Dehd’s Jason Balla discusses the influences behind new album ‘Blue Skies’

Chicago trio Dehd release Blue Skies, their third album and first for Fat Possum, this week. Jason Balla, Emily Kempf and Eric McGrady's unique chemistry and sound hasn't changed, but being on a new label -- and pandemic lockdown -- afforded them a little more time to spend in the studio, and they've honed and tightened their minimal, hooky style. You can check out a few songs, along with their terrific videos (co-directed by Kempf and Kevin Veselka) below.

We asked Jason, who produced Blue Skies, to tell us about some of the inspirations behind it, which include everything from Animal Collective and Earl Sweatshirt to George Saunders. He makes the case for all of them, too -- check out his list and commentary below.

Dehd just played a sold-out two-night stand at NYC's Bowery Ballroom, and will be back soon to play Governors Ball. They also just announced fall dates that include their biggest NYC headline show yet: Brooklyn Steel on October 21. Their full 2022 tour schedule is below.


Morning Bike Rides
We tracked the album in May and the weather was absolutely gorgeous. Each day I’d have my coffee and then bike to the studio. It was such a peaceful way to start the idea and it was this sort of mindless meditative time where inspiration for the songs we were working on would just appear on my head and I'd be singing into my voice memos while cruising down Sacramento.

Moodymann - Silence in the Secret Garden
While we made our record all I really wanted to do was dance and Moodymann was the answer. There’s such a sense of him just being himself in the recordings and having fun. There’s a lot of joy. I want there to always be some element of joy or inhibition in the music I make too. Music is a release.

Earl Sweatshirt - Some Rap Songs
I love this record so much. The imperfect feel of the beats, the grit, the lyrics. We try to embrace the scrappiness of our band and include mistakes into the records that make the record more human. I have the experience of listening to his record as a very human experience, a real connection.

Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
This is something from my childhood that I wound up returning to. For a few months leading up to the record I’d put on an album I hadn’t listened to in a while and go for a run. It had probably been 10 years since I listened to this record and I was really impressed by the energy they captured on this record. Also the electronics feel so organic and alive. I wanted to emulate that sort of cohesion in our record as we’ve been experimenting more with sequencers and synths.

Aldous Harding - Designer
Ever since my friend Trevor told me to listen to Aldous Harding, I’ve been obsessed. There’s a sort of magic in the words and delivery that have taken hold of me. I think in Dehd we are always chasing this kinda magic. Trying to cast a spell.

"Colors" YouTube Series
My roommate used to play these videos all the time at my apartment and I got really excited about seeing songs performed at their most minimal. In making our record I really wanted to focus on the song itself. It was only good enough if it could stand on its own with its basic essence of vocals and chords without all the tricks. One video that stands out in my memory is Mahalia singing “Sober.”

Prince - 1999
This was another one of those running albums. I was just amazed at how fresh it sounded in the context of current music. I also took a lot of inspiration from the drums and the drum machines and how they compliment each other in the record.

DIY electronics (CAPI preamps)
Over the pandemic I really got into learning the electronics behind music gear and building my own from kits online. I’ve found it really liberating to build my own gear because I can afford quality pre amps and compressors without the prohibitive pricing of the “essential gear” that every forum claims you need to make a great recording. There’s also an element of pride and intimacy with using something you built. I used CAPI preamps I built all over our record. Especially vocals and drums.

George Saunders - A Swim In A Pond In The Rain
I read this book during our time in the studio and it is all about the craft of creative writing, peeling back the surface and seeing why the piece works. It got me thinking a lot about production and what exactly the point of all these overdubs are actually for. It helped get the wheels turning in my mind of how to best serve a song on the production mode.



Thu. May 26 - Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall !
Fri. May 27 - Montreal, QC @ Theatre Fairmount
Sat. May 28 - Toronto, ON @ Lee’sPalace
Sat. Jun. 4 - Chicago, IL @ Metro * - SOLD OUT
Sat. Jun. 11 - New York, NY @ Governor's Ball Music Festival
Sat. Jul. 9 - Chicago, IL @ Square Roots Festival
Sun. Aug. 21 - Hasselt, BE @ Pukkelpop
Mon. Aug. 22 - Rotterdam, NL @ Rotown
Wed. Aug. 24 - Utrecht, NL @ Tivoli De Helling
Fri. Aug. 26 - London, UK @ All Points East
Sun. Aug. 28 - Edinburgh, UK @ Connect Festival
Sat. Aug. 30 - Birmingham, UK @ The Castle & Falcon
Sun. Aug. 31 - Cambridge, UK @ Junction 2
Fri. Sep. 2 - Wiltshire, UK @ End of the Road Festival
Thu. Sep. 4 - Maastricht, NL @ Bruis Festival
Wed. Sep. 21 - Madison, WI @ Majestic Theatre
Thu. Sep. 22 - Omaha, NE @ Slowdown
Fri. Sep. 23 - Denver, CO @ The Summit
Sat. Sep. 24 - Salt Lake City, UT @ The Depot
Tue. Sep. 27 - Portland, OR @ Crystal Ballroom
Wed. Sep. 28 - Vancouver, BC @ Rickshaw Theatre
Fri. Sep. 30 - Seattle, WA @ Showbox at the Market
Sat. Oct. 2 - San Francisco, CA @ August Hall
Wed. Oct. 5 - Los Angeles, CA @ Belasco Theater
Thu. Oct. 6 - San Diego, CA @ Observatory North Park
Fri. Oct. 7 - Tucson, AZ @ Rialto Theater
Sat. Oct. 9 - Austin, TX @ ACL Fest
Wed. Oct. 12 - Albuquerque, NM @ Sunshine Theater
Thu. Oct. 13 - Phoenix, AZ @ The Van Buren
Sun. Oct. 16 - Austin, TX @ ACL Fest
Fri. Oct. 21 - Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel
Sat. Oct. 22 - Philadelphia, PA @ The Fillmore
Sun. Oct. 23 - Washington, DC @ Black Cat
Tue. Oct. 25 - Boston, MA @ Royale
Wed. Oct. 26 - Montreal, QC @ Corona Theatre
Thu. Oct. 27 - Toronto, ON @ Opera House
Wed. Nov. 2 - Milan, IT @ Magnolia
Thu. Nov. 3 - Aaru, CH @ Kiff
Mon. Nov. 7 - Copenhagen, DK @ Loppen
Tue. Nov. 8 - Stockholm, SE @ Kristallen
Wed. Nov. 9 - Oslo, NE @ John Dee
Fri. Nov. 11 - Hamburg, DE @ Molotow
Sat. Nov. 12 - Brussels, BE @ Grand Salon
Wed. Nov. 16 - Bristol, UK @ The Lanes
Thu. Nov. 17 - Leeds, UK @ Brudenell Social Club
Fri. Nov. 18 - Sunderland, UK @ Pop Recs
Sat. Nov. 19 - Glasgow, UK @ Oran Mor
Sun. Nov. 20 - Dublin, IE @ Button Factory