Deb Never tapped into her dreams to make ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone?’
Oftentimes, Deb Never experiences dreams where she’s floating in the air, and she remembers the sensation when she wakes up. Yet, it’s not the idea of speed or convenience that’s so appealing to her; it’s the feeling of weightlessness.
It’s that bridge between lucidity and surrealness that persists across her latest EP, Where Have All The Flowers Gone? Listening to the eight-track project feels like eavesdropping on the artist’s inner monologue, propelled by production that emulates the sudden release of emotion and the immediate relief that follows.
That’s most apparent on the EP’s first song, “Stupid,” which opens with a murky piano line and steadily builds to a cathartic climax. Though its lyrics are harsh (“I’m so stupid/I can’t get through this”), it marks the beginning of a journey, one where Never embodies “a caterpillar turning into a butterfly.” By the end of the EP, Never exudes playful confidence. “She like the way I talk/She like the way I fuck,” she boasts on “Red Eye,” her carefree attitude on full display.
Through it all, Never’s voice feels magnetic, pulling you along for the ride with ease. Her ability to conjure a mood is equally as important as her simple yet sobering lyrics, which detail everything from dissociation to getting blackout drunk. It’s these overt confessions that Never is particularly self-conscious about, as they’re things she couldn’t imagine uttering to another person.
“I would never blatantly say that in real life because I’m so guarded with my emotions in that way,” Never admits. “So even to say just a generalized statement like that, I felt like I was sticking out my neck.”
Even so, going more in-depth is something she wants to explore in future releases, perhaps even on an album, if it feels right. In the meantime, Where Have All The Flowers Gone? serves as a glimpse into Never’s future, where her petals are no doubt gaining tremendous color.
You must feel so free having this new EP out in the world. Is there anything on there that you were scared to have people know about you? On “Red Eye” you sing, “Don’t like the way it feels when I’m not doing drugs.”
“Red Eye” is a funny one, actually. Truly it was a freestyle that I just rerecorded. I feel like when you freestyle, it sounds like you’re either talking about the surroundings or just things come out subconsciously because you’re not thinking. You’re just saying shit. I feel like what I’m saying on “Red Eye,” [I’m] a little bit almost self-conscious about because I didn’t get a chance to really think about it. I just said whatever and then put it out last minute. But I liked that because I feel like I’m not overly talking about feelings or trying to go in-depth with it. It’s just such an off-the-cuff thing, and it’s a little bit refreshing.
There’s also “Feel nothing at all/Substance keep me numb” or “Scared to death of growing older” from “Disassociate.”
It’s funny because you picked up the exact two that I was thinking. “Disassociate” is definitely one of the ones where I almost didn’t go too in-depth with it descriptively, but I just said something that’s so simple and blatant. Like, [Sings.] “Yeah, I could die.” Or, “Substance keep me numb.”
It’s all generalized statements that I felt like I didn’t go too into detail about, but even just in those statements, I would never blatantly say that in real life because I’m so guarded with my emotions in that way. So even to say just a generalized statement like that, I felt like I was sticking out my neck, and it definitely made me self-conscious. In the future, I would want to write more in-depth about experiences [in my life] and dive into that. I feel like, if anything, this EP was more of a glimpse into who I am.
I related to all the anxiety that I can hear in the lyrics, and then it’s really cool how, instrumentally, the whole release feels so surreal. Is that meant to mimic how anxiety can make you feel like everything’s blurry and like you just left the planet?
Yeah, this entire EP, the energy of it is anxiety. It’s like calm anxiety. Which is why, in the production, it’s like this explosive moment. Most of the tracks, there are always moments where it was almost like this release. It’s calm, but at the same time, it almost makes you feel that anxiety because it’s so calm. But there’s this drive behind it, like this explosion behind everything.
The track that immediately comes to mind is “Stupid,” where it’s like that explosive catharsis.
Yeah, I definitely went through that, but I feel like it wasn’t just me. I feel like, collectively, there was this pent-up energy. At least I felt this way making this. I’m a calm person, but I felt so much bottled up inside, so “Stupid” is a great reflection of that. I’m saying these things in a calm way and in a somber, melancholic tone, but inside, I felt like I was going to explode. That release in the bridge of that song is the representation of this contrast. On the outside, I’m very mellow, but on the inside, it’s like volcanic eruptions.
What is it about “Disassociate” that makes it your favorite song?
“Disassociate” holds a special place in my heart because it’s the ideal alt-rock song that I’ve always dreamed of making when I was younger. There’s a nostalgia behind it. I never really got to dive into making something like that. So it was almost like I just wanted to see if I could do it, you know? “Disassociate” was that for me. I know if I was [my] 10-year-old self, 11-year-old self, I’d listen to that and be like, “This is sick.” I basically made a song that I would have loved as a child.
I noticed in that song, too, you made a couple of references to flying. You’re like, “I wanna levitate” or “I wanna fly.” Why is that?
Dude, I’m obsessed with flying. Anytime anyone’s like, “Oh, if you had a superpower, what would it be?” I’ll always say flying, even though it’s such a basic answer. My obsession with it isn’t flying itself. It’s not being able to be like, “Oh, I can get somewhere by just flying.” It’s more of the feeling of this weightlessness because I used to have dreams — I still do — a lot of dreams where I would fly.
Most people, if they have dreams of flying, they wake up like, “Oh, it’s cool, whatever.” But for me, I’m so emotionally connected to it that I feel it. So when I’m flying in my dream, I remember the feeling. The thing I’m obsessed with is this weightlessness. It’s less about the actual flying. I’m not trying to go 100 miles per hour with bugs in my teeth in the sky. It’s more just like that feeling of floating, almost like I’m out of my own body.
Did writing the EP in London have an effect on how it sounded? I’m imagining if you would have written it in Los Angeles or New York, it would have been a different kind of release.
Yeah, definitely. I think people underestimate how much an environment changes your perception. Even seasons, even weather, changes people’s perceptions. So an environment to me is so important because I could be in a whole ’nother city, and it’s just like the energy of the city is what you see subconsciously, what you take in, what you hear on the street when you’re walking past it, what other people around you are listening to and what’s playing at a bar in London compared to what’s playing at a bar in New York or L.A. or wherever.
I think the environment is so important because it brings out different emotions, different influences, and it’s so subconscious. You don’t go somewhere intentionally looking for inspiration. You end up somewhere, and it just happens because you’re seeing things, hearing things, smelling things, taking in so many different things. For me, I feel like for some reason — tell me if I’m wrong [Laughs.] — you can hear when people made a song in L.A. Like, I could hear that you made this somewhere where there are palm trees. There’s a brightness to it. I think that just comes naturally. Even I’ll do that. If I make a song there, for some reason, it sounds a little bit brighter, and it’s natural because of the environment.
I saw that you played your first London show. What was that like, given the EP’s connection to the city?
It was sick because that was the first show, and I fucking loved it. They showed a lot of love, but I just didn’t know I had any fans out here, to be honest. I wasn’t sure how well it would do, but I wanted to play a show anyway, just because I’m here.
Then last minute, week before the show, we decided to put up a flyer to put together a show for the EP release because why the fuck not? I was like, “Fuck it, make it a pop-up show.” Doesn’t have to be overly planned. Make it a small venue. Have fun with it. That shit sold out in an hour or less, and I was so surprised. I was like, “Nah, dude. I think it was bots or ticket scalpers who maybe bought it all at once and then trying to resell.” I was so terrified that no one was going to show up.
So day of show, I saw it was packed, packed, packed. Shoulder to shoulder, from front to back. It really surprised me, the energy that everyone brought and seeing all the fans out here, who I normally wouldn’t anyway walking the street ’cause I don’t live here, and then just being able to connect with everybody in person. Especially after lockdown. It was exactly the experience that I was hoping for, especially for the first show in the U.K. [ever]. Everyone went all out. Finally I was able to just mosh around and get into the crowd. It was energy that I feel like I appreciated as much as they appreciated, playing a show out here, and I definitely want to do that more often. I’m still reeling off of it.
This interview appeared issue 399, available here.