“I think people could look at us and make one assumption, and then when they see us play, that assumption will be shattered,” says Julie Edwards, Deap Vally’s drummer. “And that’s the beauty of it.”
Indeed there are plenty of assumptions to make about a female duo who on the surface of things are all wild hair, short shorts and lip-curling attitude. But this would not prepare for the sheer hurtling power of their music; the kind of inextinguishable ferocity that cannot be faked or fluked or phoneyed, that can only be hauled up from the guts.
When Lindsey and Julie met the idea of jamming together seemed a natural one, and at that first session Edwards brought in a bassist friend to make up a three-piece all-female band. But with the bassist away on tour thereafter it was just Edwards and Troy — a Fender Mustang guitar, a drum kit and two wild voices.
“I knew before we even went in to that first jam it would be special,” says Troy. “I could feel it. And I was happy being a two-piece. A big part of Deap Vally is that there are limitations, and we enjoy those limitations, but at the same time within those confines having no limitations. We like to push boundaries.”
It is when they play that they say they feel freest — ignited by the roar and the pure physicality of it. “I have always wanted to make heavy music,” says Edwards. They speak of their soul and gospel and punk influences, of R’n’B vocal melodies and Blues riffs meeting “powerful dark dissonant Sabbath-esque chord progressions and the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll.” They talk of the “heavy” sensation of fingers stumbling on a new riff, arms beating drum-skins. “It’s just a great release,” says Edwards. “It’s very freeing.”
They first played live in the spring of 2011, first at the Silverlake Lounge and then at the Hotel Café, where Marilyn Manson pushed his way to the front row and heckled them as they took to the stage. After the show the first thing he said to them was, “Can I be your groupie?”
They were drawn to each other, they say, by a mutual unapologeticness, by the fact that they are both, by their own definition, socially aggressive women. “I was always very drawn to female performers who were very loud and outspoken and flamboyant,” says Troy. “And I feel like with Deap Vally we are unstoppable – we are so driven, full throttle, it’s undeniable. We really believe in what we represent as a band. And what we represent I feel is like post-post-post feminism.”
By their nature, they say, what they do is political — “In that we’re women,” Troy says, “and we play this type of heavy rock music, not afraid to let it all hang out,” she says proudly. Edwards adds, “So many women masculinise themselves and play their femininity down, and something Lindsey and I felt is that we have never wanted to do that. I’ve been playing drums in tiny shorts for as long as I’ve been playing drums.”
Certainly, short shorts and their breed of visceral, heart-churning rock ‘n’ roll is quite an arresting combination. “I don’t know what image of femininity we’re trying to fulfill,” Edwards says, “and maybe we’re creating a new one: we’re badass but we’re not mean-spirited and angry. We just really, really love heavy music.”
“We believe,” says Troy, “in bringing truly live music back.” Edwards nods. “And we believe in the rock ‘n’ roll revolution, bringing guitar-based rock ‘n’ roll back to the mainstream. We love Led Zeppelin —they’re our heroes. Because that’s a band that played stadiums, didn’t have a safety net of a pre-recorded back-up tape, they didn’t record to a click, and they were really, really sexy and really commanding. And why can’t that happen again? “