For the better part of the past decade, Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstays Death Valley Girls — currently Bonnie Bloomgarden (vocals, guitar), Rikki Styxx (drums), Larry Schemel (guitar) and Sammy Westervelt (vocals, guitar) — have used their music as a means of tapping into a communal cosmic energy. 2016’s Glow in The Dark, 2018’s Darkness Rains and 2020’s Under the Spell of Joy saw the band openly challenging the soul-crushing banality of modern society and celebrating “true magical infinite potential” through scorching proto-punk influenced riffage, earworm melodies, trippy lyrics and lysergic auxiliary instrumentation.
Slated for a February 24, 2023 through their longtime label home Suicide Squeeze Records, the Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstays newest album, Islands in the Sky reportedly sees Death Valley Girls’ primary songwriter Bonnie Bloomgarden turning inward and using the band’s anthemic revelries as a guidebook to spiritual healing and a roadmap for future incarnations of the self.
Islands in the Sky‘s material can trace its origins back to when Bloomgarden was bedridden with a mysterious illness from November 2022 to March 2021. “When I was sick I had to sleep most of the day,” Bloomgarden recalls. “I kept waking up every few hours with an intense message to take care of the island, feed the island…I have no idea why, but making music for the island kept coming up.”
Before her illness, Bloomgarden’s primary focus was writing songs to help others deal with their own suffering. But something within her shifted, and she began to turn her focus inward. “When I was sick I started to wonder if it would be possible to write a record with messages of love to my future self. This was really the first time that I consciously thought about my own suffering and what future me might need to hear to heal,” says Bloomgarden. “I struggled so much in my life with mental health, abuse, PTSD, and feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere. And I don’t want anyone—including my future self—to suffer ever again. I realized that if we are all part of one cosmic consciousness, as we [Death Valley Girls] believe, then Islands in the Sky could serve not only as a message of love and acceptance to myself, but also from every self to every self, because we are all one!”
The bulk of the album was channeled into being when Bloomgarden and Styxx went out to a cabin in the California woods on New Year’s Day 2022 to hunker down and write. Schemel and the band’s newest member Westverlt joined the band at Station House Studio to further flesh out the material. And while being some of the most ambitious aims for the band to date, the material may arguably be among their most raucous, danceable, and celebratory
Islands in the Sky‘s first single “What Are The Odds” is a scuzzy, garage pop anthem centered around distorted and fuzzy guitars, a raucous, shout-along worthy chorus, a scorching guitar solo and a relentless motorik-like groove paired with a thunderous backbeat. Superficially, the song is a classic, Death Valley Girls party starting ripper — but the song ponders the existence of parallel universes, the multidimensional space time and the multiverse.
“When we wrote ‘I’m a Man Too’ we were trying to revisit No Doubt’s ‘I’m Just a Girl‘ but through a new lens. ‘What Are the Odds’ is in the same way an investigation /revisitation of Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’ but with a DVG spin, Death Valley Girls’ Bloomgarden says. “We love to think about consciousness, and existence, and we very much believe in some type of reincarnation, but also that this experience isn’t linear, there isn’t a past and future, there’s something else going on! What is it? Is it a simulation, are we simulated girls??!”
Directed by the band’s Sammy Westervelt, the video follows the band on an sunny Los Angeles afternoon but somehow their alternate universe selves in red beehive wigs keep subtly interacting with them in weird ways — until they finally meet each other. Who’s real? Who’s not? Maybe they’re all simulations?