Death Valley Girls Headline Bumblefest With Garage, Girl-Group Melodies

On its latest album, Death Valley Girls seem like they were aiming for the perfect Halloween record.
Death Valley Girls will headline Bumblefest in West Palm Beach September 1-2.
Death Valley Girls will headline Bumblefest in West Palm Beach September 1-2. Photo by Kelsey Hart
Share this:
Death Valley Girls' latest album, Islands in the Sky, has a spooky, otherworldly feel. The garage-rock, girl-group influence the Los Angeles band showed off on previous albums is still evident, but it almost sounded as if, for this batch of songs, the quartet was aiming for the perfect Halloween record. Singer-songwriter Bonnie Bloomgarden says that was very much intentional.

"I got sick for a while," she tells New Times. "For six or seven months, I had a fever that wouldn't go away. It was during COVID, but it wasn't COVID. Doctors had all these conflicting ideas of what was wrong."

Eventually, she went to an alternative healer who told Bloomgarden she had been manifesting a physical problem due to years of not processing emotional issues. The healer dropped another nugget on Bloomgarden during her visit that affected her just as much: In a previous life, Bloomgarden was a jazz singer.

"I wondered who I was. I wondered if I could hear my music from that other life," she says. "Then I thought I could make a record now for my future lives. It can be about my healing journey, and I can stuff my future selves will need to know."

The culmination was Islands in the Sky, 11 fuzz-rock songs that sound like Phil Spector produced for the Breeders.

"All the songs were channeled," Bloomgarden explains. "I don't know if it was spirit guides, but there was no thought of what the music would sound like. I was just passing on a message."

While the tracks on Death Valley Girls' four previous records were generally always improvised, the band made things even more spontaneous for its latest record.

"The organ, the Wurlitzer, synthesizers, and the saxophone are all improvised. Then the lyrics come on the last day of recording," Bloomgarden adds. "We get in the studio and try to get the basic parts done and see if it feels right. If we can't get it done in three takes, then we move on. If we need to do more than three takes, we figure it's not the right song for right now."
The band will perform songs off Islands in the Sky when it headlines Bumblefest, the two-day music festival in downtown West Palm Beach celebrating indie rock in all its forms September 1-2. The other acts taking over the 500 block of Clematis Street include Dusted, Al Lover, and Gnarcissists.

While it will be the band's first performance in South Florida, Death Valley Girls made an unforgettable visit to Miami back in 2018 to hang out with one of the band's musical heroes, Iggy Pop.

"He was in our video 'Disaster (Is What We're After),'" Bloomgarden explains. An adaptation of when Andy Warhol was filmed eating a hamburger, the four-minute video features the godfather of punk hamming it up as he chows down on a sandwich to the offscreen sounds of Death Valley Girls playing around with glam rock.

It was a step toward what Death Valley Girls aimed to be when the band came together a decade ago.

"Our goal was to be the band other bands would want to open for them. We'd love to open for Black Sabbath, Le Tigre, the Rolling Stones, and definitely Iggy Pop."

Bumblefest. With Death Valley Girls, Dusted, Al Lover, and others. 6 p.m. Friday, September 1, and Saturday, September 2, at the 500 block of Clematis Street, West Palm Beach; Tickets cost $40 to $50 via
KEEP NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls. Make a one-time donation today for as little as $1.