Dehd Brings Love To Life With Passionate Collaboration

Photos by Caleb Zahm

My breath synced with the heavy rhythmic drive of the bass as the floor tom set a steady pace for my heart, time warped, my body began to bounce with each spring of the guitar. I found myself in a trance as soon as the vocals set in. I was hooked. In recent weeks I had Fire of Love, local band Dehd’s most recent EP release, on repeat. 

It was one of nature’s kinder days, offering Chicago a gentle kiss of sunshine and a little hug of warmth. While sitting on the patio of Reno in Logan Square, breathing in the mixture of blooming trees and delivery truck exhaust I sat in the company of Dehd just prior to their Red Bull Sound Select debut at Empty Bottle later that night. A trio made up of Emily Kempf, the fiery virgo that drives the band with her heavy bass lines and paralyzing vocals, Jason Balla, the down to earth aries that guides the band with his complex yet catchy “licks” and charming vocals, and Eric McGrady, the quiet cancer that keeps the song going with the steady beat of his drums.

The birth of the band began with a crush. In 2015 when Kempf and Balla met they began to share their love for music and for one another. Shortly after this pairing they went on tour for a couple of weeks, of which Emily described as “one very long date”. That connection brought Dehd to life. Dehd embraces love and friendship as their virtue. After spending time with the trio, it becomes clear how much care they have for one another and the band itself. Both Jason and Emily are swamped with other projects that take up plenty of their time, but Dehd remains a priority.

On top of traveling and doing lots of tattooing Emily has two other music projects. One named “Vail” that recently opened up for Of Montreal at Thalia Hall and another called Heavy Dreams. Jason is also busy with his other bands Earring and Ne-Hi. Ne-hi being a familiar name among the local DIY community, just got back from a national tour. I asked them how they were able to balance everything and if Dehd was just a side project. Emily expressed how Dehd was the project she felt has the most longevity. It seems as though they have the balancing act down. Not one project takes precedent over the other. All are equally important to their creative expression, offering a different type of outlet for each member.

Many fans of Dehd are attracted to the relatable love songs played by the band but many do not know that what they think is a simple love song is actually a unique experience being shared between Kempf and Balla on stage with each performance. Their relationship has taken many forms throughout the band's existence but they have never allowed it to interrupt the band. Even though the band formed as a product of the relationship between Kempf and Ball, the relationship is still outside of the band and does not affect the functionality and the progression of their creativity. If anything, it has allowed them to produce some really amazing songs with all of the emotions being in love brings out in all of us.

Dehd is an intimate best friendship, a family. Emily shared how Dehd was the first band that did not discourage her from writing simplistic layers for a song. Jason stated this is the band where his truest singing voice comes out. Meanwhile, Eric has been able to hone his drumming with no limits and challenge his nerves when it comes to performing. “No limits” and “have fun” seems to be Dehd’s rules to live by. A band that thrives to take risks and push beyond any boundaries or limits, making a habit of saying yes to opportunities that come their way. They create a space for one another to explore their instruments and experiment with any ideas they might otherwise be holding onto. With the open and creative space they have allowed each other, their songwriting process has become more of a natural flow an “instant go”. They let the music drive them to a currently unknown destination. “I feel like Dehd is existing outside of us.. It’s like really mystical and hard to put into words” says Kempf. “Like Primal communication” adds Ball.

Fire of Love is the band’s most recent release they made back in March of this year through the Nashville based label Infinity Cat. The 6 track EP was recorded and engineered by Balla himself. Borrowing some mics and a Tascam Tsr-8 from Public House Sound Recordings, he took things into his own hands. Listening to this EP will have you caught in a volcano of passion and love. What is fire? “Emily is the fire” Jason stated with Eric in full agreement. To Emily fire is a reference of love.

Fire of Love is definitely being in love. Like, this is the best, and then when it goes away it’s the worst. I’m dying in a pit of fire for now. This is why people close their hearts because it literally is hell but when it’s fine it’s passionate and fiery. Maybe that’s what fire is about?
— Emily Kempf

The recently released Fire of Love is just the beginning for what hopes to be a long life for Dehd. Fans won't have to wait long for a followup, as Fire of Love is just a short preview of a full length project we expect to see later this summer. Already gaining notoriety from tastemakers in and around Chicago including Empty Bottle Presents, the curators of this most recent Red Bull Sound Select event. While opening up for Madrid's Hinds and Idaho prog rockers Thick Business isn't the trio's first time in front of a crowd, it's certainly a meaningful step forward for a band that's survived the honeymoon phase and is looking for something long term. All signs point to Dehd making it work, and we look forward to experiencing every twist and turn of their relationship through new music.