Alt-pop band Valley bask in their new upbeat single.
A double-booking of two separate bands at a local recording studio resulted in the kismet meeting and formation of VALLEY; “There was an instant connection and the next week we started hanging out every day and haven’t stopped since. The engineer who booked them has hinted he actually did it on purpose because he thought we would vibe all together, so really he changed our lives forever. And if that is true, a label should hire him as an A&R haha.”
Valley is now Rob Laska (vocals), Mickey Brandolino (guitar), Alex Dimauro (bass) and Karah James (drums/vocals). Recently they were handpicked for Apple Music’s Canada ‘UP NEXT’ artist spotlight for this month, and have released this fourth track from their upcoming EP “Last Birthday” coming October 1. “Oh Shit..are we in love” is their first love song, written by the band along with Jorgen Odegard (Justin Bieber “Holy”) via Zoom in the height in the pandemic. Their uplifting sounds and happy energy makes every song a mood booster and it’s on a frequency that should resonate with even the pickiest listener. In spite of the pandemic, 2021 has been nonstop for Valley dropping hit after hit, their chemistry is obvious in “Tempo,” “SOCIETY” and the explosive “Like 1999, “ tracing back to a viral TikTok post that drove the band to finish the song in under 48 hours, then hitting over 200 million global streams. But the Canadians are not letting their success go to their heads, they’re still humble and grateful and after being unable to perform live for so long, they’re excited to be back on the road in North America and we had a chance to chat with them from their tour to talk music, life advice, influences, fashion and staying grounded.
Check out the interview below now…
“Oh shit.. are we in love?” is amazing, tell us about the name and how it all came to be?
Hey!! Thank you! “Oh shit” we wrote on a trip we took to a cabin outside of Toronto! Actually the same writing trip we wrote “Like 1999” and a bunch of songs off of our upcoming ep Last Birthday. We wrote it over Zoom one night with our friend Jorgen Odegard! He’s such an amazing songwriter and producer. We caught a vibe super quick, he sent over the drum groove and piano part and we were instantly feeling so good. We started talking about this idea of having your ‘Oh shit?’ moment throughout your life. The moment you take a second to realize that everything you’ve been searching for has been right in-front of you the whole time whether it’s love or finding your passion or just like being in love with the people around you. We wanted the title to come across very pure and honest. It feels like a title that’s plucked right out of a real life conversation and I hope that’s why it just hits right. The whole song feels like I’m telling you a little story and breaking down my thought process on finding love in less than 3min. Also the chorus goes SO HARD live, I can’t wait to play it every night on tour.
We love “TEMPO,” your latest dance tune; how was the process of creating it and what do you want listeners to get from it?
“Tempo” was such a fun one! It’s an outcome of the same kind of mentality we went into with writing “Oh shit”! We’re always looking for balance when we’re in the heat of making a body of work! “Tempo” from early on we knew would feel so good to play live and is such a release for us in the set. We wrote it with our friend Soaky Siren! We were writing so many melodies and just shouting out words and phrases! It’s honestly the fastest written song for us haha it was done in like 3 hours. It just felt right from the beginning. For the outro of “Tempo” we definitely want you laying on the grass outside with your best friends after a night out just staring at the stars or in a Denny’s parking lot blasting it!
Your song “Like 1999” went viral via TikTok post, was that intentional? How did that impact you and how did you hear about it first?
Definitely not intentional haha. To be honest we were scared to go on TikTok for so long!! I feel like when a new social media app takes over the world, there’s always this brief period of artists observing and adapting to how they will use their voice on it so to speak. We had no plans though haha we were up at the cabin and just writing every day, we happened to write “Like 1999” that day with our dear friends Jonathan and Charli Adams! Our friend Chris had his phone out and caught us dancing to the demo around the house…and the rest is kinda history ain’t it!!!! The song just really connected with people, and I find with TikTok it needs to feel effortless and genuine to a degree. Obviously those rules are broken all the time with comedy and lots of different art forms!! I think in our case the stars aligned that way and we didn’t overthink it! Overthinking with that kinda stuff will get to ya for sure. Just have to let the music work its magic sometimes and just take a step back. To finish the question though, I think we heard about it first in the middle of the night after writing the song, Chris our friend checked TikTok and texted us being like “hey y’all, I know it’s 3am but your song is taking off!!!” Not a bad reason to wake up…
Speaking of listening to songs, what are you currently listening to and what is your favorite way to consume music these days?
Love this question! I think currently we’re on the road and starting to tour again, so a lot of time in the van is spent on finding new music and diving into full bodies of artists work which is a really beautiful thing -cause we usually don’t ever have enough time to do that! Another way we love to listen is when we roll into a city early on tour. My favorite thing is to throw on a playlist or album and walk around a neighborhood I’ve never been to! In terms of who we’re listening to…we just recently played a festival with Peach Tree Rascals, their latest EP Camp Nowhere is so good! Also loving the new Clairo record, our friend Victoria Zaro who goes by Ryann also has put out some beautiful music that we always go back to on tour! Loving new Jeremy Zucker!! Also our fav band in the world is Babygirl so please go check them out!! They’re also from Toronto and our dear friends who have changed our lives with their songwriting and melodies. Just stunning music overall.
You guys have over 200 million streams of your songs, how has that changed you?
I feel like from early on in our career, we’ve made an effort to not get to fixated or obsessed with the numbers. The most healthy practice for us has been processing the shock of seeing that number with the fact that there’s a human behind each stream. And that’s what really blows our minds – that each stream is someone playing our song while they’re having a shitty day or a great day!!! We feel so lucky to be alive during a time where music has no borders and we can see everything happening in real time around the world. We’re eternally grateful that we get to do this!
Tell us how VALLEY came to be and what each of your roles are?
We were 2 separate bands that accidentally got double booked! Karah and I (Mickey) went to high school together and Rob and Alex went to high school together, each one town apart. Rob and Alex had a band that was kind of mid broken up because people were going to college, and Karah and I were just a duo so we always felt like we were missing our other half. Karah and I were in a local studio mixing one of the songs when Alex and Rob walked into the studio and were a little confused. The engineer who booked us both named Steve Kirstein played it off cool and had Alex and Rob use the live room while we used the control room haha. Eventually Rob and Alex came in to say hi and we played each other our music and hung out for a bit. There was an instant connection and the next week we started hanging out every day and haven’t stopped since. Steve has hinted to us that he actually did it on purpose because he thought we would vibe all together, so really Steve changed our lives forever. And if that is true, a label should hire him as an A&R haha. In terms of rolls, we all sort of do everything and try not to have any borders creatively. Because technically on stage Karah plays drums and sings, Alex plays bass, Rob sings and plays guitar, and I play guitar and keys… but in the studio if Karah comes up with a guitar part she’ll just play it even though she’s the “drummer”, or if Rob comes up with a drum part he’ll program it, or if I come up with a bass part I’ll play it, Alex will play guitar riffs and so on and so forth. That being said, we’ve spent a long time in the studio together so we naturally have fallen into loose rolls, like Rob singing a lot of lead parts, Karah being a blanket of harmonies and a secondary lead singer, me on the laptop doing the more modern definition of “producer”, and Alex playing a big Rick Rubin roll of sitting back and being our sounding board of a listener and rocking electric guitar melodic riffs. Rob is an acoustic guitar and sampling master, I’m big on programming drums and playing / programming bass and love love love vocal production, Karah has endless harmonies nobody else can think of and funky arrangement ideas that always add spice.
How did growing up in Toronto influence your musical taste?
I think growing up in the greater Toronto area really does have a big effect on how we’ve created music. The Toronto indie scene was so strong growing up, but also being in the shadow of America and the UK gave our perception of those countries music this sort of novelty and awe. I think not being immersed in those scenes geographically but appreciating the music and culture so much gave us a different type of drive than people who grew up there. Not any better or worse, just different. A different perspective. Mixing American and UK soul, pop, hip hop, country, folk etc.. with the local alternative Toronto music we were involved in kind of shaped our sound and musical interests a lot.
When did you decide together to pursue music professionally?
I think it was our goal from the first song we made together. We were in school when we started but all took the band much more seriously than school. Eventually dropping out to tour and make music full time. It came in phases, we all worked odd jobs and at Starbucks etc.. until we could afford to quit it and sustain off of just being in a band. It’s been a really long journey already and we’ve just scratched the surface. Every year we grow faster and faster and learn more and more, so it keeps things exciting and keeps us focused. We are so so so grateful to have had great supportive parents who we can fall back on if anything ever goes south, because we know that a lot of people don’t have that privilege. We thank the universe for it every day.
Which artist influenced each of you the most growing up and now today?
Growing up it was a lot of Motown, big bands, jazz, Green Day, Coldplay, John Mayer, Taylor Swift, Tupac, Eminem / Slim, Drake, Justin Bieber, the list goes on and on and on. Basically anyone who creates intent-full art with amazing melodies, lyrics, stories, anything that makes us feel and dance and cry and want to live!! We are a big melting pot of genres and honestly can never make our mind up with what we want to make, but instead of worrying about that haha we’ve decided to embrace it and let us give us a Valley stamped sound.
You were nominated for a JUNO, were you surprised? How has that changed your careers?
We were definitely surprised to be nominated yes! We obviously do what we do because we love it, but being recognized by your home country is always something really special! And I think it’s kinda changed the way our families look at our music careers. It’s tough to put a qualitative or quantitative number on general success in the music industry, so the nomination is definitely fun and something to show for all the work we’ve put in over the years!
You are planning to tour finally again, where are you most excited to go?
Yes we are! It’s so, SO tough to choose a favorite city… Texas cities always show up for a good time, west coast cities are ALWAYS fun to play too! We’ve also never played San Diego, so it’ll be really fun to finally play for some new faces!!!
What advice have you been given that has been most impactful?
I think one of the best pieces of advice I’ve personally been given is to ignore the noise and to not pay too much attention to what everyone else around us is doing. It’s so easy to get caught up in what other people are saying/ the moves they’re making and what your peers have be successful with. There are a million ways up the mountain (insert cliche saying here) but if you have an end goal, it’s best to keep a steady course as opposed to changing direction a bunch of times. That’s not to say you can’t take detours along the way, but if you’ve got a vision and you’re passionate about that, you gotta follow your gut instincts! I feel like that mentality has been adopted from fashion in a way. Our favorite clothing lines attract us to them not only for the comfort or look but the message, uniqueness and emotion that’s built around them. We’re always searching for something we’ve never seen or felt before. And to project that emotionally as artists, that takes a lot of inner risk taking and trust in yourself which is something we’re always working on as Valley.
What advice do you have for others who are also artists or creatives?
Something we’ve kinda learned over the years that’s super key is you’re never done developing as an artist / creative. We constantly keep learning new things from our artist friends/ people we look up to and love applying those new flavours to our craft. I feel like the moment you stop learning is when you kinda stop growing in your career.
How do you stay grounded, balanced and healthy?
Finding hobbies/interests completely unrelated to music has been really helpful for keeping me grounded, well-balanced and healthy! That, along with making sure I’ve taken the time to spend with my friends/family and really feed those relationships. Obviously, our band is our second family and I love them all to death, but having people to talk to outside of the four of us is really nice and allows us to fill up our creative “well” so to speak and just have the environment for inspiration to be let in.
Which artists had the biggest impact on you when you were growing up vs today? Who would you most like to collaborate with?
Growing up I was heavily influenced by jazz musicians, such as Chet Baker, Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker, Gene Krupa and Daniel Glass. I came from a live performance background so improvisation in jazz music was really important to me, and my artistry. As I got older I knew I wanted to shift into creating pop music, but I didn’t know how. When I met Mickey in grade 11, I was introduced to melodic and lyrical songwriting, opposed to the instrumental music I was making. Mickey wrote pop songs, and I was fascinated by that. He validated for me that liking pop music was okay, because it was never encouraged in the formal training that I had had growing up. I started taking the simplistic influences of Taylor Swift, Max Martin, Katy Perry, and Fleetwood Mac. I now take heavy influence from Clairo, Babygirl, Mura Masa, The 1975, Kacey Musgraves, and Bruno Major. It would be a dream to collaborate with Stevie Nicks.
How did you spend your lockdown time? What was a positive take away you learned from that time?
I started doing abstract paintings and have actually been selling some of them. It was something that gave me a lot of peace during a scary, unknown time. I did it for no one but myself and it felt so refreshing to not have a creative agenda. I actually realized how similar songwriting and abstract painting is. It’s all about curating ones ideas and knowing when to pronounce something finished and not to go beyond a creative “expiry date”. A good creator will figure out how to serve their art, whatever that means to them.
What are you watching or reading right now?
Neither. I haven’t been consuming much of anything lately. Sometimes I find it draining to digest any other narrative than what’s happening irl.
How do you write a song, what is your process?
If I’m just writing by myself, I collect lots of voice notes in my iPhone of short melody ideas I come up with while driving or cooking etc and lots of random chicken scratch in my notebook. And eventually I piece it all together and make it make sense, or not. I’ll usually write a verse and a chorus and then bring it to the band and we work from there if the band digs it!
Fashion and music are so tied together, what designers emerging or known do you love and who would you most like to collaborate with?
A friend of mine just introduced me to a designer called Lindsay Vrckovnik and I’m loving her pieces. I’m also really digging this clothing brand called Imaginary Friends based out of Toronto, similar to Mad Happy, which is also a brand I would love to collaborate with. Also love Brain Dead out of L.A! Lazy Oaf does some really great movie collab lines like E.T which we really dig! Really bright and eye catching stuff. Also I’m a big fan of vintage curators like Nouveau Riche Vintage also based in Toronto. Millie Yates, a young designer based in Montreal and a dear friend of mine, is someone who I have always highly looked up to in terms of design detail, and curation.
What is your own version of Wonderland, a wish or magical idealistic day?
We love a day where we have the perfect balance of discovery but also routine and passion. I guess our version of wonderland is anywhere with great weather, good vegan food and sangria!! preferably somewhere near water and a little beach house with lots of instruments and a laptop for us to write a song!