but we’ve been aching to get back to the States. At this point, that’s more exciting than some of these other things, but we do have a tour coming up with Mumford and Sons in Europe in a couple weeks that will be crazy.
Ben Lovett of Mumford and Sons is a part owner of a label called Communion, and he kind of discovered us and signed us along with Island out here in the UK. He’s a real supporter of us, which I think is so awesome because we’re such a different band than Mumford and Sons. We have a very different vibe, but they have very eclectic music taste. They love all kinds of music, and they’re huge fans in general. Even as big as they are, they still love going to small club shows and discovering new music and finding inspiration, which is rad. It’ll be really fun to be on tour with them.
I think that something that strikes me about Deap Vally is that you embrace and evoke a gritty, unrefined sound, which I feel is iconic in an age of auto-tune. What inspired your image and sound?
I think I’m just old school, personally. I was shaped in the ’90s, and that was such an amazing time for heavy rock. It was everywhere. It was mainstream. I got really into Led Zepplin, and they are so raw. I think a lot of people are put off by Robert Plant’s vocals, and if you listen to Zepplin, you can’t lay a click track to it; it won’t adhere to it. It has its own flow and dynamic and rhythm. It’s very raw. Even if you listen to Yeah Yeah Yeahs, [Karen O’s] vocals are so raw, and those are things that really speak to me and Lindsey.
I think auto-tune is deceitful. I don’t think it’s right to do it unless you’re planning on using it as a really overt effect, like Lil’ Wayne or the way Cher used it in that first auto-tuned song, “Do You Believe in Life After Love?” That was the first weird moment of that, but just to use it… First of all, I don’t know who chooses to use it, but if a producer decides to use it, he’s probably eroding the self-esteem of the artist, which is a bad idea in the studio.
So what? So they don’t hit the note, who cares? I hate to think of a generation of people who need to hear pitch-perfect singing and need to hear totally quantified, edited drum tracks. It’s creepy. I really think the human element should continue to be there unless you’re talking about electronic music, in which case it’s a totally different playing field. There’s no other way that we would do it. We would never use auto-tune.
You and Lindsey are noted for your awesome stage wear and overall for your lack of sexual inhibition in your live show. Did you initially plan on setting a, I heard you describe it as, “post-post-post feminist” standard, or did your statement of empowerment come with the progression of the group?
It just came really naturally. Even with The Pity Party, when I played drums, I performed drums. I didn’t just play them; I expressed drums. We never want to hide. We really want to be fearless. We want to channel when we’re on stage. We want to be expressive, we don’t want to hide, and we want to encourage fearlessness in other people. Lindsey and I never talked it through; it just came naturally to both of us for whatever reason.
Do you still find time to knit between your international touring?
Yeah, you spend hours sitting down in moving vehicles on tour, so knitting is the perfect thing to do during that time. We both have our projects, and we’re both knitting a lot. Rock and roll. It’s just something to do, you know? It makes you feel productive even though you’re stuck doing nothing.
Who are some artists you’d recommend to our readers?
Chelsea Wolfe is awesome. Unknown Mortal Orchestra. JJUUJJUU. Only You, which is another sick girl band from LA that we’ve played with a couple times. Also, Here We go Magic and Drenge. They’re actually who we’re on tour with right now. They’re a two piece, and they’re great.
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