Where do the members of a hard-hitting, genre-bending alternative rock outfit first meet? At a knitting class, of course. Los Angeles based Deap Vally formed in 2011 after Lindsey Troy (vocals and guitar) met – and was taught to crochet by – Julie Edwards (drums and vocals) at a needlework class in the neighbourhood of Echo Park. Happenstance is a wonderful thing. Since forming, Troy and Edwards have garnered a reputation for delivering scuzzy, blues inflected, rock music; a reputation that has seen them score support slots for artists as diverse as Peaches, Wolfmother, and Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Femejism, the follow-up to 2013’s debut Sistrionix, sees the pair powerfully assert their own identity as a band while expanding upon the sonic terrain of their earlier efforts. If there is one weakness to Femejism, it is that Deap Vally throw so many sounds into the album – blues, grunge and alternative, stoner-rock, and a hint of sludge – that the listener can easily become overwhelmed and disoriented. Despite lacking an overarching aural focus, Femejism still proves to be a compelling listen full of outstanding tracks and several near misses. A strong groove, and confident swagger, permeates Royal Jelly, the album’s opening track, proclaiming Troy and Edwards’ uncompromising vision.
Deap Vally’s self-definitional bent is clearly displayed on singles Gonnawanna – which has a delightfully nonsensical video clip, perfectly complimenting the tracks surf-meets-punk rock vibe – and Smile More. Troy’s drawling lyrics on Smile More seemingly gives voice to every woman who has ever felt pressured to justify their life choices to others – “yes, I am a feminist/but that is not why I’m doing this” – or anyone, in general, who doesn’t conform to societal expectations – “I am happily unhappy, man”. Teenage Queen blends a stoner-rock sound, and Troy’s vocals are reminiscent of Courtney Love’s early-to-mid-period work with Hole – a feeling one also gets with Little Baby Beauty Queen – while Edwards’ backing vocals work brilliantly.
Live audiences will undoubtedly be compelled to jump and nod to the danceable groove of Grunge Bond and the skewed timings of Two Seat Bike, and it seems reasonable to conclude that it is in the performance setting that Deap Vally truly blaze like a nova, although their studio work sure does stand out from the crowd. Troy and Edwards don’t quite manage to knock it out of the park with Femejism, but they have crafted a forcible record that deserves to reach a wide audience, and promises grand things to come from the duo.