Keepin‘ It Indie
By Jasen T. Davis
Deborah Iyall describes her own music with all the appropriate adjectives. “Poetic. Passionate. Danceable. Personal. Fearless. I’m influenced by new wave and punk . . . but the fact is the punk music I listen to isn’t what people think punk music is. I prefer bands like the Talking Heads or Television.”
Iyall has loved music ever since she was a small child. “I was always the kid who knew the lyrics to the songs on the radio” she says. It was because of another performer that Iyall became one herself. “One night I saw Penelope Huston of the Avengers play at Mabuhay Gardens, a really big punk club in San Francisco.”
Iyall saw Houston strut her stuff, and realized she could do that, too. “Yes. I thought, I can sing as well as that. I also had something to say. She was about my age, too. I loved her energy.”
A short while later Iyall had success as lead singer of the legendary new wave band Romeo Void. Two of her hit singles, “Never Say Never” and “A Girl in Trouble” ended up being chart hits.
Mainstream pop will always be there, but independent music is where the best bands originate. Outside of the industry the dogs eat the dogs with greater ferocity because it’s the jungle. Because of that, only the best independent musicians get noticed, and Iyall is proud of where she’s at.
“Indie music is better because it’s what you and your friends made,” Iyall says, laughing. “We aren’t trying to reach for the lowest common denominator or looking for a market. The mainstream writes, ‘This Summer Let’s Party in the USA’ because a demographic tells them that the song will be popular.”
Singing Until Sunrise is Iyall’s latest album. The title is a reference to her own Native American roots. “My tribe comes from Washington State. During the big ceremonies some tribes would dance two nights, but our tribe would dance four nights.” Such a commitment to music is certainly in the singer and songwriter’s blood. “Singing Until Sunrise is my own way of saying how I’m going to sing until dawn.”
The album was produced by Grammy Award-winning Francis Buckley, and the quality certainly shows. Singing Until Sunrise has class, evoking the atmospheric tones of Echo and the Bunnymen or the seductive grace of Souixsie and the Banshees.
What would Iyall like her future to be? “I’m performing down here in the southland to get people to notice I’m making new music.” It’s not that she wants to sell out; she just wants to sell out some venues. “My fans still love my old songs, and that’s great, but I still want to cash in on my new songs.”
“I would love to supplement my income with my music. It’s what I love to do, but if I have to carry around the baggage of being a punk musician I want something to show for it,” Iyall says.
To the young female performer, the LP is both a tribute to music and to people in her life who are long gone. “I love knowing I give people thrills when I do play. I’ve lost a lot of friends, some to AIDS, and it’s sad that they aren’t here to enjoy music anymore,” Iyall says. “I feel like I’m a member of that generation, so I have to carry on and represent those people. I have a responsibility.”