By: Patrick Ritcey
In a serendipitous event where two bands were accidentally double-booked for the same studio time, two groups merged into one and the independent Toronto-based pop band VALLEY was born. With Rob Laska on vocals, Mike Brandolino on guitar, Alex DiMauro on bass and Karah James on drums and vocals, the group demonstrates a musical chemistry like no other. Their self-produced EP This Room is White was released in 2016 amassing acclaim, and garnered over 10 million streams. Since the release of their EP, the band has continued to work on creating great music, including their recent 2018 single Closer To The Picture. We had the chance to talk to the band about their new track, their growth as musicians and memorable interactions they’ve had with fans.
Winslow: You’ve described your single “Closer To The Picture” as an “anthem for the outcasts” and as a song that emulates the feeling of “being the kid at the party who hangs out with the dog.” What made you want to write a song that explored these themes?
VALLEY: One of us has always been one of those people at some point in our life where, in a social situation whether it’s a party or something else we can feel like the outcast or the odd ones out, we tend to resort to whatever we can find in the room to feel comfortable. That’s kind of where the sentiment of the song came from.
Winslow: You also made a music video for “Closer To The Picture”. What was that experience like?
VALLEY: It was amazing! We have some friends that we like working with and growing with them as a team organically. We find that it doesn’t matter how big you are, it matters how passionate you are. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s really true. We have friends who are amazing cinematographers and directors and they get it because they are in their twenties as well. Nobody is above the next person. We are all on the same level.
Winslow: Would you say that your music has evolved since the release of your first album, This Room is White? And if so, how?
VALLEY: Oh, it’s dramatically evolved. Musically, lyrically, and songwriting-wise- it’s all kind of evolved. It’s been two years since we released it and we learned so much from that record. We demoed and wrote almost 50 to 60 songs in between that time, and every time you demo and write a song you learn a lot. We write a lot from our subconscious so really just us growing as people resulted in us growing as musicians and as songwriters. We’ve been going through so much in our 20s: building our careers, dropping out of school to go on tour and doing all these things. We stopped thinking of what our sound should be and just let it happen.
Winslow: The story behind Valley’s formation is pretty interesting. Could you go into detail about how you all met?
VALLEY: Rob and I had a project going in 2013. Mike and Karah were two separate teams writing music and exploring. We weren’t even recording for a specific project, just demoing. We walked into the room and saw Mike and Kara doing their thing. It was a very interesting experience. Mike didn’t like Alex right away because he was wearing an ACDC shirt, (we were very different back then). We were into the music that they were writing. It was similar in certain ways but it had a spark that interested us. We saw them perform and we started hanging out and started making music together.
Winslow: What bands/musicians would would you say are your biggest Influences?
VALLEY: We love Coldplay, we love The 1975, and we love LANY. There are a lot of new age bands that directs us to a certain writing style. Jack Antonoff is one, with his production work and what he’s done with Taylor Swift and Lorde.
We are inspired by new wave artists, our parent's music, but also the general movement that is happening right now. There is a lot of cross barriers of genres right now. The DIY aspect is coming back. People are recording songs in their basements. Jack Antonoff recorded Taylor Swift in his apartment. We’re just really lucky to be living in that time where all that is happening.
Since it’s so generational there is a lot of inspiration from music that we listened to growing up. There’s an ode to the music that our parents raised us on like Fleetwood Mac and a lot of Motown and even soul music from that time. As well as pop music from the 2000’s that we listened to as kids. Taking all that, melting it into one pot and having a new and fresh take on the sound for this single.
Winslow: You guys are very active on social media, giving your audience a behind-the-scenes look at the making of your music. I’m wondering if you can describe how it felt to finally announce the release date of “Closer To The Picture” after months of building up the hype?
VALLEY: We haven’t released new music in 2 years. A lot of our friends are asking: “what are you doing?” and “why aren’t you guys releasing anything?” We’re all just like “Just a little bit longer, we aren’t just sitting on our butts.”
We are trying so hard to get everything done. Finally giving the people something back after they have been so supportive is such a nice thing. We sit in this basement for so long making this music, and in a way it feels selfish in that you do it for yourself. It feels very isolating for a whole period. When you finally release it, you give it away. It’s everybody else’s. It’s like watching your kid get on the school bus for the first time.
Winslow: About a week ago you released a promo with a phone number for a hotline where fans could hear a preview of “Closer to the Picture” and leave you a message/call you directly. Were there any messages or interactions that stood out among the others?
VALLEY: This has been the thing that is the most exciting in the past few days. Growing up I don’t remember anything like that existing. I wish I could call up Stevie Nicks and talk to her and say, "Hey, I love you”. It’s one way to break that barrier.
This guy called from Nashville and was on his break. Alex and I were in the car and he called and said: “Hey, just working, I’ve had a long day and I just want to say that you guys are amazing and that you’re such a big influence to me”. It means the world because you’re sitting there and you don’t know what to say because you’re literally calling from Nashville!
We keep getting calls from across the country and from the States. It’s that extra kind of connection. We’re going to be picking days of the week where we will be on the line to talk to people and answer calls. It’s been a very cool experience.
Winslow: Any final words you want to give to our readers?
VALLEY: Yes! Thank you for anyone that has just discovered our music or has been a fan since the first E.P. Thank you for taking your time to read this or listening to our music. It honestly means the freaking world to us. Without you guys, we would not be doing anything. Watch out for shows, they’ll be announced shortly. There’s going to be a lot of opportunities to see us live.
About Patrick Ritcey: Born and raised in a city just south of Muskoka, Patrick Ritcey always considered his life to be about as interesting as a cup of vanilla yoghurt. After graduating high school and moving to the GTA to pursue film studies, Patrick honed in on his passion for film, writing, food and the art scene of Toronto, which he hopes to share with all the readers of Winslow Magazine. Wanna see more of what we're up to? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.