Photography: Carly Foulkes
Styling: Chaine Leyendecker
Hair: Eddie Cook
Makeup: Nicole Wittman
What do you think of when you hear the word “Femejism?” If you didn’t say feminism and jizz, you literally suck. Still, there are a million different things that come to mind—and that’s exactly how Deap Vally likes it. The name of their second record, the Los Angeles-based duo decided to poke fun at the never-ending feminist girl-band labels that constantly get hurled at them. And much like the title, after releasing two thrashing rock records—2013’s Sistrionix and last year’s Femejism—the duo returned to the studio to record an acoustic EP. Hauntingly raw and intimate, Femejism: Unplugged shows yet another side to a band that refuses to be pigeonholed.
BULLETT caught up with Troy before the band headed out on tour with Blondie and Garbage. Read our interview, below.
Tell me about Femejism: Unplugged.
We chose our four favorite songs from the record and went into the studio and recording alternative versions—like, super stripped down, really intimate and vibey ones. It’s super cool. We’re usually a heavy band, so it’s really fun to experiment. It’s still very much us—very raw and visceral, but in a much more intimate way. I’m really proud of it.
Why’d you decided to do it?
It was a challenge for us. And people are always asking us to do acoustic sets when we’re on tour or doing promotional stuff. We’d also say no because it wouldn’t make sense—we’re a rock band. But with the second record, we really challenged ourselves and wanted to push it even further. One of the songs, “Turn It Off”—we co-wrote that song with Nick Zinner from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who produced our record. It’ a really beautiful song but the way we play it on this EP is so different. You know that song “Bette Davis Eyes?” It’s got that aesthetic. But the new version has a real Leonard Cohen, Cat Power vibe.
Did making the EP change your mind about acoustic music?
We realized that you can really make acoustic music still sound like rock. The Violent Femmes are a good example of that—they’re playing acoustic, but it’s very much punk rock.
What was the hardest part?
Just trying to figure out how to do the songs justice—I still wanted to make the instruments sound impactful, and I really had to figure out how to do it.
What’s your collaborative process like?
We’re very much partners in Deap Vally—it’s a total democracy. A lot of our songs are from born from just going into a room and jamming. But we share equal writing credit on every song and just have had that mentality throughout the whole project—it’s total teamwork.
What’s the hardest part about having to work with another person?
When you disagree—trying to come to an agreement on something when you just don’t. That’s always the most challenging part. But it’s what happens—that’s the beast of burden you get with collaboration. And in the end, the sum is greater than a part. There’s some alchemy with Julie and I when we work together—we can complete each other’s sentences and just create these beautiful pieces of music together, and we each bring something to the table.
What were you able to get out of this EP that you haven’t gotten from your previous records?
I’ve been doing music my whole life, and I grew up hearing acoustic folk music but always having a really strong love for rock ‘n’ roll. So it was fun for me to take elements of that world and bring it nto what we do. Also it’s nice to be like, ‘Oh, well we’re not just this two-dimensional thing’—we’re not just one flavor. We have we have different sides to us and it’s fun to be able to show that—we’re not just like rock ‘n’ roll caricatures or something.
Back to the original title—what does it mean?
Julie has this hobby where she likes to invent words by putting two together. So, our first record was the same thing—it was a combination of “histrionics” and “sister,” Sistrionix, which we thought really defined the spirit of our band. Femejism was like another extension of that. Being women in a band, we’re constantly forced to talk about what it’s like being a women in a band. So even if you don’t originally come out wanting to talk about it at all, you get forced into it. On one hand, it’s cool to be able to express your feelings about gender issues. But sometimes, you just want to be able to play rock ‘n’ roll and not be defined by your gender—just be who you are. Though I guess, sometimes, who you are is just inherently political.
So you’re sick of getting asked if you’re feminists.
It’s like, yeah, of course we’re feminists. Who isn’t? What person in their reasonable mind isn’t? But then you say it, so you have to talk about it. And it’s cool to talk about, but we have a lot a more to say. So, Femejism was a response to all of that. Especially the combination of “feminism” and “jism”—it’s a new word that doesn’t make any fucking sense. Maybe it’s the female orgasm, or maybe it’s something else entirely—it can be interpreted so many ways and that’s what we like about it so much: you can’t pigeonhole it. We’re just taking the piss out of feminism, and reinventing, or whatever.
I think women in music automatically get labeled as feminist if they’re outspoken. Add your two album titles on top, and you’re pigeonholed forl life. Does that ever feel limiting?
The thing is, we are warriors for equality. But we do just want to be treated as people—no one get’s called an “all-male rock band.” And the irony is, people become so fixated on your gender as soon as you say something about it. So it’s kind of a catch-22. And at the end of the day, yeah, we’re feminists. But we’re also a bunch of other things, too. And first and foremost, we’re in a rock ‘n’ roll band.
Look 1: On Lindsey: Bodysuit: Naked Wardrobe, Suit: Anthony Franco; On Julie: Jupsuit & Scar: Vintage
Look 2: On Lindsey & Julie: Julia Clancey