Interview: A Q&A with VALLEY’s Michael Brandolino
The members up-and-coming, Toronto, Ontario, Canada-based indie rock/indie pop act VALLEY Rob Laska (vocals), Karah James (drums), Michael Brandolino (guitar) and Alex DiMauro (bass) played in a number of various bands, initially playing in high school bands covering some of their favorite artists before getting serious enough to write their own material. Interestingly enough, the members of the up-and-coming Canadian act can trace their origins to when the members’ previous projects were accidentally (and perhaps serendipitously) had their recording sessions double-booked at a local recording studio. The studio encouraged the band to try playing together — and as the story goes, instead of looking a gift horse in the mouth, each individual person decided to work together, eventually developing their self-produced and acclaimed debut EP, 2016’s This Room Is White, that amassed 10 million streams, partially as a result of the EP’s smash hit track “Swim,” which received airplay internationally and garnered placements on a number of TV shows.
Last year, the members of VALLEY released the Maybe Side A EP, which featured “There’s Still A Light In The House,” a track that amassed over 1 million Spotify streams and received airplay on US College Radio. Building upon a growing profile, the up-and-coming Toronto-based indie quartet will be releasing their full-length debut Maybe through Universal Music Group later this year, and the album’s Andy Seltzer co-written and co-produced first single “Closer To The Picture” thematically deals with the vacillating and inherent cycle of anxiety and self-reflection in the deafening digital noise of 21st century living.
VALLEY’s latest single, “A Phone Call In Amsterdam is a slickly produced bit of anthemic, radio friendly pop featuring shimmering synths, a rousing hook and a tight groove that sonically reminds me Plain White T‘s “Hey There, Delilah” and St. Lucia — while thematically focusing on an experience that should be familiar to most of us — that moment when you realize that you have feelings for a dear friend, who you desperately want to tell; but you’re afraid of rejection and ruining a good relationship.
The up-and-coming Canadian band is currently touring with up and coming singer/songwriter and fellow Canadian Lennon Stella to support their most recent EP and new single, and the tour includes a stop tomorrow night at Irving Plaza, arguably their biggest area show to date. I recently spoke with the band’s Michael Brandolino via email about their new single, their tour, their influences and more. Check out the tour dates below, and the interview below the jump.
Theater of the Living Arts Philadelphia, PA, US
Irving Plaza New York, NY, US
The Rave/Eagles Club Milwaukee, WI, US
Fine Line Minneapolis, MN, US
Bluebird Theater Denver, CO, US
Fonda Theatre Hollywood, CA, US
Fonda Theatre Hollywood, CA, US
August Hal lSan Francisco, CA, US
Wonder Ballroom Portland, OR, US
Neptune Theatre Seattle, WA, US
Vogue Theatre Vancouver, BC, Canada
Vogue Theatre Vancouver, BC, Canada
Top Cats Cincinnati Cincinnati, OH, US
The Auricle Canton, OH, US
Cobra Lounge Chicago, IL, US
The Kio House Memphis, TN, US
The End Nashville, TN, US
FRI 14 JUNE
– SAT 15 JUNE
Liquid Arts Festival 2019 Hamilton, ON, Canada
WRH: As the story goes, the members of the band met when a recording studio accidentally double- booked sessions and encouraged y’all to play together. Curiously, how does your previous project(s) differ from Valley? And when did you recognize that you had a musical and creative chemistry that couldn’t and shouldn’t be denied?
Michael Brandolino: The projects we worked on before Valley were kind of the stepping stones we needed to find our sound I’d say. We spent the years before Valley covering our favourite bands in high school and collecting our favourite sounds for the future.
WRH: How would you describe your sound?
MB: I’d say it’s very much a combination of our parents records and records that we discovered in the most formative years of our life. We’re always thinking about the overall story and how to tell it in the most honest way. We believe a lot in honesty and a freeing dynamic, while blending a lot of different sonic textures. For example, on this record we did a lot of acoustic guitar panning that sit quiet and create pads that sit under blanket under the song, which is something we learned from Coldplay but then we contrast that with a ton of drum machine samples from the 80s and 90s that glue these two different worlds together. We’re always thinking about bringing stuff like that into one headspace. It’s really important to us when shaping a record.
WRH: Who are you influenced by?
MB: We definitely have a very diverse list of influences ranging anywhere from John Mayer to Coldplay to Bon Iver and Ariana Grande. All those artists have put out records that have marked really important periods of growth for us as a band and personally. Super thankful to be living in an age where they exist.
WRH: Who are you listening to now?
MB: Currently really into Lorde’s latest record, love Bon Iver, Still Woozy, Lennon Stella of course, The Japanese House record, Fleetwood Mac, Ariana Grande! We’re all over right now. So many great albums have been put out this year.
WRH: Is there anyone in the Toronto scene, who we haven’t heard about in the States that we all should be hearing about?
MB: Hands down this band called Babygirl. They’re good friends of ours and we look up to them so much. Incredible story tellers and songwriters. We have a feeling you’ll be hearing about them soon…
Recommended first listens: “Overbored,” “Soft,” “Wish I Never Met You.”
WRH: You’re currently on tour with Lennon Stella. How has the tour gone so far?
MB: This tour has been absolutely incredible. We feel so lucky and fortunate to be on this run with Lennon. It’s our first major U.S run and we’ve been learning a ton. Watching Lennon every night and seriously has one of the most beautiful voices out there right now. Her songwriting is way beyond her years in so many ways and cannot wait to see her career unfold. So lucky to be a part of her humble beginnings.
WRH: Speaking of your tour, it includes a March 26 stop at Irving Plaza. Is it your first-time playing NYC? And what should NYC music fans expect from your set and from the show?
MB: We’ve played Rough Trade in Brooklyn before, but this is definitely our first time playing the Plaza right in the heart of the city. New York is so damn special to us. We wrote a lot of Maybein the city and lots of lyrical and production soundscapes take place throughout the album. It’s gonna be a special night, we can feel it.
WRH: Your self-produced, acclaimed EP, 2016’s This Room Is White amassed over 10 million streams – perhaps a result of “Swim,” receiving placements on radio and TV. Building upon rapidly growing buzz around you, your full-length debut is slated for release later this year. So far, the album’s first single “Closer to the Picture,” which was co-written and co-produced by the band and Andy Seltzer has received over a million streams and US College radio airplay. How does it feel to attain that kind of attention in such a relatively short period of time?
MB: It’s a pretty cool feeling, although we always feel like we could do better. We’ve been pleasantly surprised that every release does better than the last. Closer to the picture now one of the smaller songs on MAYBE according to Spotify analytics. Our most recent single “A Phone Call In Amsterdam” has performed the best, and we’re brainstorming ideas on how to exceed that number with our next single titled “Park Bench.” We feel blessed with any success we’ve had but always are looking to do better. There’s always room to grow!!
WRH: Your latest single “A Phone Call in Amsterdam” reminds me a bit of Plain White T’s and St. Lucia. What influenced the song? And what’s the song about?
MB: “A Phone Call in Amsterdam” was one of the earliest songs that we wrote for Maybe. I remember the initial idea was conceived around July/August of 2017 around the same time we also wrote “There’s Still A Light In The House.”
“A Phone Call in Amsterdam” in terms of concept came later. This one we really wanted words and feelings to flow freely in its early conception. Subconsciously the meaning came out of nowhere which kinda made me go “oh that’s what I’m writing about I know exactly where this is coming from in my life.”
It’s very much a love story set in a time and place from the perspective of a dear friend of ours. Though it’s wrapped up in distance, both physically and emotionally. The paradox of wanting someone in your life and being scared to tell them how you really feel but also not wanting to ruin something that is already good the way it is, by saying the wrong thing.
Your most current tour has you on the road for the better part of the next month, before a big festival date. After you’ve completed the tour, what’s next?
We’re planned to release another single, two music videos, and then the second half of our record MAYBE. We’ll be doing another hometown album release show in Toronto, date to be announced! We have some festivals lined up but we are also very eager to start writing and demoing again so will probably run away for a month in the summer and write.