Posted July 29, 2020 by Jeff in Tunes

‘Cosmic Energy’ Permeates Upcoming Death Valley Girls Album

Death Valley Girls photo credit David Fearn
Death Valley Girls photo credit David Fearn

On previous albums like Glow in the Dark and Darkness Rains, Los Angeles-based Death Valley Girls delivered rowdy mash-ups of early American punk, sun-baked psych rock and proto-metal fire-and-brimstone guitar worship, yet there was always an undercurrent of some kind of strange, celebratory communal ritual in their music.

With their new album, Under the Spell of Joy, the band dives even deeper into that magical cosmic energy. The band just released the drone-y single “The Universe.”

Under the Spell of Joy is a space-gospel record,” says band leader Bonnie Bloomgarden in a press release. “We believe we served as channels for what we think are guides. As we learn what the songs are about we realize they are meant to be sang like chants, hymns, or spells. Most of the songs were recorded with 12 voices, including a kids choir! We are learning that words with intention and energy hold so much power, especially when said or sang with a group. ‘The Universe’ is a song to sing, a space to be, a time to think, remember, and truly feel that not only are we all connected, but we are also being guided.”

The album title Under the Spell of Joy comes from the text on a T-shirt from San Diego-based heavy psych rockers Joy that was handed off to Bloomgarden. She wore the shirt for five years straight. 

“I read [the shirt] as being about manifesting your biggest dreams and responding thoughtfully and mindfully to everything that comes in your path with joy and compassion first,” she says. “There is a lot to be really angry about in the world but joy is just as powerful if used correctly!” 

The band sought to create a “spiritual” record with the intention of bringing people together and creating the kind of participatory musical experience people have in places of worship. It’s a record loaded with chants, choirs and rousing choruses, all for the purpose of encouraging people to sing along. Where the band had once sought to connect people through more esoteric means, they now aim to unite people by inviting them to be an active part of the music.

While Bloomgarden and guitarist Larry Schemel knew their intention for the album before a single note was written, the actual nature and direction of the music was a mystery. The initial inspiration for the record came from the Ethiopian funk records the band had been listening to on tour.

The album opens with “Hypnagogia,” an ode to the space between sleep and wakefulness. A similar cosmic euphoria comes across on the aforementioned “The Universe,” where alternating chords on the organ help elevate soaring saxophone and keyboard lines.

“The world is crazy right now and it feels like we should be doing more than just trying to perpetuate joy,” Bloomgarden says. “I think music becomes a part of you. Like Black Sabbath’s first record is as much a part of me as my own music. I think you can listen to music or song to get lost in it, or you can listen to music to find something in your self or the world that either you never had or just went missing.”

I want people to sing to this record, make it their own, and focus on manifesting their dreams as much as they can!

The album arrives on CD/LP/CS and digital formats in October. The first vinyl pressing is limited to 1500 copies (1200 on gold, 300 on label-exclusive silver).

Photo by David Fearn


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at [email protected].