Interview: VALLEY Capture ’90s Nostalgia in Uplifting Pop Anthem “Like 1999”

Valley "Like 1999" promo
Valley "Like 1999" promo
VALLEY’s Michael Brandolino and Rob Laska dive into the band’s new pop anthem “Like 1999,” discussing ’90s nostalgia & revival, blending the happy with the sad, and the benefits of living like it’s 1999.
Stream: “Like 1999” – VALLEY




Woke up, it’s 2021
I wanna get texts, but I never wanna text back
Fuck man, I’m 2020 done
Another paycheck and I blew it, but I’m still sad

We’ve always had somewhat of an obsession with nostalgia.

From Friends and 10 Things I Hate About You to Y2K, old Pontiacs, and a cellphone-less, dial-up Internet existence, VALLEY’s first single of 2021 has us dwelling in heartfelt pools of ’90s nostalgia. A buoyant pop anthem full of emotion and fun, clever references, “Like 1999” taps a sentimental vein as the JUNO nominated Toronto band capture longing and intimacy – turning the clock back and, for two and a half minutes, inviting us to soak up like in the ’90s.

Like 1999 - VALLEY
Like 1999 – VALLEY
We talk all of the time
But it still feels like I’m just a voice on the line, so
If you wanna come over, watch Friends and then get high
Use my phone as a coaster, we’ll travel back in time
Lights on the ceiling, we’re more than a feeling
If you wanna come over, act like it’s 1999

Released March 30, 2021 via Universal Music Canada, “Like 1999” is the tender first single of 2021 by VALLEY, and their follow-up to last summer’s dynamic EP sucks to see you doing better – previously hailed by Atwood as “a dynamically colorful, confident, and tight collection of sonically buoyant, lyrically unapologetic material.”

“Like 1999” continues to embody many of these qualities as VALLEY once again shed all pretense to deliver a song that is as fun and relatable as it is poignant and affecting. Written with Charli Adams and Nightly’s Jonathan Capeci, the up-close-and-personal track offers a dreamy escape into the past: It’s a chance to don our finest pair of rose-colored glasses and bask in “a simpler time” free from modern distractions, where hanging out with our friends meant we were fully present with one another; we didn’t have any emails or tweets, text messages or notifications to get in our way.

But we did have music, television, and movies – and where they referenced The Office in last year’s music, this year gets a Friends mention.

VALLEY consists of Rob Laska on vocals, Michael (Mickey) Brandolino on guitar, Alex Dimauro on bass and Karah James on drums and vocals © 2021
VALLEY consists of Rob Laska on vocals, Michael (Mickey) Brandolino on guitar, Alex Dimauro on bass and Karah James on drums and vocals © 2021

“The last year of the 90s… Before Y2K, before the Internet took over, autotune, digital recording, online publications, cell phones, and all the rest of it,” VALLEY vocalist Rob Laska reflects. “The end of an era, and the year right before a new, overcomplicated anxiety inducing century began… That being said, we use the internet, autotune, cell phones and all the rest of it obsessively and it really is an obligation and necessity in the world that we live in currently, but this is also where the song inspiration came from and why it’s all supposed to be a little ironic… Everyone feels this way, yet our world still revolves around this way of living!! Can’t live with it, can’t live without it.”

A (bitter)sweet homage to days long gone and years past, “Like 1999” starts in the present – “Woke up, it’s 2021” – but it’s not long before the song’s narrator is completely over it: “Fuck man, I’m 2020 done.” Thus begins our journey down memory lane.

Guitarist Michael Brandolino explains, “The first verse of this song is kind of setting up how we are feeling right now, so that when we talk about wanting to go back to 1999 and live with our devices down and existing in the moments that are happening in the present, it would hit hard.”

“Since we wrote the chorus first we had context to reverse engineer and make the verses evoke the right emotions to make that chorus hit hard lyrically.”

“We tried to use ’90s references without going too far and making it kitschy,” Laska adds. “We wanted to use references that were either kind of coded like “more than a feeling” which was a song we all grew up on in the 90s because of our parents, so although it wasn’t a song from the 90s it was a feeling we grew up with in the ’90s and early 2000s. And the Friends reference is very ’90s BUT something we all still watch… and something that all of our friends still watch, so it’s not such an unrealistic ’90s reference that makes the song a stretch or corny.”

Woke up, had a dream about You
We were parked in a Pontiac, making out, no internet
Ten things I hate about you, honestly nothing
We talk all of the time and I love it
So what are you doing tonight?
If you wanna come over, watch Friends and then get high
Use my phone as a coaster, we’ll travel back in time
Lights on the ceiling, we’re more than a feeling
If you wanna come over, act like it’s 1999-9-9-9 (One sec’)

Along with an MTV-era reminiscent music video featuring TikTok influencer Boman, Valley recently launched the microsite like1999.com, a blast-from-the-past styled website offering exclusive access to discover things in the desktop folders, as well as high score challenges on minesweeper and a Spotify Canvas Contest using the paint application. It’s a clever widget, and a fun way to travel back in time by 22 years and fully immerse oneself in the world of “Like 1999.”

That’s right everybody: 1999 was 22 years ago.

VALLEY’s Michael Brandolino and Rob Laska spoke to Atwood Magazine about ’90s nostalgia and revival, blending the happy with the sad, and the benefits of living like it’s 1999.

I want people to also take it as a moment to live in the moment… put your phone down upside down, and use it as a coaster. Live like it’s 1999 every once in a while.

— —

:: stream/purchase “Like 1999” here ::

 

A CONVERSATION WITH VALLEY

Like 1999 - VALLEY

Atwood Magazine: Valley, it’s great to connect with you again! First off, why make “Like 1999” your first release of 2021?

Mickey Brandolino: To be honest, it happened by accident! We took a month at an airbnb to quarantine and write together, and our FIRST session we happened to write “Like 1999.” We wrote it with Charli Adams and Jonathan from the band Nightly, and it started out as a slow hard session. There wasn’t a ton of inspiration or ideas that day and everything we tried nobody was too excited about. So near the end of the session we said, “Let’s put 30 minutes on the clock and start something new, if we don’t like it then let’s end the session.” And somehow “1999” was born in just a few hours of chasing the idea. We then did a quick demo of it and posted us jamming to it on TikTok. Within a week it gained 1M views and there were thousands of comments asking for us to drop it, and hundreds of duets / stitches. So the people asked for it and we gave it to them with a 3 day turn around. Finished writing it one day, produced it the next day, mixed and mastered it the following days! Such a fun crazy experience!

@thisisvalley

should we release this??? 🤪 #songwriting #production #band #pop #90s #phatbeats

♬ original sound – VALLEY

You immediately jump into the song here, hitting hot-on-the-mic right away. What spurred this decision?

Mickey Brandolino: We didn’t really even think about that. I think it just felt right, why wait? The song felt so concise in its nature I think it was a good decision to just start talking right off the bat.

I wanna get texts, but I never wanna text back.” Can you talk a little bit about the emotions you were looking to capture in these opening lines?

Mickey Brandolino: The first verse of this song is kind of setting up how we are feeling right now, so that when we talk about wanting to go back to 1999 and live with our devices down and existing in the moments that are happening in the present, it would hit hard. Since we wrote the chorus first we had context to reverse engineer and make the verses evoke the right emotions to make that chorus hit hard lyrically.

Fuck man, I’m 2020 done.” How fun was it to come up with this line? Is this the kind of wordplay that puts a smile on your face?

Mickey Brandolino: Hahahaha. So fun. It just happened, first line that came out and we just kept it. Felt right. You nailed the answer in the question!! I remember the energy in the room when the line was spat out and everybody was laughing and we all looked around and said… “yeah.. just feels good and says it as it is.”

Like 1999 - VALLEY
Like 1999 – VALLEY

What’s the significance of the year 1999 for you?

Rob Laska: The last year of the 90s…. Before Y2K, before the internet took over, autotune, digital recording, online publications, cell phones, and all the rest of it. The end of an era, and the year right before a new, overcomplicated anxiety inducing century began haha. That being said, we use the internet, autotune, cell phones and all the rest of it obsessively and it really is an obligation and necessity in the world that we live in currently, but this is also where the song inspiration came from and why it’s all supposed to be a little ironic… Everyone feels this way, yet our world still revolves around this way of living!! Can’t live with it, can’t live without it 🙂

Last time we discussed The Office. This song references Friends and Boston’s “More Than a Feeling.” Why these references, and of course, what are some of your favorite Friends episodes?

Rob Laska: We tried to use ’90s references without going too far and making it kitschy. We wanted to use references that were either kind of coded like “more than a feeling” which was a song we all grew up on in the ’90s because of our parents, so although it wasn’t a song from the ’90s it was a feeling we grew up with in the ’90s and early 2000s. And the Friends reference is very ’90s BUT something we all still watch… and something that all of our friends still watch, so it’s not such an unrealistic ’90s reference that makes the song a stretch or corny.

I feel like this song blends nostalgic lyrics with fun, buoyant, big melodies. It’s not the first time you’ve blended these two things together – do you feel this is part of the “Valley” aesthetic, or perhaps more broadly, is this musical marriage a conscious decision on your part?

Rob Laska: Yeah, it’s really interesting. I think we do it a lot by nature. We love music and artists that use juxtaposition both in melody, lyric, musically etc… A happy sounding song with sad lyrics, a sad sounding song with happy lyrics etc.. We have always been drawn to that type of music, so I think we subconsciously also create music like that. Something about it just makes you FEEL. It’s thought-provoking and engaging. We also just never wanna grow up, straight up haha so we reflect A LOT on that…

Do you mind if I’m nostalgic? Let’s go back before 2000
Back before our love was so distracted
I wish that Y2K had happened, we would stay forever classic
You and I both be trapped in, in 1999
Like 1999 - VALLEY
Like 1999 – VALLEY

What do you hope listeners take away from “Like 1999”? What have you taken away from creating it and now putting it out?

Mickey Brandolino: I hope that listeners just feel. The goal is to evoke feeling whether it’s happiness, longing, nostalgia, etc… our music is to just feel, think, and reflect. And I want people to also take it as a moment to live in the moment. Spend time with your friends (safely..) and put your phone down upside down, and use it as a coaster. Live like it’s 1999 every once in a while 🙂 We’ve really taken lots of lessons from this song, release, and the response from fans. We’ve really learned that the audience is smart, they dictate where the world goes, and where art goes. If you share your music and people like it, they’ll share it. Word of mouth is not dead, it’s just very digital… which is SO ironic because of the context of this song haha.

I want people to also take it as a moment to live in the moment… put your phone down upside down, and use it as a coaster. Live like it’s 1999 every once in a while.

Like 1999 - VALLEY
Like 1999 – VALLEY

This song offers a heavy dose of nostalgia. Why do you think you were dwelling so deeply in this feeling, and how do you feel it translates into the song?

Rob Laska: We’ve always had somewhat of an obsession with nostalgia. A lot of how we live our lives is just reflecting and learning from the past…what was cool, what wasn’t, haha, also just the idea that history comes back around in funny ways, especially in music, fashion and pop culture.. We saw this whole revival with the ’80s a few years ago, now it feels like the ’90s and 2000s revival!!! The sweet spot for us is finding common threads in all these incredible moments in time and letting them flow through our more modern perspective on songwriting and production, I think that’s where a lot of the magic happened for “Like 1999” and a lot of the new music we’re making. The idea of referencing Blink-182, Coldplay & Fleetwood Mac in the same sentence while in the studio is very exciting to us!!! That’s what it’s all about. 🙂

The idea of referencing Blink-182, Coldplay & Fleetwood Mac in the same sentence while in the studio is very exciting to us!!! That’s what it’s all about.

— —

:: stream/purchase “Like 1999” here ::



— — — —

Like 1999 - VALLEY

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📸 © 2021

:: Stream VALLEY ::

Zoomed-In and Dreaming: A Conversation with Valley

:: INTERVIEW ::


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