Deep Tan: ‘The Xenomorph is sexy. She’s shiny like latex’

We chat to indefinable East London punks Deep Tan about sci-fi fan-fic, dating apps, “genius” Dan Carey, and touring with Queens of the Stone Age.

Deep Tan interview

The Alien franchise has undergone innumerate interpretations since the original’s release in 1979 – with yet another addition lurking in the wings of the Nostromo in Fede Álvarez’s Alien: Romulus – and has been critically analysed just as exhaustively. But it’s doubtful anyone hedged their bets on the Xenomorph being central to a lesbian love story. 

That’s precisely why East London post-punk trio Deep Tan reframed the universe’s most terrifying life form, instead lionising the iconic creature as the object of sexual desire on their eerie, angular 2023 single ‘Xenomorph Queen’.

“The Xenomorph queen has always gone down as being the ‘ultimate baddy’. She’s such a villain,” bassist Celeste Guinness says with a dastardly gleeful tone. “We just wanted to reframe her from being a villain that causes death and destruction to the human race, you know. So what about… a romance? Why not turn it on its head, and why not make it a lesbian romance?” The band’s singer and guitarist, Wafah Dufour, couldn’t agree more: “The Xenomorph is sexy. She’s got a beautiful carapace, her shell. She’s shiny like latex.”

On the surface, based solely on their penchant for H.R. Giger (they even wanted to shoot the music video in the biomechanical museum-come-restaurant dedicated to the Swiss artist before resigning themselves to how unfeasible that might be), their sultry aesthetic and disinterested gazes, Deep Tan themselves might be similarly as feared as the fabled Xenomorph. 

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Talking with the Wafah, Celeste, and drummer Marie, however, they’re just as playful as their absurdist single, continually chiming in on each other’s answers with infectious excitement. Not only are they bandmates, but they’re also flatmates, which is pretty evident in their relaxed familiarity during the interview.

It was a potential romance that brought Wafah and Celeste together. “I thought Wafah was sexy. We actually first matched on a dating app,” the bassist confesses. The pair quickly struck up a friendship over shared musical influences in The Cure, Bauhaus, The Garden, the “brooding, evocative darkness” of Scott Walker, and even Primus. “I was sharing a lot of Primus with Wafah. I’m obsessed with Les Claypool’s basslines,” Celeste gushes. “I love how big and bold they are.” 

Formed by Wafah, an LA socialite in a former life, Deep Tan already existed by that point, though they didn’t really settle on their sound until Celeste joined. 

Primus’ hare-brained musicality has certainly rubbed off on Deep Tan, a band whose sound flirts between menace and mischief, skewering institutions of power and our increasingly dystopian reliance on technology in tracks like ‘Deepfake’ and ‘Device Devotion’. Perhaps lazily referred to as post-punk, their largely indefinable songs recall Devo-esque oddities with a hint of The Slits’ discordant energy. 

The Shacklewell Arms has played a huge part in Deep Tan’s story so far, and they hold the beloved independent Hackney venue close to their hearts. “It’s been very significant. I know most of the promoters and everybody that’s worked here,” says Wafah. “It was the place where we played our first shows. All the bands I like, I know will play there at some point. It’s been amazing to watch so much music, to see sound checks. Watching other bands, seeing their first gigs and how they evolve.”

In between their two EP releases so far in 2021’s Creeping Speedwells and 2023’s Diamond Horsetail, Deep Tan worked on ‘Tamu’s Yiffing Refuge’, a one-off single helmed by sought-after producer Dan Carey who lists albums with Fontaines D.C., Wet Leg, Squid, Black Midi, Slowthai, and Foals amongst his achievements. Wafah is effusive in her praise for Carey. 

Deep Tan interview whynow

“It was really interesting working with him. He’s very fast. He hears something and follows it. He knows where to take an idea with instinct. There was no trial and error. He’s a genius. He hears things that other people can’t hear.” 

Celeste mirrors the sentiment, attesting to the impact working with Carey has had on their process: “We were running tracks, and he was pottering around the studio with Lex, the engineer, and was just setting up mics around the room by different amps. It felt like a loop of the reverb, the echoes from what came before, which kept filling up with looping feedback. It sounded so rich. It comes across in our recording.

Once original drummer Luce left to pursue new creative ventures, Deep Tan drafted in Marie, who took a backseat throughout the interview—getting less screen time than Wafah’s cat, who was eager to muck in—until she softly discussed the trio’s synergy.

“I’m very lucky they found me. I think it’s interesting as we come from different musical backgrounds. There’s common influences like post-punk, The Cure, new wave, dark vibes. So it does work. But it’s interesting as I’ve been in grunge and metal bands. The approach [with deep tan] is to make it more minimal and complex, where in grunge it’s about big sounds, big drums. It’s nice to merge our instincts towards creation, and challenge ourselves.”

READ MORE: Josh Homme, Queens of the Stone Age frontman, reveals cancer surgery prior to tour

Marie’s first show with Deep Tan was a baptism of fire. It came mid-tour when they were asked to support Queens of the Stone Age at the tail end of 2023 on their UK and European arena stint, an experience Wafah reiterates was “surreal”. 

“It was quite surreal, it was a time warp. A bubble of its own. It was quite surreal.” Especially given that Josh Homme serenaded Dufour backstage, a moment the band posted on their Instagram.  “He let me wear his shoes because they matched my top!” Celeste giddily adds: “They have a walk-in wardrobe, like an extra dressing room. Josh was like ‘come in and have some tequila, you’re going on soon! We’ve got to get you some shots’. Then he noticed Wafah was in leopard print, and said ‘do you know how much leopard print I own?’ They were so lovely. They took us under their wing. We’re so humble.”

Digging for juicy tour gossip, the stoner rock titans “were too hungover” to join Deep Tan for farewell drinks after their final concert in Dublin. It turns out it was a fortunate near-miss. 

“On the last night we ended up in a bar in Dublin, which had a Queens of the Stone Age cover band playing… They couldn’t make it, but I was like ‘thank God’ otherwise we’d have dragged them along to see a cover band,” cringes Wafah, visibly relieved with her hands on her cheeks. “I sent them the name of the bar, I swear they looked online first then messaged me saying ‘we’re staying in tonight’”.

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