Words and photos by Keira Anee
It’s Wednesday and I’m at The Windmill in Brixton, about to see a band I first saw a few years ago. Deep Tan are a three piece: Wafah sings and plays guitar, Celeste on bass and Lucy on drums. The music is jittery, sexy, confident and real which, backed up with the stage presence, is a force. To quote Celeste, “Like you’re releasing a fucking dragon or something”. It’s not riff-based and it’s not easy to give you a band for comparison, but I think Sonic Youth do it some justice; it’s weird, dark and freeing. They have just released an EP, Creeping Speedwells, with singles 'Hollow Scene', 'Camelot' (definitely watch the amazing video for this) and 'Deepfake', and a previously unreleased track, 'Do You Ever Ascend?' This is the first show since the release and it is sold out. They are supported tonight by The Cool Greenhouse. I think that the go to comparison band for any music with spoken word, rather than singing, is The Fall. However I can’t help but think they remind me a little of Dry Cleaning, with the wit of Yard Act. Deep Tan’s set starts with 'Constant Inconsistencies' whose bass line definitely gets my uncoordinated feet tapping. I think if I were stood up, I’d be attempting a wiggle (the bass line really is that enticing). The band played the whole of the new EP as well as early single 'Air' and a song I've not heard before, 'Oyster Pink'. It’s a slightly short set - we definitely would have happily watched more - but it’s all great stuff and I get the feeling that, perhaps, there is new material we can’t be told about just yet!
You’ve just released the ‘Creeping Speedwells’ EP, announced two headline shows on 13th and 14th October at Paper Dress Vintage, and have a tour with Yard Act in September. Do you have any new releases coming up before these shows?
Cat: Officially, we can’t say. Maybe? (All giggle: intrigue runs strong in The Windmill garden shed).
How did Deep Tan get together?
Wafah: Well, me and Celeste were living together. There was another bass player, but she moved to LA. She came back but…the spot was taken! (laughs) You snooze, you lose. Then Lucy… do you want to explain this?
Lucy: I met Celeste at Female Trouble (“Brand new monthly lesbian night at Dalston Superstore where girls get to do what the fuck they want”), and then followed you (Celeste) on Instagram. She posted saying they were looking for a drummer and I was like, ‘Can I be it, please?’
Celeste: THANKYOU Instagram stories!
What question would you love to be asked in interviews, but never are?
Wafah: What’s your star sign, and who’s your favourite drag queen in Ru Paul’s Drag Race?
WOW, who IS your favourite Drag Queen??
Wafah: Jaida Essence Hall! I didn’t see a lot of her first one, so I wanna go back and take a look at that.
Lucy: I haven’t seen many seasons!
Wafah: And Celeste what’s yours?
Celeste: (Celeste sounds like she has definitely given this question some previous thought) My fave is a tie between Gottmik and Symone, and Ru Paul herself.
Lucy: The Holy Trinity.
Wafah: I really liked when Jaida said “The sass and all that booty” and slapped her butt. She loves slapping her butt. I need to watch a bit more and see if anyone tops Jaida.
Celeste: I don’t think anyone tops Jaida!
Wafah: I’m not sure… I don’t think she’s tops, babes..
From the DIY set earlier this year, you played on a bill with Yard Act. Is that how you first met and discussed touring, or was it a more official route?
Wafah: Yes, deffo. We met them at that show and became mates.
What’s your favourite song to play live?
Wafah: I don’t know.. I like ‘Do You Ever Ascend’, I like ‘Deepfake’..
Lucy: Mine’s ‘Oyster Pink’, even though it’s really intense! It’s a bit too hard for me (laughs)
Celeste: My favourite is also ‘Oyster Pink’. When it works, it feels so fun to play. Like you’re releasing a fucking dragon or something. It’s also my favourite song to play, so I had no problem with it going on a bit longer than usual tonight! It’s kind of a jam song, so it works.
I was trying to think of possible influences that might have inspired Deep Tan, and I think the closest I got was Sonic Youth. With that in mind, is there a song you wish you’d written?
Wafah: I think for me, it would be ‘Lullaby’ by The Cure.
Lucy: ‘Only You’, by Yazoo! It’s genuinely my favourite song!
Celeste: I like ‘Hit The North’ by The Fall.
I can definitely see snippets of The Cure and The Fall, and Yazoo…maybe, in your work! As well as Sonic Youth. That’s great company.
Wafah: Sonic Youth is a good one, thank you!
‘Hollow Scene’ feels like the impossible choice between saying something and losing, or saying nothing and losing. What did you really want to say something about, with that song?
Wafah: Celeste explains this really well. Celeste?
Celeste: As a song, it’s about those moments sometimes in life, where you feel like you need to put the blinkers on in order to just get through. By doing a bypass of empathy sometimes. Which is fucked, it’s fucked up; but sometimes it’s what you need to survive.
I really enjoyed your support band, The Cool Greenhouse, tonight! What bands would you recommend Loud Women go and see? (Side note: Wafah also plays guitar with SWEAT, who released a song this year featuring Dashni Morad called ‘Director’ and is a banger.)
Lucy: I wanna go see Lime Garden. I only discovered them during lockdown so I’ve not yet had a chance to see them, but they look really good. I saw their online set for the Great Escape and now a really big fan. I’m also a really big fan of The Cool Greenhouse – check them out!
Celeste: Oh, Alex Loveless is another one – not a band but a person.
Wafah: Folly Group is another one.
Who is your favourite sound engineer you’ve worked with?
Celeste: Paul Ofsound. He did our sound tonight and onstage it felt very full. There’s only three instruments so if the sound engineer makes one sound thin, it throws the whole thing off. We really rely on a good sound engineer to make sure we’ve got the right balance.
Lucy: Alice Western also, she’s very talented and used to work here. She’s very sensitive, very friendly; and makes a lovely cake!
Just a few more questions...
Wafah: Don’t be sorry! It’s really nice to do an interview in person, there have been a lot via zoom calls…
Lucy: …“What’s it like being a woman in the industry..”
Don’t worry – I do NOT have that question lined up! What is the most unexpected topic you’ve ended up writing about in a song?
Lucy: Horse racing. Celeste?
Celeste: I don’t even know if we’re going to use that. But it wasn’t even horse racing in the classic sense, it was like how Bukowski talks about gambling. So more about gambling and getting high at a race course. I wouldn’t say that’s the most unusual, I would say that there is a track we’re working on…
Wafah: We can’t talk about it!
Celeste: Okay, what we can say, is that the way we write is collaboratively. This one song, it’s kind of like a patchwork quilt where we’ve gone okay, let’s have a think. A verse of something I’ve been thinking about recently, a verse that is something Cat has been thinking about recently and a verse Lucy has been thinking about recently. This song incorporates elements of Beavis and Butthead, Ru Paul’s Drag Race and having your internet browser be in Welsh, and music stenography!
Have you been writing during lockdown, what was the hardest song to write and why?
Wafah: Yeah, we have. The hardest song that we’ve written..
Celeste: Probably we have to talk about stuff that’s out already?
Wafah: I think that ‘Deepfake’ was the hardest to finish, because lockdown came before it even finished being recorded.
Celeste: I’d say that was maybe hardest to produce as opposed to write, because it actually fell into place very naturally and organically. We wrote all the key parts to ‘Deepfake’ in one sound check, before the start of a gig! I feel like ‘Deepfake’ was one of the songs that wrote itself. But, the production was really hard because when lockdown one came in we’d started recording it, but then had to put it on hold before we could continue recording the other parts.
Wafah: I think they all come about in a different way and have something different about them that is difficult. Different hurdles! I think if a song is really difficult and really hard to finish, maybe they’re not the one?
Celeste: Sometimes we put songs on pause indefinitely.