Emily Kempf made the decision that age 34 is not too old for skateboarding.
As bassist and vocalist for rock outfit Dehd there was a lot of responsibility to consider before taking any rolling risk. The trio, which includes Jason Balla on guitar and vocals and drummer Eric McGrady, starts a 19-date tour soon with a June 1 Norman stop at Opolis, 113 N. Crawford Ave. Fulfilling her band duties with a broken ankle would probably be impossible.
“We like to move around a lot,” Kempf said. “We’re energetic and have a lot of fun. Our audience usually moves around at our shows in a fun way. The music moves us and then we hope it’s contagious. Me and Jason dance around each other in complementary ways, freaking out at the same parts. And Eric is real stoic, holding it down in the middle.”
Dehd’s new LP “Water” dropped this month. It has a retro sound married to 21st century irony that recalls Shannon and the Clams. The music is simply straightforward and the vocals decidedly unvarnished. Dehd is a curious pairing of personnel that produces magical sparks.
“We like to call Eric the glue of the band,” Kempf said. “He’s very quiet, sweet and a man of few words. So, when he does say something it’s a sort of epic wisdom. He’ll be really quiet for a long time and then pipe-up. Or he’ll make a funny observation.”
Kempf and Balla are a former romantic item that dissolved, but they maintain their identities as the band's "hyper show ponies."
“Now we’re just bandmates and friends," Kempf said. "That transcendence and journey is now recorded in every song that we put out in this album. It’s the crux of the darkest and lightest of the transition from breaking up, still playing music together, learning to become friends and all the ups and downs of the hideous and coolest parts of that.”
The real abnormality of all that is the band continues to work in a healthy way.
“It’s not something I’ve experienced before,” Kempf said. “I feel like we got lucky somehow. The music preceded all the ego and emotions. What’s more important is the joy of playing music.”
That joy was palpable during Kempf's interview with The Transcript. Kempf laughed frequently and admitted she was high on skateboard-fueled endorphins.
"We’re living the life of our dreams, aware of it, grateful for it and super present for it in a fun way," she said. "And I’m excited to skate on tour and get better at it. You have to fail and fall to get better. It’s humbling, exciting and terrifying. Both my bandmates skate, too. We’re doing what we love and making money. I never thought I’d make money making art and music. My (day) job is tattooing so I’m living two of my biggest dreams.”
The musical part of those dreams involves Kempf’s vocal stylings. She’s an unconventional singer.
“I have a lot of voices I can pull out and they’re like beings that come and go,” she said. “I didn’t know I could sing until I was 24, which started abruptly. My vocal range is vast so I can do all these loud operatic tricks and galloping ones. Going from whispery and sensual to Elvis-y old school rock where I yell in a masculine way. I listen to 90s stuff like The Breeders and parrot it. When I was younger I’d make my voice sound exactly like Brittany Spears.”
Dehd are excited about coming to Norman in no small part because they’re friends with the musicians in Norman band Broncho.
“We’re trying to get Penny Pitchlynn and her solo project to play with us at Opolis,” Kempf said.
If You Go
What: Dehd, Labyrs and Pigments in concert
Where: Opolis, 113 N. Crawford Ave.
When: June 1
Cost: $8/ $10