Lindsey Troy discusses the band’s new acoustic EP and hitting the road with Blondie and Garbage
Los Angeles rock duo Deap Vally dropped their second LP, Femejism, back in 2016 and followed it up with an “unplugged” edition earlier this year. The band has spent the year on the road playing festivals and touring with musical heroes Blondie and Garbage.
On tour, the duo, made up of Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards, formed a special relationship with the legendary bands, who have encouraged them to “keep going”. It was certainly a grounding experience for Deap Vally who has already worked with personal hero Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on their last album, and it doesn’t seem like it’ll be long till others start recounting their experiences of playing and collaborating with these L.A. rock stars.
We caught their recent set at Seattle’s Bumbershoot festival, and ARTISTdirect’s Christopher Friedmann spoke with Lindsey Troy about that recent touring with legends, the differences in making an acoustic record, and what advice she’d give to other musicians.
Christopher Friedmann: We’re talking because you just played at Bumbershoot and you are next set to play Desert Daze. Just to start, how is the mood in camp?
Lindsey Troy: It’s great. We’re a little tired. We’ve been doing a lot of touring over the last few months, but it’s been fun. It’s been a fun summer, and we have real tight-knit little tour crew. We have our good pals along that help us out, and it’s been great. We were all super high on that Blondie/Garbage tour we did.
CF: I’m sure! Did they share any advice that you are carrying with you?
LT: Yeah, it was just overall a really inspiring tour to be on, and both of those bands have passed the test of time, been around a long time, and persevered, and just really great bands, each very unique its own way. They’re both obviously led by strong frontwomen. Shirley Manson, she’s a big fan of Deap Vally, and was just like, “You gotta keep going,” and full of wise advice, just basically like, “Keep going. This is what you’re meant to do.”
Debbie Harry is a totally awesome woman. We became friends with her and she was super sweet. She was giving us clothes she didn’t want anymore. She did my makeup for a couple nights on tour, and I would ask her about stuff, music type stuff, and she’s just a real… it’s just really inspiring. I mean Debbie Harry is 72 years old and she’s as fierce as ever, so it’s pretty special.
CF: Was there a moment from the tour that sums up the experience for you?
LT: Just when Shirley Manson and Julie and I would be hanging out in Debbie Harry’s dressing room. The four of us would be hanging out, and Mira [Julie’s little one-year-old daughter] would be in there crawling all over Debbie and Shirley and we’d all just be laughing and having a really good time and stuff, and it was like, “Wow! This is pretty crazy.”
CF: As we’ve mentioned you just played Bumbershoot and you have a couple of big festivals coming up. How do you prepare differently for one of these gigantic shows versus a smaller club?
LT: It’s pretty much the same, to be honest, as far as preparation goes. Just gotta get in the zone. I guess it’s a little different with festivals because you don’t usually have a soundcheck. So that’s a little different, you’re more thrown into the fire. But in a way I kind of like that because I don’t really love sound checking. But it’s pretty much the same preparation, I would say, besides that.
CF: Earlier this year you released Femejism (Unplugged). Can you tell us about some of the differences, outside of the obvious, when it come to making an acoustic album?
LT: For us, we saw it as an opportunity to re-approach the same songs, but in a completely different way. So we were like, “How can we get it to be as cool as the original?” Like we wanted it to be as good as the original version, otherwise it’s kind of like, “What’s the point?” We’ll just make it cool, but in a totally different way.
For us it was just about figuring out how to do that. We did a lot of live takes and just kind of figuring out how, for Julie how to get the drums to still pack a punch, so she played with brushes, which she had never done before, and we ended up really loving the way that sounded. It had a cool, sort of Violent Femmes vibe. And then getting the acoustic guitar, which was just mic’d to still pack a punch even though it was without all the pedals and effects. Just figuring out, you know, sometimes I would play a song differently on the acoustic guitar or tune it down a different way, just doing different little things like that.
And then we brought in a friend of ours, Andy Stavas from the band Kiev, and he is an unbelievably talented saxophone player. He came in and was just kind of riffing over the tracks we already laid down, different sax parts and doing little… he does this really cool layering thing, where he layers different sax parts, and then we would kind of just be like, “Yeah, maybe try something a little like this,” and then we had to go through and edit those parts and pick the little tastiest bits.
We didn’t want it to be… obviously sax can go two ways. It can go kind of a cheesy Kenny G way or it can be done really cool and tasteful. You can get some cool darkness out of it, some dissonant notes, if it’s done right. So we feel like we all really nailed it with the saxophone and it was really special watching the songs come to life with that extra element. And for me, as a vocalist, it was also really fun to be able to sing so quietly. That was a nice change for me.
CF: Your songs came through as even more personal because the vocals were very upfront, though the concepts there are still universal. Can you take us through a bit of your songwriting process?
LT: The songwriting process is always so different. Sometimes I’ll just forget how to write a song. I’ll be like, “How do we do this?” And then I’ll remember there’s no one way to do it. You really just approach it any which way.
The best way is to really just throw yourself into the fire. A lot of times, Julie and I will just go into a rehearsal space and we’ll be like, “Let’s just start jamming and see what happens.” We like to do that, just get into the rehearsal space, start jamming, see what happens. Like anything, it could be a painful process at first. You’re like, “Eww, that doesn’t sound very good,” but it’s kind of like running long distance, where you have to sometimes get through the uncomfortable parts and then you kind of hit your stride. I think that’s a really good way to describe the creative process in general, just because there are a lot of uncomfortable, or just bad moments, but you have to just force yourself to get through those to get to the good moments and mine for the good stuff.
We do it that way or sometimes I write when I’m just sitting alone and I’ll just be with my guitar and I can come up with a concept, and then I’ll bring that to Julie and we’ll flush it out together and finish the song together. We work really well that way, as well. Or she’s really good at coming up with lyrical concepts, so she’ll come up with these ideas and then we’ll just have a concept, you know, write a song conceptually.
Approaching it from different fresh ways keeps it interesting and fun. But the main thing is just forcing yourself to go in and do it. So once we get in the flow of writing a record, it gets easier and easier.
Deap Vally at Bumbershoot 2017: Photo Gallery
CF: As you mentioned, you’ve recently been on tour with these amazing behemoths of the music industry. But as I see the music world, it often seems to be male-dominated, at least on the business side. What should women entering the music industry be aware of?
LT: I would probably give the same advice to a woman as I would give a man, just be like, “Trust your gut. Don’t compromise. Don’t compromise yourself, because at the end of the day, that’s all you really have. Just try to make smart business decisions. Make sure you know what you’re getting into. Don’t trust anyone too much, as far as on the business end, because sometimes people act like they’re your friends and they’re really not. They are just out to make money off of you, but really you just have to, at the end of the… follow your gut and make the art that you’re proud of because most importantly that’s the main reason you’re doing the thing. At the end of the day that’s what it is that’s the legacy you leave behind, so you want to make sure that and trust that and trust your instincts as an artist because you know best.” I would also say to women that there’s so much more to write about than just love.
CF: Throughout your career we can imagine that you’ve had a fair share of interesting experiences. But is there one moment that stands out, a grounding experience or moment of perspective that reminds you why you do all of this?
LT: You get a lot of those moments. For me, a lot of those types of moments happen when I’ve gone to play shows or collaborate with musical heroes of mine. I mean it’s truly an honor and it’s such a privilege and you really just have to pinch yourself sometimes and go, “Wow! This is real. This is happening and obviously, I’m doing something right to get to this point.” And that’s a very special feeling. Like making the record with Nick Zinner from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who’s one of my favorite bands, and getting to play shows with Blondie and Garbage and going on tour with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who I was a big fan of growing up. It’s very cool!
Photos by Stefan Goldby for ARTISTdirect.