It’s remarkably refreshing when someone strips away all the bullshit and gives you the straight talk you need. Too often, people tiptoe around the truth for fear of hurt feelings, but sometimes you need to just hear things how they are — no metaphors, no analogies, just the truth. “Straight talk” is what makes De Pamela’s debut EP, Pep, so enjoyable. (A note on the EP’s title: the first few seconds of the opening track has presumably the producer telling the band to play with lots of “pep,” and there you have it. On Bandcamp, the title is spaced out to make it the P EP which is, quite frankly, both a witty and very punk thing to do.) The band’s pop-rock compositions are fun and forceful, incorporating myriad gang vocals and tasty guitar licks — and then there’s Val Heimpel’s lyrics. There’s no pretension, no obscuring of what emotionally ails Heimpel in each of the four original songs, and that makes each one all the more relatable.
“One Thing” is as far from an overwrought Finger Eleven song as you can possibly get. Instead, Heimpel makes it clear she wants one thing from the subject of the song — to let them know they’re annoying and that she doesn’t want to talk to them. Despite the brutal honesty, the song’s pseudo-tropical vibe helps it go down smooth. “Can’t Have It” examines how Heimpel (and all of us, let’s be real) sabotage ourselves on a daily basis. Heimpel convinces herself that if she finds herself wanting something (or someone), it won’t work out, especially when she’s talking to her crush: “Seems like when it really matters I can’t get my shit together, I just want to run away,” she sings. The call-and-response at the end makes the song even more fun.
“Asshole” plays out in two gears. The first is Heimpel saying she wants to take a lover to important social events and meet her friends and family, but she knows this lover sucks. The song enters its second gear at the chorus, where it suddenly goes into double-time as her friends tell her what she already knows: this person is an asshole. The subject matter of “Bad Friend” is apparent: Heimpel and another person were friends for ages, only for the relationship to sour in high school and beyond. Interestingly, Heimpel isn’t sure whether the other person is a bad friend, or if Heimpel herself was too needy. The EP concludes with a cover of Sarah Harmer’s “Lodestar.” The quiet, contemplative song gets a rock-and-roll makeover from De Pamela, still maintaining its sense of beauty even at a higher octane.
Pep (or P EP) is a breath of fresh air and quick, summery fun all rolled into one. If we could all be honest with ourselves and communicate as clearly as Heimpel does here, we might not feel so bad about ourselves.
Twin Within Live-Off-The-Floor at Hamilton Place with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra