Deap Vally’s fiery take on rock – which hoovers up bits from blues, metal, punk and any other genres that might sufficiently do their bidding – has slashed its own path since guitarist-vocalist Lindsey Troy and drummer-vocalist Julie Edwards first teamed up in 2011. On their new album Femejism, out today, the band take their sound to new places, stripping it down and building it back up even bigger while retaining their sly sense of humor and larger-than-life braggadocio.
Femijism is out in the States via Nevado Music and represents a new chapter for Deap Vally – one of complete creative independence following their 2013 debut on Island. While Deap Vally have always been a band that puts their strong point of view front and center, the liberation surrounding Femijism’s release adds an extra kick to an already high-octane band. “Post Funk” is heightened nerves over a raucous disco; “Teenage Queen” exudes thrash-y swagger and “Critic,” is a track surrounded by tape hiss where Troy sings “Everyone is, everyone is/A fuckin’ critic, a fuckin’ cynic.” It’s a new tack for a band that’s specialized in rafter-shaking rock, and it lands in the middle of the record like a pipe bomb.
“I came up with the idea pretty quickly,” recalls Troy from Oslo, where Deap Vally is touring with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. “I recorded it on my phone, and then I played it for Julie, who really liked how the phone recording sounded – it was super lo-fi, and I was singing it quietly because it was late at night. We realized it had an interesting delivery that way, so we went for that sonic atmosphere with the song when we recorded its first half. … It was really special for me to see that song materialize into a full thing; when I wrote it I was having a moment of frustrating with everything, and it was very pure, unfiltered venting.”
That pure, unfiltered feeling runs throughout Femejism, which is packed with unbridled feeling. Troy’s yelp is one of the most startling in rock right now, coming in white-hot with lyrics that slice through niceties (particularly on the defiant “Smile More,” which takes on expectations about women and age), while the pairing of her arena-ready riffs with Edwards’ storm-the-gates drums make for glorious noise.
“We really were letting ourselves be open to whatever came through us,” says Troy. “We were working with [Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist] Nick Zinner, and his guidance was, ‘Don’t be neurotic about if it sounds like Deap Vally or not. You can worry about that later. Just write.’ That was very liberating, to not have to be analyzing what we were working on while we were doing it.”
“We had complete freedom,” says Edwards. “We basically financed the record ourselves, and there was nobody waiting to hear versions or demos or give input or anything like that. We had this beautiful, wonderful freedom to express our creativity and our vision and our points of view.”
Financing Femejism themselves meant that Deap Vally had to go into a crash course about the music business, turning the broadside put forth in their early single “Gonna Make My Own Money” into a fact of their musical life.
“When you’re on a major label, you go from being an artist and a musician to being the president of an enormous company with thousands of moving parts and tons of employees and outside contractors,” says Edwards. “Most musicians aren’t prepared to be in that position, so what happens is, someone else guides the business for you while you stay on the music end. This transition we’ve been going through, which at times has been really challenging and rough, has been us figuring out all the aspects of our business, and starting to control all the aspects of our business.
"It’s a lot of work, but it’s very liberating and really empowering. It’s super challenging, but it’s also realistic in a way. Rather than us chasing this mythological dream of someone making everything happen for us, or everything happening with us understanding the way it works, we’re fully aware of the inner workings of the machine. It’s fun to get in there and be creative with the way we’re going to take ourselves through it.”
That creativity extends to the title of the album,which flips one of 2016’s hottest clickbait buzzwords into something … different.
“The title is cool because it’s open to a lot of interpretation,” says Troy. “Obviously being women and feminism is something we’re constantly asked about, which is kind of annoying because guys aren’t always asked about being men in bands. When Julie first told me the name I hated it, and then it grew on me. But I kind of liked that about it – I liked that it’s slightly revolting at first, and that it made you think.”