Dehd on “Flower of Devotion” | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, April 20th, 2021  

Dehd on “Flower of Devotion”

Between the Weeds

Feb 04, 2021 Photography by Alexa Viscius Dehd
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According to Emily Kempf of the Chicago-based trio Dehd, emotions are like flowers. But like any living thing, they need to be nurtured in order to grow. And within her garden, the hands that tend the flowers are of all different shapes and sizes. The hands can be rough while tending to the flowers, but most of the time, they’re gentle; shaking nervously, trying to refrain from disturbing the flowers’ maturation. If you search through the vegetation, you’ll find the “Flower of Devotion” blossoming with potential: the potential for a newfound friendship, love, or even forgiveness.

And like the metaphorical garden, Dehd’s third album, also named Flower of Devotion, finds them blooming. Although members Kempf (bassist, vocals), Jason Balla (guitar, vocals), and Eric McGrady (drums) have been together for over four years they still manage to find ways to grow.

“I think it was just a culmination of many different things,” Kempf says. “We recorded the previous records ourselves, so it’s just this learning experience that happens behind closed doors and through all of the live shows that we had played we’re just better communicators with each other musically. And for this album we rented a studio and kind of just invested a little bit more time and attention than what we were doing.”

This growth wasn’t easy though. After meeting at a house show, Kempf and Balla decided to start a band…and a five-year long relationship. After the release of their self titled debut, the couple split, but held it together enough to make their breakout debut LP, 2019’s Water; a raw, almost effortless album of lo-fi, jangly guitars, and lax duets.

It turns out, writing with your ex about your ex isn’t as hard as they thought. They mostly write their lines separately, and thankfully, have very similar writing styles, according to Kempf. “It’s very rare that we shut each other down,” Kempf said. “We let each other flow.”

But, unsurprisingly, the recording sessions involved a fair amount of tears. The duo even harmonizes on “Lucky” asking: “Is this the end?” And, thankfully, it wasn’t—because Flower of Devotion takes Dehd to a new level.

The album is a reconciliation of sorts with the two leads learning how to power through the bad and come out stronger. It’s as if you’re on a party line listening to Balla and Kempf work through their problems, teetering between anger, disappointment, and then acceptance. They laugh in the face of grief on “Haha” singing “All I know is I love you/All I know is cry, cry, cry,” but then indulge in a regretful nostalgia of a breezy summer relationship on melodic “Month.”

So, sure, the Flower of Devotion might have it’s thorns, but those cuts can certainly be healed. “We didn’t want it to be about our breakup because that happened a million years ago,” Kempf says. “It’s about relationships itself. It has heavy songs, but there’s also light hearted, flirty, fun songs. A little bit of winter, a little bit of summer.”

[Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 67 of Under the Radar’s print magazine, which is out now. This is its debut online.]

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