Deb Never is Polishing Her Grunge-y, Lo-Fi Sound Without Losing Her Edge

Graduating from lo-fi demos on SoundCloud to a deal with Shlohmo's WEDIDIT label, Los Angeles-based artist Deb Never is one of 2019's brightest talents.

Deb Never
Direct from Artist

Photo by Michael Washington

Deb Never

In late 2018, WEDIDIT's D33J teased his then-upcoming INFINITY 33 mixtape with the release of "Nothing Left." Los Angeles via Pacific Northwest artist Deb Never, who up until that point had been sharing lo-fi demos on SoundCloud, was given an informal but captivating introduction with the track. Her hypnotic, grunge-flavored hook immediately jumped out on the lurching Shlohmo production. Now, she's officially part of the WEDIDIT family.

It's easy to see what drew D33J and Shlohmo to her music. Her stirring lyrics and deeply emotive delivery recalls the Washington state music she grew up around, transporting old-school emo sounds into a modern context. Her music has just as much in common with Nirvana as it does the L.A. beat scene she's currently part of, utilizing drum machine loops and droning guitar melodies to dizzyingly effect.

The WEDIDIT label is mostly known for its dance and hip-hop-oriented production, and as such Deb Never might initially seem an anomaly among the rest of the talented roster. However, Shlohmo has already showed an eagerness to branch out, as made evident by the production work he did alongside D33J on Corbin's post-punk-inflected 2017 album Mourn. In a similar vein, the signing of Deb Never is just further proof that WEDIDIT is a genre-spanning collective that refuses to be boxed in. 

On her newly released, D33J-produced single "In the Night," she graduates from the lo-fi angst of her earlier output. Bolstering her aesthetic without entirely erasing the heft and grit that attracted WEDIDIT to her music in the first place, it's the perfect start to what is sure to be a pivotal year for Deb Never.

Deb Never

Could you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I’m Deb Never. I grew up between Spokane and Seattle, Washington but also spent time living in Korea and Malaysia. I now live in Los Angeles and make music from my closet.

How did you first get into writing music?
When I was a kid I used to love pretending to be in the bands I was listening to, picking up anything that resembled a guitar and acting like I was the frontman. I always knew I wanted to play instruments, but we couldn’t afford them so I had to improvise. And by improvise I mean steal an old guitar from a nearby church when I was 11 and teach myself by ear how to play it.

I would spend countless hours in my room experimenting with chords and notes I didn’t even know the names of. From there, slowly I realized I enjoyed making my own music rather than learning others. Writing music sort of became my escape.

Going through your older music, I noticed there's been a very steady progression to your sound. Was it a natural evolution over time or did you make a conscious effort to move on from your more lo-fi material?
I’ve always known the kind of music I’ve wanted to make, but having the means—as far as studio time or help with production—to create what I fully envision is a new thing and something I’m only just starting to explore. I would definitely say in the past year my sound has progressed from some of the early demos on my SoundCloud, but it’s still all the same chord progressions and style just with more production.

I want to constantly evolve and progress as I’m creating more and have an audience who can relate to that and grow with me. To me that’s the exciting part of being an artist.

"In the Night" almost has a '90s emo feel to it. Would you say the grunge and old-school emo of the Pacific Northwest is a big influence on your music?
Yes 100%. With my music now I’m trying to convey the same feelings I felt growing up listening to bands like Nirvana, Radiohead, Brand New. It was never solely about what they were saying, but how they said it. The melody and the feeling behind it. That’s something I really gravitate toward and am influenced by.

When it comes to writing lyrics, do you prefer to have your experiences inform them or do you find it more interesting to create new experiences in your writing?
I don’t know man. To be honest, I enjoy both sides of it. I guess I lean more toward writing from experiences I’ve already had because they’re easier for me to tap into. But I also like creating new experiences at that exact moment when I'm writing. It helps me grow and write in different ways I normally wouldn’t. I'm trying to create a feeling and paint a picture in someone’s mind with the music I make, as cheesy as that sounds.

How did you link up with WEDIDIT?
It happened super serendipitously actually. I had met D33J and Shlohmo through mutual friends just being out in LA and for the longest time had no idea they even made music. Our circles would cross from time to time and eventually we became good friends.

I remember one night after a few months of hanging out we all went to dinner and Henry [Shlohmo] was talking about an upcoming tour he was going on. Still having zero idea he even made music, I asked him what his artist name was. When he said “Shlohmo” I completely lost my shit. For months I had been hanging out with this lanky dude oblivious to the fact that he's an artist whose music I've loved since forever. It was a trip.

That night we went back to Henry’s house where D33J also lives and they showed me their studio which is like the WEDIDIT compound. From then on we started hanging out pretty much exclusively in the studio and making music.

Deb Never

What would you say it was that drew you to working so closely with D33J?
After those first initial jam sessions with the WEDIDIT guys at their studio, D33J and I realized pretty early on that our styles worked really well together. He was finishing his mixtape at the time, so the first things we worked on were song ideas for that. “Nothing Left” was the first idea we tried, and everyone loved it so much it became the lead single of the mixtape.

Our sound is really yin and yang. D33J has that electronic, forward-thinking production style which compliments the guitar and grunge-driven stuff I go for, and vice versa. D33J has been executive producing all the music I’m making at the moment and I think we're only really just getting started.

Can we expect a full project sometime this year?
Hell yes. I’ll be releasing my debut EP on WEDIDIT sometime this year, ideally this summer. I’m working on a ton of music almost everyday right now. Every new song I make seems to be better than the last, so I’m just trying to keep it going right now. Living in LA I’ve been super fucking lucky being able to work with such amazing artists. It’s all coming together better than I could have imagined. I’m psyched.