Death Valley Girls’ Bonnie Bloomgarden tells us about the inspirations behind their new LP ‘Islands in the Sky’
The title to Death Valley Girls' fourth album, Islands in the Sky, came to bandleader Bonnie Bloomgarden while she was bedridden from a mysterious illness that lasted five months. “When I was sick I had to sleep most of the day," Bonnie says. "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...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." Islands in the Sky is loaded with catchy psych-rock affirmations to the future. The band's signature gang-vocal style also now feels totally realized, as if a mass cosmic consciousness is here reminding us, "You are what you see / And what you eat / And how you breathe / Not what you think you need to make anyone else happy." You can listen to Islands in the Sky below.
We talked to Bonnie about the influences behind Islands in the Sky, beyond dreams, and she gave us list of 10 things, including music, movies, books, sobriety, and more. Read her list and commentary below.
Death Valley Girls are on tour in Europe and the UK currently but will be back in the states in time for SXSW and will play West Coast shows after that. All dates are listed below.
DEATH VALLEY GIRLS' BONNIE BLOOMGARDEN - 10 INFLUENCES BEHIND 'ISLANDS IN THE SKY'
1. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Our hero and friend Ray Koh gave this book to me just before we recorded the record. The book in essence is about the journey to learning to trust yourself, your intuition, and guides. Which is exactly what I needed to read at the time! After my first read, the book has lived in my kitchen and I read a little bit every morning. Not sure how many times I’ve read it this year.
2. Gilbert Williams - Visionary Artist Gilbert
Williams' work was the final piece of the puzzle we needed to finish Islands In The Sky. His painted worlds of crystal sky castles, light beings, mountains & temples were the perfect visual representation of the album. The most inspiring image for us was his “Moon Temple” from 1984. He graciously let us use the painting for the album cover.
3. The B 52’s
They have always been a constant inspiration in our music but even more so over time, our new album pulls inspiration again from their eternal new wave dance party in outer space.
I know we have said this before, but honestly dogs are the best and most clear representation/reminder of joy in the world! Every time I see one, which I’m gonna guess is daily, I feel like the luckiest person because, what if my favorite animal were a zebra, I’d barely ever get to see one. My favorite animal, that floods me with joy every single time I see one, I get to see everyday! If I could wish anything for anyone, it’s that they had a very common favorite animal/object!
5. The birds of the forest!
When we went to write the record in the forest one morning we noticed all the birds were completely freaking out! They seemed like they were in an epic fight squeaking at each other and flying to and fro. Then hours later there was a lightning storm! The birds had been telling each other about the storm, frantically making plans for the night. We were the dummies, telling them to calm down, and stop fighting! This idea that there are secrets in the forest that we could eventually learn, was a huge inspiration!
My favorite objects in the whole wide world are markers! If you read Sharpies original advertisements from the '60s they talk about how amazing this pen is - that can draw on any surface! I used sharpies for all the writing on this record. I usually save them for art exclusively, but this was a special occasion! I am so grateful for this invention!
7. Laura Ellis
Laura Ellis is a multimodality healer, energy worker, and our friend who probably inspired this record more than anything else! While in a session with her, she told me that I had been a channel in many past lives, but also had been a jazz singer recently. After leaving our session it dawned on me that if I could figure out which jazz singer, and if they had recorded music, I could listen to my past life sing!! And then I had an epiphany that I could write a record now, for my future self!! And that is the premise for Islands in the Sky. A record for our future selves!! We hid many things throughout the record and on the cover, back, and insert that we believe our future selves will know to find! Can’t wait to see what happens, or if we left enough clues!
8. The Beatles “Get Back” Documentary
Such an amazing documentary!! We all watched it at the exact same time, way after it came out, without knowing the others were watching it! It was right as we began writing our record, and it was really fun to play the “what would Ringo do” game, or the "you're being so George” right now! Also, we started writing 6 weeks before we had to record, and so did they!! So we found comfort knowing if one of the most epic albums ever was written in 6 weeks, we could deliver something pretty great under the same time crunch. (Although there was a bit more riding on their record :)
9. Michael Rother/Harmonia/NEU!
We’ve always loved the German Kosmische Music scene of the 70’s and have always found inspiration from so many artists in the genre. Michael Rother’s solo albums as well as his work with NEU! and Harmonia were especially inspirational on some of the music on the new record.
10. Stopping drinking
Probably one of the biggest influences on my life, and subsequently this record, was stopping drinking alcohol. I didn’t know I had a problem, because I didn’t need to drink everyday, and that’s what I thought having a problem looked like. But, I realized I needed to drink every time I went out, like I couldn’t handle being out of my house unless I drank booze. And that is definitely what a problem looks like, especially if your job is to tour for months outside of your home! Once I stopped drinking and had no insta-cure for pain, discomfort, or ability to “take the edge off” I was forced to seek a more lasting solution. Allowing myself to physically and emotionally feel pain and discomfort and let it move naturally through me, instead of numbing myself, is how I found that feeling is the only way you can move past trauma! Numbing and avoiding only makes it last longer! If I hadn’t stopped to feel what was really going on, I never would have found my way toward this journey of healing. And I never would have had the idea to write this record for our future selves so we don’t have to numb or block ourselves from healing in the future!!
DEATH VALLEY GIRLS - 2023 Tour Dates
Feb 25 - DE - Berlin - Berghain Kantine
Feb 28 - UK - London - Moth Club
Mar 1 - UK - Nottingham - Bodega
Mar 2 - UK - Newcastle - The Cluny
Mar 3 - UK - Manchester - Projekts Skatepark
Mar 4 - FR - Lille - L’Aéronef
Mar 7 - FR - Nimes - Paloma
Mar 9 - FR - Macon - Le Matilda
Mar 10 - FR - Bordeaux - Bordeaux Rock (festival)
Mar 11 - FR - St Malo - La Route du Rock Hiver (festival)
Mar 14 - The Quarry - Bisbee, AZ
Mar 15-17 - SXSW - Austin, TX
Mar 18 - Beer City Music Hall - Oklahoma City, OK
Mar 20 - Lost Lake - Denver, CO
Mar 21 - Quarters - Salt Lake City, UT
Mar 23 - Treefort Music Festival - Boise, ID
Mar 24 - The Loving Cup - Reno, NV
Mar 25 - Eli's Mile High Club - Oakland, CA
Mar 31 - Whistle Stop - San Diego, CA
Apr 1 - Pappy & Harriets - Pioneertown, CA