With all of us being ‘95 babies, we consider ourselves extremely lucky to be growing up in an era where we’re surrounded by a culture full of technology. However, we focus on maintaining a delicate balance. While we have a mindset to create music the way we consume it, we still draw on inspiration from our parent’s record collections and recognize the importance of the 70s and 80s. We think it’s extremely important to be aware of those who influence you, study them, and let their influence transform and blossom through your own art.
That’s what really keeps pushing boundaries for us as artists and as humans. We talk a lot about the feeling of being stuck in the “in-between” on our debut record MAYBE and often we use the colour yellow to symbolize this emotion. All of the amazing creatives listed below, we believe, create their art through the “yellow” filter. They have managed to find comfort in the “in-between” and the whirlpool that is this musical industry we swim in. They all let so much of their life and upbringing shine through their production, storytelling, and overall musical path. They all operate within community and collaboration, which has always been—and continues to be—the focus and the future of music.
We discovered Justin’s music early on in our high school days. I think one thing that drew us in was not only his outlook and voice as an artist, but his use of space in a song and his overall outlook on the art that he and his collective of friends create. Justin Vernon, Bon Iver, Volcano Choir, Big Red Machine, The Shouting Matches to name a few, are all projects and collectives that really taught us what it means to collaborate as a band. Beyond those records being amazing at capturing a time and place, Justin has always built such a sense of community and belonging around his music which always leads back to Wisconsin.
Time and time again, Justin has taught us that there are are no boundaries to the music you make and who you make it with. Building community around your music and where it comes from is everything for him, and that speaks so much to us. We had a chance to visit the small town of Eau Claire last summer and stayed at a hotel downtown he helped open. Just seeing the amount of influence Justin and his music has had on the place he grew up was really inspiring. Justin’s records continue to always give us such a fresh outlook on how we create sonically as well.
His music introduced us to a sampling device called the Op-1 that has completely altered our world when recording demos. We now record audio from all of our travels (bird noise, street noise, radio, etc.) on the Op-1 and create tons of sonic textures that we input into Valley songs. It’s a really special tool that Justin first introduced us to on his latest Bon Iver record. Justin has taught us so much about how to balance a song so it speaks the most to what were trying to say while still pushing boundaries with sampling and vocal manipulation and space. He will forever be someone we really appreciate for how much he gives back and how much community has been built around his collaborators.
Jack Antonoff is really special to us. Jack is a writer, producer, and artist that always comes back with something you wouldn’t expect, yet has such a SOUND. He really nails being unique, yet accessible; nostalgic yet forward thinking; and kind of sits in this middle zone that a lot of artists have trouble doing. It’s a world that Valley strives to live within and Jack is a huge role model in that sense. Growing up in the suburbs of New Jersey and only being able to look out at New York City from afar, we relate so much to how he developed his own voice by imagination in the shadows.
We also appreciate his ability to work with all sorts of artists, and let them get all of their ideas out, and build their sound. He doesn’t get in the way, yet, somehow, you can always tell that Jack worked on it. Watching interviews with Jack is always educational because he finds a way to explain things in a way you’ve never thought about it. Jack also isn’t particularly a protégé at any instrument or singing and peoples doubts never stopped him. He’s overall just a really unique, hardworking writer/producer/artist that pushes boundaries of pop music.
George was our first love from a production standpoint. You can hear George’s touch on a song from miles away. He is a sonic and rhythmic genius. George has never touched a song that hasn’t made us reevaluate our own skills as producers. It feels effortless with such attention to detail and always has a wacky way of thinking of things. His modesty in interviews has always made us think he’d be such a great person to work with. He seems to listen a lot and learn internally before speaking and doing things.
He also does a really great job of taking influence from really avant-garde, alternative, ambient music such as Boards Of Canada, Jon Hopkins and Brian Eno to name a few and using those elements in pop music. His work, along with the rest of The 1975, has really changed pop music forever. They created a band and community of bands that all strive to make music to the depth and innovation that they have achieved. He’s one of those producers where we know we’d get along with someone if they love George. It’s one of those cults where if you know, you know.
Where do we begin. Andy has been such an influence on Valley from the start of our record MAYBE, especially on the social side of it all. Valley sits in our suburban basement huddled away making music for years and Andy was one of the first people we ever worked with outside of our hometown. In the “big and intimidating” city of New York we met Andy who gave us this real sense of validation towards our outlook on music that we’ve never really felt before. We always believed in our music and we were signed to a label in Canada, but we hadn’t met artists, producers, and writers that we looked up to so much give us feedback on anything we’ve created.
Our months spent with Andy are extremely formative to Valley and we will cherish them forever. We felt the energy in the room and the excitement in his eyes and we had this moment of “Holy shit, he’s not just being nice”. And once in a while, doesn’t matter who you are, you need that. It’s not our fuel but it’s an important moment in any career I believe. It’s finding people who understand you and what you’re trying to say through your art.
It was this sense of connection that has been so hard to find for us. Andy knows how to meditate and talk with people to make you always comfortable and created an environment where we could do our best work with no judgment. He’s not a “Yes Man,” and he can tell you his opinion when it’s opposing but it’s always so constructive and helpful which is an extremely delicate space when expressing yourself. Andy taught us that ego in any creative environment is unsustainable. He teaches and also accepts being taught. Writing and recording our debut record MAYBE alongside Andy represents a turning point for our band and our influences. It represents the realization that the yellow filter exists and it shines through those who understand your creative expression within the in-between.
You can listen to MAYBE: Side B, which follows their November 2018 EP, MAYBE: Side A (and completes their debut LP) below.