Hailing from Los Angeles, Death Valley Girls don’t sound like your typical band from the City of Angels. More like the City of Detroit. Their infectious brand of self described, “California Doom Boogie” is so akin to Motor City madmen The Stooges and MC5 that you would swear it was all from the same time. There is an exuberance and an urgency that comes from them. A vibe that feels like because they live and breathe this thing we call “Rock and Roll” they are destined to be a household name. Other comparisons could be made as well which is testament to how diverse their sound can be. Their latest platter is called, “Darkness Rains” and you can really feel the progression from their last album, “Glow in the Dark”. They are more refined which doesn’t take away from the garage/psychedelic/grit sound. It seems to intensify it.
So far, 2018 has been a busy year for the band. New label, new album and lots of time on the road. They’ve been touring with Roky Erickson quite a bit (DVG guitarist Larry Schemel has been part of Roky’s band The Hounds of Baskerville), opened for the reformed L7, spent time out with L.A. Witch and now will be heading out in support of “Darkness Rains”, which will be released October 5th on Suicide Squeeze Records. I was able to catch up with founding members and mainstays, Bonnie Bloomgarden and Larry Schemel for a brief chat ahead of the albums drop and tour…
Photo by Michael Haight
Torched Magazine: Larry and Bonnie – Tell us a little about the beginning. How did you two meet and start Death Valley Girls? Is there a story behind the name?
Bonnie Bloomgarden- We met through our sister’s little kids. They met and became friends, then they introduced us, we met and became friends and then we formed DVG. The story behind the name is we were having a hard time coming up with something, then Larry was looking through some old notebooks and had scribbled Death Valley Girls down on one of the pages, maybe for a song title or something…
Larry Schemel – “I told Bonnie the idea and she said “That’s It”, it’s a pop culture reference that brought to mind the 70’s & 80’s California of “Valley Girls” and the desolate no mans land of Death Valley, which of course has Manson family connotations. Dark & Light.”
TM: How were you able to get the gig opening for Roky Erickson on some of his dates this and last year, and Larry, what is it like playing in Roky’s band, The Hounds of Baskerville?
BB – We played a Burger Records festival together “Burgerama” a few years ago, we watched Roky’s set and he was amazing , we were also really impressed by the band he had backing him-The Hounds of Baskerville. After they played we walked around to the back and ran right into Roky, we thanked him for an amazing show and then we introduced ourselves to Eli the guitar player telling him what a great show it was. Eli asked what band we were and we said Death Valley Girls, he knew of us and had our record already! We kept in touch with him and last year he called and asked if we wanted to support Roky on the next tour, without hesitation we said “Yes! About a week later he called back and said The Hounds of Baskerville need another guitar and would Larry be interested?…
LS – Again without hesitation I said “Yes!”. Playing in Roky’s band is amazing, already being a huge 13th Floor Elevators & Roky fan it’s surreal to be on stage playing all those classic songs, a few highlights were when Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top, Texas psych legends Moving Sidewalks and an old friend of Roky’s joined us on stage for “You’re Gonna Miss Me” at the Roxy in LA. Meeting Tommy Hall from the Elevators and Billy Miller from The Aliens was at our Halloween show in SF was also amazing.”
TM: Was the L7 tour successful? Did anything crazy happen? They seem like they have had a good time since reforming.
BB – The L7 tour was a lot of fun, they have such a committed fanbase, sold out shows, great venues and they’re having such a good time playing together again. The backstage antics were a bit mellowed from L7’s 80’s/90’s days from what stories we were told but still lot’s of craziness during the shows to keep things exciting.
TM: You recently signed to a new label, Suicide Squeeze Records. How has the transition from Burger been?
BB – Suicide Squeeze have been amazing! We bug them all the time with needing help with stuff and they have been nothing but patient with us and treat all their bands as priority. The transition from Burger has been smooth, we love Burger and they’re still family, they were behind us very early on, putting out our first cassette and then the first full length, they’re the best!
TM: There was another interview I read online before your last album, “Glow in the Dark” came out where the interviewer asked if that album was recorded at The Station House and if you bonded with their dog, Darkness. Bonnie replied that the album was almost called “Darkness Rains” because of engineer and doggy-daddy Mark Rains. So I’ll ask again, was your new album, “Darkness Rains”, recorded at The Station House?
BB – YES!
Photo by Michael Haight
TM: “Glow..” only took two days to record. Did you take more time with “Darkness Rains”?
BB – Yes, we took more time recording “Darkness Rains” , mostly because we were on the road non-stop and when we had time off we would record new songs a few days here and there , so some recordings made the cut right away and some were used as demos, so all in it was about a week or so of work.
TM: Is the same line-up that recorded the album hitting the road with you for this tour? How long do you plan on being on the road?
BB – We had 2 different rhythm sections on the record and we have some old members returning to the band, so a bit of old and new going out on the road. We plan on being on the road for as long as we can!
TM: There is a definite blues/old-school rock/lo-fi quality to your sound. What are your influences and how do you tie them into your music?
BB – Influences are mainly alot of 60’s and 70’s Rock n’ Roll , going back to Ronnie Spector and Little Eva to the late 60’s & 70’s sounds of The Stooges, Alice Cooper, Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground, NY Dolls, UFO, Black Sabbath,Bowie, MC 5,Destroy All Monsters, Sonic’s Rendezvous Band, Simply Saucer, Cramps, Seeds, Blue Cheer, AC-DC… the list goes on, we’re just old fashioned guys! Whenever we write songs there is always the spectre of a few of these influences in the mix.
TM: A question that I know the world is dying to know….what brand of hamburger is it that Iggy is eating in the albums lead single/video, “Disaster (Is What We’re After)”? In-N-Out? Carl’s Jr.? Or is that a home burger from your grill?
BB – McDonalds… Andy Warhol ate a Burger King burger in the original video (where the concept came from) so the director thought of keeping it simple like that, nothin’ fancy. Iggy liked it!
TM: The video is brilliant. Who’s idea was it and how did you get Iggy to do it? Is it a slight homage to Burger Records?
BB – Kansas Bowling, the director, had a dream about making this video, so she told us she wanted to make it a reality. Iggy had been playing us on his show “Iggy Confidential” on the BBC so he was familiar with us but him being in our video seemed pretty far fetched but we left it to Kansas who was able to contact him and he said yes! Next thing we know we’re in Miami where Iggy lives hanging out with him at the video shoot. The concept for the video being the old Andy Warhol video of him eating a burger also lent itself to a homage to Burger since Iggy is a fan of the label as well.
TM: Are there plans to collaborate further with either Roky or Iggy? Who else would you like to work with?
BB – We’d love to collaborate further with them, who else… we think Ronnie Spector would be amazing!
TM: Are you happy with where you are status-wise or would you like to see the band get elevated to Led Zeppelin mythology status?
BB – We’re very happy, I think we’re more into Bigfoot mythology status!
TM: I appreciate the time you all took to talk with us. Is there anything else happening you want to tell us about?
BB – You’re welcome, nice talking to you too! Watch the skies Oct. 5th 2018 when the new album drops!
Pre-Order “Darkness Rains” on their Bandcamp page below. Releases October 5, 2018
Keep Up With The Death Valley Girls
“Darkness Rains” USA Tour Dates
October 3 – @teragramla – Los Angeles, CA **
October 4 – @martysonnewport – Tustin, CA **
October 5 – @casbahsandiego – San Diego, CA **
October 14 – @desertdaze_
October 18 – @aureavistaclub – Riverside, CA
October 19 – @bunkhouse_saloon – Las Vegas, NV
October 20 – @yuccataproom – Phoenix, AZ
October 21 – @clubcongress – Tucson, AZ
October 23 – @hotelhotburrito – Austin, TX
October 24 – Regal Room – Dallas, TX
October 25 – @opolispix – Norman, OK
October 26 – @thehitonecafe – Memphis, TN
October 29 – @Metrogallery – Baltimore, MD #
October 30 – @kungfunecktie – Philadelphia, PA #
November 1 – @mercuryloungeny – New York, NY #
November 2 – @thewinchesterbar_ – Cleveland, OH #
November 3 – @deluxxfluxx – Detroit, MI #
November 4 – @beatKitchenbar- Chicago, IL #
November 5 – @cactusclubmke – Milwaukee, WI #
November 7 – @larimerlounge – Denver, CO #
November 8 – @kilbycourt – Salt Lake City, UT #
November 9 – @theolympicboise – Boise, ID #
November 10 – Offbeat Festival – Reno, NV
November 11 – @Duffschico – Chico, CA #
November 13 – @mississippistudios – Portland, OR #
November 14 – @foxcabaret – Vancouver, BC #
November 15 – @shakedownbham – Bellingham, WA #
November 17 – @oldnickspub – Eugene, OR #
November 20 – @rickshawstop – San Francisco, CA #