Dehd: Virtual Session

Dehd - Virtual Session (MPR Video)

Dehd are a three-piece band out of Chicago comprising bassist and frontwoman Emily Kempf, guitarist Jason Balla and drummer Eric McGrady. In July, the band released Flowers of Devotion, their third full-length release that comes just a year after their preceding album, Water.

Dehd's Emily Kempf joined The Current's David Safar to talk about Flowers of Devotion, what it's been like to be not touring in 2020, about about how she got into her other career (operating her tattoo business). She also introduces David and all of us to her new Keeshond. Emily's conversation with David is lively and lighthearted — a perfect warmup to the videos of Dehd performing three songs from the new album.

DAVID SAFAR: Hey, everybody! I'm David Safar. Welcome to another virtual session with The Current. I'm also the host of New Hot, and I'm super excited to be joined by Emily of the band, Dehd, today.

EMILY KEMPF: Hey! Chillin'. Chillin' in my bedroom.

Where are we connecting with you today?

I'm in Chicago.

Right on. Chicago is where the band formed. Talk about the formation of Dehd, for those who are just getting to know you.

We all met maybe six years ago or so, here in Chicago. Officially at this house-show space called Animal Kingdom. And then the rest is history. Yeah.

Right on. Your bandmates, Jason and Eric, aren't here to chat today, but we're going to see you three perform some songs for us. Who's the other member of the band who's with you today?

(laughs, holds up fluffy dog) I'm still deciding on this member's name, but I'm thinking Lucifer is going to be this little angel's name. She's going to play tambourine in the band.

Amazing. From this angle, what I'm seeing, it's actually hard to tell whether it's a cat or a dog. That is a super-big fluffball you have there.

It's a dog! (laughs) It's a dog! The breed is a Keeshond; they're kind of rare. When she grows up, she'll look like a Pomeranian and a wolf mixed together.

Awesome! Awesome. I'm looking forward to you bringing them on the road when you do get back on the road.

Can't wait.

Let's talk about the new album, Flower of Devotion. You know, the stories that I read said that you were planning to put this album out earlier, but it was interrupted, like so many people's lives were interrupted, by the pandemic.

Yeah. Good ol' Panny Demmy. (laughs) We had to delay the release, and obviously, I was like, "Whatever. There's way more important things going on in the world right now." This year is over for band stuff. But it turned out it went really well, being released later, or I don't know if timing had anything to do with it, but everyone's been super nice about the album. And it's received, like, everything that a band could want! (laughs) As far as releasing an album goes, so I've been pleasantly surprised how this year has gone for us career-wise and music-wise. Like, not touring doesn't actually matter, I guess. (chuckles)

Do you look forward to getting back on the road, though?

Oh, yeah. I have never been this still in my life! I cannot wait to tour again, and I'm hoping like next summer is when we can actually get back out there.

So you talked about sitting still. What are you doing to keep yourself busy, now that the album's out, you're not on the road and you're waiting for those next steps.

Well, I watch a lot of TV, which is not usually what I do! And I draw. I tattoo people when I'm not touring, so I've been tattooing, and basically drawing, like, all the time. Just waiting.

Awesome. Tell us about that. How'd you get into tattooing?

I actually got into tattooing kind of on tour. I would just do, like, really rough-around-the-edges, stick-and-pokes with like, sewing needles and random inks — which I wouldn't suggest doing, if you're listening!

But that's how I started, and just did it, like, me and my friends would trade really sh*tty stick-and-pokes, like, in houses and at parties and stuff, and then it sort of escalated from there, and now I own a shop and I tattoo with a machine, and I have clients and it's more professional than my humble roots! (laughs)

Do you have a shared band tattoo that you've all gone in on yet?

Oh, no! We haven't. I don't even know if we've talked about doing that. Yeah. No band tat.

I'll come up with some ideas for you, and I'll send them your way.

Great, thank you.

I absolutely love your new album. We're going to listen to three live performances from it, including the song, "Haha," "Nobody" and "Loner." Talk about the making of this album and sort of the approach that you took for this new one.

The album in general, we decided we wanted to, like, polish it up a little bit more than our usual, scrappy nature. Not too much, but just, we took a little bit more time in the studio. Meaning, instead of, like, two days, we took like a week to just have a lot of time and buffer zone for making mistakes or experimenting, or just having no pressure on, like, getting it right! And having to get it right in like, an hour.

So I think it shows in the album. It's just a little bit more polished up, but yeah, it was the first time we had fun recording. I hate recording usually, because I feel very trapped. (laughs)


I don't know, I just… I don't know what it is.

Well, we're going to listen to and watch you perform these songs with your bandmates. Let's roll into this song, "Loner." Can you set this up for us?

Yeah! "Loner" is one of the singles off the album, and it's, for me, I was writing about just a desire of mine to be, coincidentally, learn how to be alone really well, in solitude, which now we all are learning this year! But yeah, I just wanted to write about a desire to be somebody who didn't need anyone, not that that's like a healthy thing to be, but who wasn't obsessed with relationships or romance, and who could just be like this like cool, like loner type who just like, you know, "I don't need anything."

That's what I was trying to write about. I don't know if I have accomplished that, necessarily, that persona, but yeah, that's what the song's about.

Emily, thank you so much for connecting with us today. This is a virtual session with Dehd on The Current.

Songs Performed

06:45 "Haha"
08:56 "Loner"
12:02 "Nobody"
All songs from Dehd's 2020 album, Flowers of Devotion, available on Fire Talk Records.

Hosted by David Safar
Produced by Jesse Wiza
Engineered by Peter Ecklund
Web production by Luke Taylor
Thank you to the Chicago-based crew who produced Dehd's live studio performance.

External Links

Dehd - official site

Dehd - Bandcamp

2 Photos

  • Dehd press photo
    Chicago trio Dehd are (left to right) singer/guitarist Jason Balla, drummer Eric McGrady and singer/bassist Emily Kempf. (Alexa Viscius)
  • DEHD
    DEHD - Flowers of Devotion (Fire Talk)