There’s something wrong and we all feel it. Sexual predators are ousted at top levels of power and we forget a few weeks later. Networks of racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia seem insurmountable. Meanwhile, those of us in our mid-twenties are saddled with impostor complex, Instagram addiction, a few confusingly casual relationships, and a ton of debt.
If a way out exists, Deli Girls might be our best hope. The Brooklyn two-piece is revolt music for all the wastoids trying to break through irony and indifference into something real. Over Tommi Kelly’s blistered drum n’ bass, vocalist Danny Orlowski screams, laughs, moans, and yelps provocative lyrics like, “I’ll feed him Plan B that he bought with his own fucking money!” It’s vulnerable and earnest in the ways all good performances should be, shocking you out of apathy by over-exposure to another real, living, screaming person.
Deli Girls’ shows have been lighting up the fringes of New York’s DIY scene for the past few years, appealing to a knotty mix of punks, older experimental heads, techno freaks, ravers, and hip-hop fans. All are united under the flag of Deli Girls. Their recent record Evidence (out now on local label Sweat Equity) exemplifies their omnivorous sonics, but I’d recommend turning up to one of their increasingly packed out shows for a true taste of who this music speaks for.
The day after a blowout MoMA PS1 performance—where they turned the museum’s domed performance art space into a headbanging pit—I caught up with the duo to go through their camera rolls.
TOMMI KELLY: This is Danny and our friend Ignacio on the 5th floor of a parking garage in Mexico City, where we played a show while we were down there. Ignacio had an art show and invited us to come down and play as part of his exhibition. Very cute picture.
DANNY ORLOWSKI: Very wholesome.
KELLY: Which is a theme through a lot of these.
KELLY: This is a photo of a bunch of microchips, in this store in Mexico City, on this street where you could get any electronic. Anything. It’s where we rented the PA for our show.
KELLY: We rented it from this guy named Antonio, this brand called ALIEN. It was really bad. I had to speak Spanish in this store that doesn’t necessarily rent speakers, but they would rent it to us. We eventually worked something out, and as we were carrying it over to the venue, Antonio said he would just come and engineer our show for free. He stayed all night and was very cool.
KELLY: There’s this weird fascination with the Predator—the one from Predator—in Mexico. We went to the pyramids, and there’s so many people selling things there. You’ll find an intricate wooden carving of an ancient god next to an intricate wooden carving of the Predator, at the base of the pyramids.
KELLY: This is [Kelly’s partner] Young Gun on the seesaw at this playground. We all played at this playground in Mexico City at night. There were so many dogs there.
ORLOWSKI: You guys played legends of the hidden temple.
KELLY: Yeah, on this giant rope jungle gym! I definitely gave up an early lead.
KELLY: This is great, Young Gun took this picture. She was like all the way on the ground to get it. The thing in the background was an enormous pinata.
ORLOWSKI: They just go all the way with the Christmas decorations there.
KELLY: There’s like a giant Christmas tree in the background, covered in ads. A huge ice rink on the other side. That’s our friend Walker, Walker rules. If anyone’s going on tour, bring Walker.
KELLY: This is outside the speaker store, with the ALIEN brand PA, place called Krack audio.
ORLOWSKI: So tough.
KELLY Mexico’s kinda goth in a way. It’s really cool. Cool aliens. It’s just a vibe I got.
JOHNSON: Are you an alien believer?
KELLY: I believe in aliens. I don’t think aliens are necessarily visiting us. I saw the Phoenix lights as a kid. It’s like a triangular pattern of lights … but I think it’s a plane.
JOHNSON: Did you see the recent declassified info? The guy who quit his job with the Pentagon to research aliens?
ORLOWSKI: I feel like that happens every year.
JOHNSON: I don’t think that happens every year!
ORLOWSKI: There’s a lot of shit like that, that the government doesn’t know, but they don’t publicize that they don’t know because they don’t wanna seem weak. Most shit is shit the government doesn’t know what to do with.
ORLOWSKI: This is from one of the first shows we played, at Over the Eight. These are the Santa Salsa guys, we still fuck with them. He’s in the band Junta, who are really sick.
ORLOWSKI: I just love memes. I started making ones that are just me complaining, and it feels like a nice outlet for that. You can be a little more specific than you can be in music, sometimes. This is just a really vintage Sopranos meme. I think one of the characters was saying how they were suicidal, and somebody was looking over from the other table, and she yells at them. I love Sopranos.
JOHNSON: Do you have a favorite character?
ORLOWSKI: Maybe Christopher? He definitely has the most interesting story out of all the characters. But then I love AJ when he goes through his nu-metal phase.
ORLOWSKI: This is an old photo of us. When we were girls.
KELLY: From the first show we played at SUNY Purchase, a show called B-Listers. It was their Junior or Senior show.
ORLOWSKI: With Yung Gutted, our friend Jason Fox on a bunch of shrooms.
ORLOWSKI: That’s from the show. Weird fucking show. I love playing places where we’re not supposed to be playing, or no one’s ever yelled there before. It’s fun to interrupt.
JOHNSON: But that’s also why they’re booking you.
KELLY: I think that’s about half the time, other times they don’t know.
ORLOWSKI: They think it’s performance art.
KELLY: “Avant-noise performance art.”
ORLOWSKI: This just describes my life.
JOHNSON: It reminds me of Mr. Cool Ice.
KELLY: Mr. Cool Ice is something I found out about recently. I really researched this dude. His name is Thomas something, I think. He lives in Germany, he’s updated his Mr. Cool Ice tattoos and they’re really sick now. He’s got depth and dimension. It’s in this German magazine, his entire house is white and metal, with huge speakers, it’s really nice. He has a giant metal fan that has ICE in the middle of it, in the Mr. Cool Ice font. And he also has skull decals in the windows, little skulls all over the place. His tattoos are UV sensitive, so they glow in black light. His most important one is the sunglasses on the back of his head. Fascinating guy.
ORLOWSKI: That’s just what you give to someone when they say some ridiculous shit to you. Me and Tommi both love Vice City, it’s really important.
ORLOWSKI: That really says it all. You’re really mad but you want someone to hug you. That’s how I feel all the time.
ORLOWSKI: This was a club we went to that looked really cool. We all went on those stairs and took a photo, using Tommi’s phone timer, running across the room to the stairs. We had to do like three takes.
KELLY: Mind you, there’s a live band playing with a giant dance floor, with a bunch of 65-year old couples dancing. And they’re all really good.
ORLOWSKI: It was the redemption show–Young Gun said that, right?
KELLY: The last time we played at [Brooklyn DIY venue] The Glove prior to the New Years show, the speakers caught on fire. It didn’t go great. It was one of the only times we’ve had to stop a set for technical problems. It was a freak accident. No fault of anybody.
ORLOWSKI: We kept doing the countdown throughout the whole night.
KELLY: For those who missed it.
ORLOWSKI: More about the spirit of the countdown. But yeah it was a super fun night, all my closest friends were there, it was perfect. Then everyone else was really drunk, so it worked out.
ORLOWSKI: This is Babyrasta, I don’t understand the origins of it that well, but I’ve developed this ongoing fascination with him.
KELLY: He is fascinating.
ORLOWSKI: This photo, I was like, “Oh my god, he’s hot!” I sent it to Tommi and another friend, and they were like, “No,” but eventually I was able to convince them that he was hot.
KELLY: He is hot. He’s a famous reggaeton artist. His music rules.
KELLY: I’m really fascinated with this moment in history right now. I have one of his self-portrait paintings as my background right now. This is the end of major combat operations in Iraq. The whole thing is declaring mission accomplished but then 10 more, 14 more years of war.
KELLY: All the rest are pictures of 3 Ford Econoline panel vans, and two Crown Vics, a black and a white one, which I think would be really great Deli Girls fleet vehicles. Great cars to go on tour in. These are also cars that only come in black and white.
ORLOWSKI: Speaks for itself.
DELI GIRLS RECENTLY RELEASED EVIDENCE ON SWEAT EQUITY RECORDS.