Snow has come for the East Coast. It’s cold and unrelenting, and it feels so sudden. I’m bundled up in my office—in the dark—which I affectionately refer to as my cave. I’m drinking specialty coffee and re-reading the latest Tommy Pico. It’s called FEED, and it’s about resolution. It’s about reciprocity and the futility of it. It’s about relearning how to live when things get upended. And more. There’s always more with Tommy. Just look at these lines: “I’m not saying you’re broken but I’m saying / you’ve fragmented the compartments you’ve created to hold the / different parts of yourself” and “The dark is, in / fact, teeming with life. The reciprocity.” I’m getting too romantic about these things.
It’s supposedly fall, but winter is here, too. Seasons can co-exist better than us people can. Seasons can overlap and not get messy, but they sure do irritate. It’s dark on the East Coast as I write this, as it is dark in my office. And I’m making life with my keyboard. It’s snowing, and I’m seething with emotion. I’m reading Tommy, and when I’m not reading Tommy, I’m listening to Deb Never—and I can’t stop falling into the pit of her wounded growl. She is the perfect backdrop for an unseasonably cold day, for an unseasonably sentimental moment.
Deb Never is an LA-based musician who makes… Well, she doesn’t make happy music. She makes something Complex called “grunge-y, lo-fi.” With Deb’s new EP, House on Wheels, released in August 2019, she makes something I call essential music. She makes music the way Tommy Pico makes poetry: By striking at the essence of something, then running away from it, hitting a dead end, and letting that something consume you for all-time. There’s a hunger to her work. It’s the same hunger I have for words.
Tommy writes: “What is the difference between being alone and being / lonely” and Deb Never sings: “You don’t want me, but I need you.” I look out the window and think, This will be the first winter I don’t want to kill myself.
How do all these things come together? Well, sometimes there are days where you are without desire. Right now, I want for nothing. For the first time in my life, my life is mine. I feel fine. The medication works. I’m bipolar and OCD, and managing. Managing. But I need to write all the time. And I refuse to believe there is nothing to write about. How could there be nothing to write about when we have Tommy and Deb, making music and poetry that unwittingly communes together on a snowy November afternoon?
“You don’t want me, but I need you / I guess I fell for you just to get rid of the pain,” Deb sings on the second verse of “Ugly.” And I think of all the pain I’ve felt in this past year, and how I finally feel pain-free. I feel like Tommy. It might be winter, but it’s the season of rebuilding and relearning. This winter will be the first winter I feel one with my body. And I can’t stop listening to Deb Never, because as she drones through seas of depression and doubt, the trap drums make me dance. How is it she can strike at the feelings that break us while also making surrealist anthems with her production? That is how it feels to live on the other side of your mental illnesses; how it feels to see snow fall from the sky when you least expect it and grapple with what it means to embrace the cold.
So, Deb Never doesn’t make happy music, and Tommy Pico doesn’t write happy poetry, and I don’t pen gleeful articles. But we all make some kind of art in the face of the death that is winter. On Deb Never’s “Out of Time,” the blaring guitars mask her voice, which delivers potent lines like “Baby, I won’t waste your time / I’m not enough.” The question of what it means to be enough, what it means to be “The one” when we’re all approaching death feels moot. It’s why we have “cuffing season” in the winter because our bodies crave that external heat, and there’s a fear we’ll die in the cold before we get it. So we settle, but Deb Never isn’t settling, she’s rioting. She doesn’t make happy music; she makes essential-for-surviving-the-cold music. Deb Never is her own warmth.
“Treat me like you give a fuck about me now,” Deb lilts on “Swimming.” It’s snowing, and I can’t help but snicker, because I could say the same thing to the thoughtless weather. Didn’t Mother Nature know I wasn’t ready to tense up in the cold and feel flakes melt on my nose? Doesn’t Mother Nature know I’m happy now? There’s no need for this snow to blanket me. But Deb Never knew, because on the close to her EP she sings: “Don’t know what you want from me… Gettin’ way too much to handle, I just need some fuckin’ help” over a meaty guitar progression. As in, what does the winter want from me when I’ve done everything I could to feel better?
It’s snowing, and in five songs, Deb Never captures the way it feels to fight through the season and stay sane. It’s snowing, and in five songs, Deb Never covers all matter of desire versus need. Her EP ends with her putting her needs first. She hums an outro, and the EP ends abruptly, on Deb’s terms. Tommy’s FEED climaxes where the tetralogy began. It’s winter, but it finally feels like we are entering a rebirth. Nothing is dying this time. It’s snowing, but we’re going to make it out alive.