IN CONVERSATION: deep tan "the (songs) feel a lot bigger and bolder. More beefy and muscular"

IN CONVERSATION: deep tan “the (songs) feel a lot bigger and bolder. More beefy and muscular”

Singer/guitarist Wafah and bassist Celeste, joined by drummer Lucy, are deep tan, a tightly wound trio who came together through friends, house parties and clubs of East London after Wafah and Celeste had spent some time in LA. Crafting vibrant minimal music that is wired, menacing and plugged into the uncertainty, cynicism and absurdity of our times. From hedonism to revenge pornography to deep fakes and real-world issues, their knowing music is laser-focused, reflecting the outer edges of society and culture.

Their second EP ‘diamond horsetail’ will be available digitally from 6th May and on vinyl from 22nd July. They’re currently in the midst of a tour with Bambara and Bodega.

I caught up with all three members via zoom.

“‘Diamond Horsetail’ is the name of a weed killer because we want to do two EPs before moving on, so it’s like a nice second part of that cycle.” Celeste explains “With both of them, the name is chosen because there can be a lot of different meanings with the tracks. It’s the sound of us coming together, they feel a lot bigger and bolder. More beefy and muscular”.

Muscular fits with the artwork then.” adds Wafa.

“The artwork is like an amalgamation of a beefy bodybuilder and of a horse” Celeste continues “I don’t know if you know the MEME, there’s a really ripped dog and there’s a really pathetic dog next to it, so our EP is like a nod to it. There’s a really ripped horse on the cover and a pathetic horse on the back, it’s basically because we love MEMEs.”

“The MEMES get more and more niche as they go along and they end up if you haven’t seen the first one and a lot of our stuff is based on memes really isn’t it,” Lucy offers “‘do you ever ascend’ on the first EP is written about a meme page”

“The mood of the EP is a bit more cheeky than the first one, it’s more intricate in terms of the instrumentation and lighter in tone and it’s also an evolution I think”.

French-speaking Wafah tells me. “It’s not about constricting us to an idea. We are feeling it out in terms of how the next step is going to sound. When things are added they are added because in that specific space something is needed there, not that ‘oh I wanted it to sound like that’, it’s more the sound of the song itself and what fits. Most of our stuff isn’t structured, ‘Camelot’ is not really structured, or ‘beginners krav maga’ has three choruses and two intros.”

Their recent single ‘rudy ya ya ya’ is a short sharp shock of trademark deep tan: scalpel-like guitars gouge above an ominously skittish rhythm section with Wafah’s pointed yet detached vocal laced in sardonic black humour that surrounds the melting public image of Rudy. ‘It’s about Rudy Giuliani, that scene in Borat 2 where he is caught with his pants down when he is seduced, or ambushed or punk’d by the interviewer’ Wafah laughs. Celeste offers “Some of our songs we are just trolling, and a bit cheeky. The Rudy song we are just trolling Rudy Giuliani and we watched Borat 2 and it gave us so much life and this can work its way in!”

Last year’s debut EP ‘Creeping Speedwell’s’ was awesome, as evidenced by ‘deepfake’, the breakneck, clanging guitars and dissonant homage to a heavy night ‘camelot’ and insidious cold-wave anthem, ‘hollow scene’ about “the feeling of having to move through life with a certain level of detachment in order to function”.

“Creeping Speedwells, is the name of a common garden plant. It was called that because 2020 was a really tough fucking year, so we found a newfound respect for weeds of the world finding their way up through the cracks in tough conditions!” Explains Celeste. “It’s a double entendre but its actually about weeds. The name was chosen because they can have a lot of different meanings.”

Each deep tan composition captures the mood of that moment. Its a document where each element has to play its part, like a living breathing organism rather than overly thought out, overproduced songs, little wonder they are influenced by artists like The Cure and The Fall and one can even hear elements of the likes of Television, Young Marble Giants or Siouxsie and the Banshees. “Whatever fits will go in the song. It’s a timestamp of this moment. Part of it is also because we write collaboratively when we sit down and discuss it.” Explains Celeste “Waf and I will sit down and we get a metronome out and we will pick a speed. When we are doing lyrics we sit with the song when it’s just at the beginning, just an instrumental and say “ok what does this song feel like?” Wafah continues “It’s also what fits but it needs to fit the mood of the track as well. As a three-piece, I feel all the parts need to be strong and to be able to stand alone, there’s no room for hiding.”

Working with producer Dan Carey last year released a more improvised single with Speedy Wunderground called ‘tamu’s yiffing revenge’. “He recorded us in half a day.” Celeste explains. “It was speedy!” Lucy adds

Wafah continues “It was fun. It was a fun day, it was a memorable day. It’s exciting being in that studio with all those machines, it looks like a big bunker with electronics and machinery and it’s like ‘what’s going to come out of this wall of machines?”

Their single ‘beginners’ krav maga’ from earlier this year carried an important message. Raw, inventive and cool, with metallic guitars and scampering rhythms punctuated by dexterous vocals, it was another superb single with a wry take on contemporary themes. The band expand on the meaning behind the song.

beginners’ krav maga’ is a response to the idea that womxn should take self-defence classes in order to feel safe on the street at night. Womxn shouldn’t have to. Yet it seems like every day there’s a new Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa or Aisling Murphy. Educate your sons, brothers, guy friends. Male violence against womxn is an epidemic and it needs to stop, so we made a pop song to talk about it.”

“Being a subject that was very much on our minds, it felt wrong to write a whole bunch of songs without making reference to it, making art when you are working collaboratively, and this work being a period of time, and not referencing something like that, there’s two layers to it “ Wafa explains “I was really impressed by how many men were posting in complete solidarity. We are moving in the right direction. The reason for the title is if you ever search for the most deadly martial arts and krav maga is the most vicious style of fighting there is. It was saying that as a woman even if I was taking the most vicious hand to hand combat then I still wouldn’t feel safe.”

For a band on a swift ascent, lockdown in 2020 presented its own very real challenges for each member of deep tan but also made them more focused on songwriting. “It was frustrating but in a way it gave us time to write material. No gigs to go to so time to write.” Wafa tells me. “In some sense, it was one of the best things to happen when lockdown two happened, I was made redundant from my job and we worked so much, we would call Lucy up and have listening sessions and make a playlist, so we made the best of the time we had.” Celeste remembers.

“I don’t take part loads in the lyric writing from my perspective it kind of internet-based that’s just natural coming out of lockdown” Lucy notes “The internet is the way most people interact with each other I feel like its taking effect on the songwriting. There’s one song about loving your mobile phone. You work all day on a screen then in your downtime you are staring at a screen”

It’s called ‘device devotion’ about being addicted to your phone” Celeste reveals. “It’s like a shield, you can choose when you are in front of someone you have to be interactive but with the internet, it’s more selective.” Wafa observes of social media she adds that “It’s like everyone shouting at once”

The Social Dilemma on Netflix goes into the brain of all the algorithms.” Celeste remarks “it gets really dark, it’s like the presence of social media in our lives, how it is now is tearing our social fabrics apart. The algorithms can be used to sway elections like in Ethiopia there has been this huge political divide because of hacking or Trump in America where these divides have led. It also talks about how the response your brain gets is like a dopamine rush similar to what you would get from gambling. Like whenever your phone lights up now our brains are now wired to deal with our phones its completely in the addiction centres of our brains and how dangerous it is.”

“In the lyrics of ‘device devotion’ there are a few references in the social dilemma like whenever you unlock your phone it’s like spinning the wheel in the casino” Celeste notes “so when Wafa sings ‘I spin the wheel I spin the wheel’ also there are references to random browser searches.”

It’s a Pavlov reaction, your phone rings the bell and your like a dog panting” Wafah adds.

It’s rare for acts to write about the internet without it sounding try-hard, with deep tan it’s part of what inspires their artistry, how can it not when most of us spend our lives online? “There’s a resistance to it because people think that they want a song to be more timeless but ultimately it is because of what we are actually living. Initially, I had that feeling.” Celeste observes. “We can do both as well. Diamond Horsetail has BDSM overtones and is a revenge story” Wafah points out “about dousing someone with poisonous liquid.”

Tour dates:
14 Apr – Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh [Supporting Bambara] SOLD OUT
15 Apr – Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh [Supporting Bambara] SOLD OUT
16 Apr – Stereo, Glasgow [Supporting Bambara]
18 Apr – The Leadmill, Sheffield [Supporting Bambara]
19 Apr – Hare and Hounds, Birmingham [Supporting Bambara] SOLD OUT
6 May – Focus Wales, Wrexham
7 May – Are You Listening Festival?, Reading
20 May – Zerox, Newcastle
21 May – The Great Eastern Festival, Edinburgh
22 May – Record Junkee, Sheffield
24 May – Rough Trade, Nottingham
25 May – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff
27 May – Headrow House, Leeds
28 May – YES (Basement) (Mood Swings) Manchester
29 May – Hare & Hounds, Birmingham
1 Jun – Venue MOT, London
22-24 Jul – Truck Festival, Oxford

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.