Interview: Deb Never on her debut 'House On Wheels' EP.
Deb Never is bemused with her beverage in hand. It’s a purple drink, which is in fact, not Purple Drank (or Lean as it’s often called), but a blueberry infused green tea which deepens in colour throughout our photoshoot.
Walking the streets of Highland Park is ongoing entertainment as Deb shares fun facts about herself - she’s allergic to most kinds of fruit (anything with a pit, but don’t worry she can still eat strawberries), and lends a hand in art-directing her photos; asking to pose in a heap of tall-growing wheat.
And with a tour supporting Dominic Fike coming up, as well as a contribution on Brockhampton’s new album 'Ginger' (listen to 'No Halo' and you’ll hear her vocals), it’s clear that Deb shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
I don’t think there should ever be a point for any artist in any field where they should stop learning, or feeling like there’s a ceiling to what they could access and learn.
COUP DE MAIN: Your debut EP is out very soon! How do you feel about releasing your first proper body of work?
DEB NEVER: I’m really excited. I was worried at first about it being too all over the place, but even though there are songs that are in a different genre, I feel like it all coincides together well in a world. So after hearing it back, I’m just really excited that 1) It’s finished, and 2) That it works all well together. It feels like a real project rather than just a quick EP type of deal.
CDM: I love the EP artwork! How did you come up with that as the visual representation for the EP?
DEB: I had a bunch of different ideas, and I just like in general, a lot of surreal work - a lot of the things I do visually, I feel like that goes with the music I put out. So that’s kind of what I wanted to create, but more of a high concept, where it wouldn’t be too cheesy or on the nose, but it was simple enough where it’s a statement. I have a friend named Claire Joy who helped art direct it, and helped me conceptualise the idea. I was in Vancouver during a trip and we just got it done in one day, we put on the make-up and the suit, and did a couple of poses. That’s kind of how it came to be! It just worked perfectly with the type of world I was wanting to create.
CDM: Was the EP all made in the same block of time, or are some of them songs you’ve been working on for a while?
DEB: I think one of the songs I made almost a year ago, but for the most part, a lot of it happened more recently. Not to say that the idea or the sound wasn’t something that I’d already been planning and practicing, but the actual production and the songs, the sound coming to fruition, that happened this year. That sound in general, was something I’ve been trying to perfect and figure out how to do.
CDM: What was running through your mind while writing ‘Out Of Time’? I think it’s my favourite on the EP.
DEB: That’s a sick one. I wrote it to a whole other guitar beat and the production was completely different. It wasn’t anything that was really thought out. When I wrote it, I went about it in a very punk way - where at the moment, whatever I’m thinking, just throwing the words at the wall. Then Shlohmo took the vocals and did a whole different production around it, and that’s how it came about.
CDM: What are some of your earliest musical memories?
DEB: I remember watching music videos. I remember watching the ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ music video by Nirvana and then picking up-- I think I was like 8 or 9 years old, and for a school project I made a guitar with a tissue box and a paper towel roll and a rubber band, and I had that at home. I remember watching music videos and then pretending it was me, that was probably my earliest memory of, ‘Holy shit, I love music.’
CDM: At what point did your passion for music turn into you making your own music?
DEB: To be honest, I think it was the other way around for me. I think it was never something like, ‘I love music, I’m going to try to make music.’ It was one of those things, I was so immediately drawn to making my own sound when I first touched a guitar - it was more of an escape, and then I came to love music, because I was fiddling around. It was definitely the other way around for me.
CDM: It’s really cool that you just taught yourself to do everything. Are you still learning more about music as you continue to work? Do you think making music is something that is kind of like a continuous education?
DEB: Always! I don’t think there should ever be a point for any artist in any field where they should stop learning, or feeling like there’s a ceiling to what they could access and learn.
CDM: What’s your favourite song lyrically that you’ve written so far?
DEB: I think it’s the first verse of ‘Swimming’. It’s the one that goes, "What is it you’re missing? / had no pot to piss in / had no one to listen / should’ve known / You got makeup on your pillow / Cuz your daddy didn’t love you." That verse, for me, I really like.
CDM: Did it come together quite quickly when you were working on it?
DEB: Yeah. Initially I had it as a punk song verse, and then it just worked so well with those chords. It’s a very in-your-face lyric, which is why I like it so much.
CDM: What do you want people to take away from listening to your music?
DEB: I want people to take away whatever they want to take away. I don’t think that’s something that I could say. I don’t want to be like, “Oh, you should feel this way from listening to my music,” it’s like, whatever state you’re in, if you feel a connection to it, or you feel like an easy bop, I think that’s subjective.
CDM: The sentiment of ‘Ugly’ is really relatable and quite sad - “Like a drug addict, I can't predict how you make me feel.” Do you think love can change people?
DEB: Yes. There’s a reason why people say that love is a drug. I think it changes people - it could ruin somebody, or it could change someone in a good way.
CDM: The song overall touches on the toxicity of relationships and sense of need between two people. Why do you think codependency in relationships can be so dangerous?
DEB: I think it can be dangerous, because it’s like, this is an analogy that I’m going to use, when a frog is boiling in water, they slowly heat up without realising - and I feel like with comfort, sometimes that can happen where maybe a person isn’t good for you, but you’re so deep in it, you don’t notice how bad it is for you. That’s something I always say with anything, is that I don’t want you to need me, I want you to want me - there’s a difference.
CDM: Do you like using songwriting as a way to reflect back on past experiences in your life?
DEB: Yeah definitely. I feel like a lot of things that I write are emotionally based, so it’s very what I’m feeling at the moment.
CDM: It’s cool that you can look back six months later and be like, 'Oh, that’s how I was feeling at that time.'
DEB: Yeah. It’s a very, ‘I’m here, at this moment, this is what I’m feeling, and I’m going to write about it.’
CDM: “Ask me if I’m good / I’ll answer I’m okay / Wear a face you’ll never know,” you sing in ‘Swimming’. Why do you think people have a tendency to often hide how they’re really feeling?
DEB: I think it comes from pride, and being embarrassed, or maybe it’s a societal thing. I think vulnerability is shown as weakness, and that’s something that I feel like I struggled with as well, with showing my emotions. It’s a common thing for a lot of people if they’re asked, “Are you good?”, and you’re like, “Yeah, I’m all right.”
CDM: It’s the default to say you’re fine.
DEB: Yeah, you just put a smile on your face and go about your day.
CDM: Do you think people change themselves / their personalities depending on who they surround themselves with?
DEB: 100%. I mean the “wear a face” line is just about wearing a mask. People have different faces depending on who they’re with. If they’re in a work situation they’re going to be very stern, then with their friends they’re probably going to be happy.
CDM: Do you think it’s harder for people to know who they truly are, when they’re putting out so many versions of themselves?
DEB: Definitely. It creates an identity crisis. It almost gets to a point where you’re being so many different people for so many different people that you kind of lose yourself.
CDM: You go on to sing: “I keep swimming in a pool of phoney / people I don’t even know.” Did you write that line about a specific circumstance?
DEB: It was more of a past thing, where I felt like with everyone around me, I felt super misunderstood. So that’s where that lyric came from, where I felt like I was wearing a face for so long, where it’s like, ‘No one knows who the fuck I am.’ So in turn, I feel like you’re not real, you don’t give a fuck about me.
CDM: Are you looking forward to showcasing the new EP when you open for Dominic Fike’s American tour dates?
DEB: For sure! I’m excited for it to be out, and hopefully people can listen to it and know the words. I feel like so far I’ve just been performing songs that no one knows, because they haven’t been released. So I’m excited to see how it goes.
CDM: How did you guys meet? I love the video of you pranking him from the Pigeons & Planes takeover you did.
DEB: Oh yeah. <laughs> He was all upset because he was wearing a nice t-shirt. I love pranks. I met him at a friend's studio, when he was working on a different song. The day after we met I ended up going to their house and it was like, “Yo, you should make something together!” It was a natural segue into making music.
CDM: What was your involvement in the new Brockhampton album?
DEB: I’m on one of their tracks.
CDM: What was it like working with them?
DEB: It was great. Honestly, watching them work is super inspiring, because I feel like they have such a good chemistry and working relationship. There’s this ecosystem where everybody is doing their thing and not clashing. So watching them work and being able to work with them in that environment has really helped me work harder.
CDM: It’s cool to see so many young creatives coming together and working on their art together. Is it important to you to foster relationships with other creatives?
DEB: 100%. I don’t believe in competitiveness.
CDM: I feel like journalists also love to compare people to one another, which doesn’t help the competitive aspect of music.
DEB: That’s the biggest thing that creates competitiveness, is comparison, because I don’t think a lot of people like being compared to others - it makes it sound like you’re ripping someone off. I love collaborating and being able to work off of other artists, and learning.
CDM: You’ve mentioned an interest in film as well - I love the 'Ugly' music video! Do you enjoy being involved in other creative facets of your career aside from just music-making?
DEB: Oh yeah. I’m neurotic in that way, I have to be a part of every creative facet - whether it’s visuals or merch design; everything, I have to have my hands on it.
Deb Never's debut 'House On Wheels' EP is out now - click here to purchase and watch the 'Swimming' music video below: