Bonnie Bloomgarden of Death Valley Girls arrives for our interview accompanied by Tommy, her tiny, white Maltipoo. UFOs hover in the sky on her ZOOM background, which feels appropriate, as music from the Los Angeles-based band feels very much like a manifestation from the universe. The band’s latest, Islands in the Sky, might look from the outside like a celestial new age outing, but it’s something else and all together unexpected: an old fashioned rock & roll album boasting consciousness boosting effects.
Death Valley Girls, also featuring Larry Schemel, Rikki Styxx, and Sammy Westervelt, have created joyful rock that aims to inspire growth and transformation. Their new album finds the band turning inward toward their own personal growth. Its genesis can be traced to a time when Bloomgarden was sick, making the act of creation itself a radical affirmation of the band’s message of hope and positivity.
“Whatever makes you you in tiny ways—those are magic powers,” says Bonnie Bloomgarden. “That’s what gets you through life. Everyone has magic powers.”
The singer and multi-instrumentalist spoke with Aquarium Drunkard about Islands in the Sky. | d menagh
Aquarium Drunkard: Did you think you would follow up 2020’s Under the Spell of Joy with a record like Islands in the Sky?
Bonnie Bloomgarden: I’m surprised in the direction we went, but it makes so much sense looking back. I feel like Under the Spell of Joy was just this idea that if we just say the words every night about being filled with joy and hope and there’s no barriers or limitations to our minds, then that will just be, which for me wasn’t the case. We didn’t get to sing it every night. This record is actually about the path to possible, potential joy.
AD: How were the seeds for this album planted when you were sick from 2020-21?
Bonnie Bloomgarden: From October 2020 to pretty much until March 2021, I had a fever, and it was a scary time to have a fever, first of all. I hallucinate when I have fevers, so I was in a hallucinatory state for many, many months. I could tell my body was trying to tell me something, but I didn’t really know what. I didn’t realize that basically you can make yourself sick. You can worry so much that you get a fever.
It finally just occurred to me at some point after taking plant medicine, I was like, “Oh my god, I’ve been storing feelings my whole life.” When we stopped touring, I had this time to look and breathe and process and realize I was filled with feelings. Millions of feelings. They made me sick with a fever. Once I did that plant medicine, I cried, like a crazy cry, and the fever broke. It led me on this intuitive path of healing. Realizing I had made myself sick from not processing feelings and being afraid to have them, that was the start of this journey.
AD: What was it like making the shift from helping others to helping yourself to help others?
Bonnie Bloomgarden: I’m just figuring it all out too. We recorded a year ago, so I’ve learned so much on this journey. Once you start, it doesn’t end. It’s a lifelong thing. I feel like I have to tell everyone what I learned and I have to tell my future self.
Under the Spell of Joy was the first time where I think I learned how to super channel music, which I believe that we’re eternal light beings. We don’t become your highest best, you are your highest, best self forever. You forget because of society, your circumstances or whatever, when you come into your body. And then, over your lifetime, if you’re lucky enough, you remember that you are your best, higher self.
AD: Your music explores consciousness, time, and reincarnation. Can you elaborate on that?
Bonnie Bloomgarden: They all are varying degrees of that. A lot of [the songs], I don’t know what they mean yet because they were fully channeled.
AD: In terms of your songwriting process, how does channeling work?
Bonnie Bloomgarden: All of this was pretty much channeled. I believe that means that artists can put a hook up into the sky and pull down ideas. You can’t always do it. I wish I could always do it. That’s my favorite part of it, but for me, it doesn’t work that way, but that’s what I wait for. That’s my favorite part of being alive.
AD: How is channeling music like putting a hook in the sky and pulling down ideas?
Bonnie Bloomgarden: I realized that the way that you know when something is you, there’s this thing that comes with ultimate confidence and it’s a different, whole thing. It shoots into your mind. “Magic Powers” for instance. I was just walking around the lake with the dog, and then it was just like, all of the things people made fun of me for, those are actually your magic powers.
There are special things that make you you. While you were born with them, you also work on them.
Life is hard and all that stuff, but all the things that’s happened to you, good, bad, or whatever, is training you to have your specific set of magic powers.
AD: For all the focus on healing and personal health, you came out inspired.
Bonnie Bloomgarden: I know society is getting better. I know it doesn’t seem like it everywhere, but when I was a kid, there [were] two boxes you could be: G.I. Joe or Barbie. That was the option. This idea that there’s two ways you can be is not true. I believe that if everyone was their true self, which they already are, they’re not trying to be, you already are, that’s the goal of life. To be fully yourself. Everyone is special. It’s just when people are being pushed into boxes that aren’t for them that they lose their specialness.
AD: How’re you going to channel that into live performances?
Bonnie Bloomgarden: That’s the easy part. I don’t have to just use my energy. We all use each other’s energy. I’m so excited to get to play this. Everyone was home for two years. A lot of those people were having the same experience as me, figuring a lot of things out. Now is their chance to go out, play around, and have some fun.
AD: You’ve been around ten years as a band. Thinking about your time together and future, how do you view your growth?
Bonnie Bloomgarden: I think that every day a little bit more stuff reveals itself. I’m super excited to find out what a lot of this stuff on the record is, I’ll tell you that. There’s lots that I’m hoping is going to unfold.
Other than that, I didn’t really realize it, but I had mental illness and I also had real bad feelings. I don’t have those feelings anymore. I’m so excited to see what the future is for someone that has some more control over their mind and now has this new ability to channel music, and hopefully try and spread the message. Hopefully the messages will continue to be super positive. I do think that they will be.