There are a couple of landmarks that you can use to gauge your journey to musical coolness. Fronting loads of hype lists? That’s one. A critically acclaimed EP and 100 gecs’ Dylan Brady on speed dial? That’ll do it for most. But back it up by being one of BROCKHAMPTON’s first ever collabs (2019’s ‘No Halo’), with universal praise for your fresh take on hip hop-infused alt-pop, and you’re almost on the level of LA-based Deb Never. Not that she thinks it.
“I never really thought I was good enough until recently. Like literally, a year ago,” she laughs. “I mean, you’re always your own worst enemy, so I was still getting over the hump of like, ‘Fuck - is this good?!’”
Though the resounding answer to that question is a deafening “Yes”, Deb has taken a longer route to owning her undeniable star quality. First falling in love with music after stealing a “janky little guitar” from church as a kid, she dreamt of being in bands growing up, drawn to louder music and groups that looked like “they’re just really fucking rocking it on stage”.
Safe to say there was a Deb Never teenage emo phase, then? “Yes! I had the bangs that started from the back of my head and went all the way round,” she smiles. “I wanted those snake bite and dimple piercings so bad! I was fucking like, 11 years old, like, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna get pierced!’”
But while she was in a few bands - “I’m not gonna say what though because I don’t want anyone finding it…” - her shyness meant she was often a lot more comfortable creating music alone in her bedroom. “I think, inherently, maybe that’s where the softer sombre tone comes from, because that’s how I learned - playing quietly in my room,” she notes.
"Sometimes it’s tough finding a voice in a male-dominated industry, but it’s just about being unapologetic about it.”
These solitary beginnings would go on to form her characteristic musical style, which sees Deb fusing elements of pop and hip hop into a mesmerising, vibe-fuelled soundscape. “I think it’s just something that comes subconsciously,” she says of her sound. “I like that everything that I make comes from my own taste, like certain sound selections, certain guitar riffs. I like to mix and match based on what I like and not because I’m trying to be like this or this. I think by doing that, it just naturally develops my own sound because it’s me, it’s literally my taste.”
Evident on dazzling upcoming EP ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone?’, the project was refined over lockdown. During that period, Deb would spend her time inside being more selective about which songs made the final cut as her thoughts and feelings changed. “Songs are kind of like clothes or style in the way where it’s like, once you’re over it, it’s kind of hard to go back. It’s like, you want to put [on] where you’re at now, mentally,” she explains. “With this EP, I just wanted to be able to give something with more life, that’s sonically bigger. I feel like, timing-wise, a lot of people are getting over being sad. Everyone wants to be lifted up in this type of way. Even though I feel like a lot of my songs, even if I’m like ‘Oh it’s a happy song’, for some reason it always sounds sad... But this is my attempt at it!”
Using the EP to explore and try new skills out, the project sees Deb once again embracing her production talents: something she hopes inspires other women to go out and try it. “The amount of times I’ve been in a room and it’s always just a bunch of dudes. We’re all sweating, shoes come off at some point, there’s dust in there, and I’m like, ‘Where are the girls?!’” she laughs. “I’m sure female artists in general struggle with this, finding a voice within a room when you’re in a male-dominated industry. Sometimes it’s tough because you can feel isolated or doubt yourself even more because it’s just you against all these dudes, but I think it’s just about dominating that room and being unapologetic about it. You don’t have to be a dick about it, but you can just be like, ‘Yo, I know what I want’.”
Now with her vision focussed on the future, Deb’s already thinking about her eagerly-anticipated debut full-length. “I definitely want to be able to put out an album and I know the route I want to go with it and the sound that I want with it, so it’ll be fun,” she beams. “I just like to keep everyone guessing and keep everyone on their toes. It’s always gonna sound like me, but I like that every project is gonna be a refreshing sound and not the same thing over and over again.”
As featured in the September 2021 issue of DIY, out now.