Wonderland.

DEB NEVER

Meet the LA-based artist refusing to be constrained by genre.

Deb Never for the Winter issue of Wonderland

Shirt SIES MARJAN, shorts JOAOPIMENTA, Deb’s own socks and rings, shoes COMME DES GARÇONS, earring DALMATA

Deb Never for the Winter issue of Wonderland
Shirt SIES MARJAN, shorts JOAOPIMENTA, Deb’s own socks and rings, shoes COMME DES GARÇONS, earring DALMATA

Taken from the Winter issue of Wonderland. Order your copy of the issue now.

“Every other article I’ll see, there’s just a whole new genre that’s put out,” singer- songwriter Deb Never is telling me on the phone. We’re laughing with a mutual understanding – I’ve also read the articles she’s referring to, and I already know that the genres Deb’s music has been shoehorned into are endless. Lo-fi pop-rock. Alt- emo. Punk-meets-rap. As journalists, we’re obsessed with defining people’s sound within neat, recognisable boxes, but Deb’s songs are genuinely genre-less. On “Ugly”, the opener from her debut EP “House On Wheels”, melancholy piano bars begin behind her echoing, cracked vocals as she laments: “You don’t want me, I don’t want you.” But soon, what started as an emotional ballad merges into something more elusive; after a trap-style beat comes in, an electronic guitar riff near the end of the song takes it in yet another direction, reminiscent of a 90s grunge track à la Radiohead or Pixies. But as it becomes clear throughout our conversation, fitting into genre-specific confines doesn’t interest Deb. “I’ll call it rap, indie – whatever the fuck. Call it whatever genre you want to.”

Despite telling me she “do[es]n’t believe in competition”, in Deb’s hometown of LA, there’s a well-known notion that the desire for celebrity status positions itself above all, the singer explaining: “I look around [and] there are people with so much money… and doing fake shit […] This whole city is built on money.” While the Californian city is often the recipient of hazy sonic love letters to its palm-tree- littered promenades and pastel houses, the fact that songs like Deb’s “Swimming” looks under the surface at the darker side of LA is yet again testament to the singer’s refusal to adhere to what’s expected of her.

Though she tells me “music has always been a part of my life in some way,” it was only recently that she realised pursuing a musical career was the right path for her. “My whole life I’ve been really directionless. And somehow music has always come back full circle… I think, you know, it just chose me.” Releasing gloomy, grungy singles such as “Mr. Nobody” and “In the Night” last year, Deb shot to recognition this summer by becoming the first female feature on a song by BROCKHAMPTON. “NO HALO”, as with Deb’s solo work, merges hip-hop beats with a pensive guitar, as her hauntingly beautiful chorus contributes to difficult themes, from disillusionment with religion to mental health struggles and loneliness. “I am scared of being a little too honest sometimes,” she admits when I ask if she has any reservations about exposing her more fragile emotions for all the world to see. “I think being vulnerable is so scary. I’m scared just for my own stability and mental health. I don’t want to expose myself and be on my back for you to just cut my belly open.”

She tells me fondly that her collaboration with BROCKHAMPTON “started out really naturally,” but this much is already clear from “NO HALO”’s DIY-style visuals, in which the singer seamlessly fits into the 13-piece group. In her own makeshift video for “Ugly”, several of her friends surround her in fluffy brown dog onesies, as she smokes weed with a pot-bellied neighbour and pines after a mystery woman. “I wanna be able to show if you’re listening to this song and it’s a really sad song, and you feel a type of way, and you watch the music video and it’s the complete fucking opposite – you’re gunna remember that, because you’re gunna be like ‘what am I watching?’,” she laughs as she explains the incongruous nature of the visuals. A similar question could be applied to the very essence of Deb’s sound — ‘what am I witnessing?’. Ever-changing melodies, vocals and sonic styles make her impossible to define, preferring instead to slip in and out of different genres to constantly contradict our preconceptions of what her music should be. In any case, it’s clear that whatever boxes we might try to put her in are inconsequential to Deb Never: “If [my music] makes a wave, then cool, that’s what I wanna do. I wanna take a wave and go fucking running.”

Deb Never for the Winter issue of Wonderland black and white

Jacket VIVIENNE WESTWOOD, trousers MAISON MARTIN MARGIELA, shoes STELLA LUNA

Deb Never for the Winter issue of Wonderland black and white
Jacket VIVIENNE WESTWOOD, trousers MAISON MARTIN MARGIELA, shoes STELLA LUNA
Photography
Travys Owen
Fashion
Marissa Baklayan
Words
Hannah Holway
Hair
Frankie Payne at Opus Beauty using Oribe
Makeup
Vittorio Massechia at Opus Beauty using Kosas
Production
Federica Barletta
Special thanks
MSA Studios Los Angeles
DEB NEVER
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