Meshing As One & Connecting All the Strings: A Year Later with VALLEY

VALLEY © Shannon Beveridge
VALLEY © Shannon Beveridge
VALLEY have been quarantined together, in charge of their creative schedule and learning from one another every day.

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Similar to a lot of artists during this time, VALLEY is staying busy and tapping into their creative mode. In some situations, being quarantined with your friends for a longer period of time can drive everyone crazy, but not for VALLEY. They have been using the time to really get to know each other more and work on the band. Even when calling them up for the interview, they were in the middle of writing a song. The indie tastemakers are making the most of their time together and getting ready for the next era of VALLEY.

There’s Still a Light in the House – VALLEY

It has been a year since Atwood last caught up with the emerging indie pop band, who have taken big strides. Opening up on several tours, growing their fan base and careers, and really honing in on who they are as a band has brought them continued success. 

“I think all the tours are like a big part of growing our careers while getting in front of people physically. You know, meet fans all around North America that we didn’t get to do the year before that. It’s been really fun.”

At the time of their interview last year, VALLEY’s 2016 EP, This Room Is White, had been streamed over 10 million times. Now, their single, There’s Still A Light In The House has alone been streamed almost 11 million times. Fans have really taken to this track off their major label debut album, MAYBE, which was released September 2019. To hold off fans until the new music comes, a chill mix of the track has been released.

They are riding off the continued momentum of MAYBE. Connecting with fans, each other and creating a world for it all to live in. Valley can attest to their fans being an integral part of the “Valley World” and show true enjoyment by getting to know the people who support the band.

“I think we just really realized how much we love connecting with our fans and we love meeting them and we love the commitment that they have.”

In a time where things have kinda slowed down, VALLEY is writing, creating, and meshing together as one unit. Bonding over the unexpected time they have together, and learning everyday. Going after their goals and setting new standards along the way, while feeling grateful for all that has happened.

Atwood Magazine chatted with drummer Karah James and guitarist Mickey Brandino of VALLEY about their thoughts on the pandemic bringing global connection, tour being like summer camp, and what the band’s theme song would be. Dive into the interview below.

Listen: “There’s Still a Light in the House” – VALLEY


There's Still a Light in the House - VALLEY

Atwood Magazine: How have you guys been holding up? You seem to be keeping busy and staying creative, and making a lot of music. Have you guys learned anything new or picked up any new hobbies while in quarantine? What have you been up to?

Mickey: I actually started running for the first time in my life because I find it’s really important during quarantine to have personal goals, and daily and weekly goals. Especially because, you know, we don’t know how long this will last. I just think it’s so important to have a morning routine and goals. And I’m not a runner that’s for sure but I’ve started. That’s a fun one on a personal level. I think we’ve also learned a lot. We’ve spent a lot of time on tour together in secluded spaces, you know in hotels and stuff and then in a van touring and doing it every day. I think we’ve learned a lot about each other as well because in those situations it’s highly logistical right. There are times to do this and times to do that. It’s time to get on stage and it’s time to drive home. But what we’re doing now is we’re kind of all huddled up in a house, all living together and kind of creating our own schedule. Being in charge of our own schedule and creative schedule as well. So we’ve definitely been learning a lot about each other, our strengths, and how to work as a unit. 

One of your Instagram posts a little while back, you mentioned the idea and thoughts about a global crisis bringing global connection. I’m definitely finding myself reconnecting with people I haven’t talked to in a while or realizing things I thought mattered don”t really need to take priority in my life. What has been your experience?

Karah: Yeah, I mean, that was a fun little post. I think a lot of those posts kind of came from the initial shock of like “What the heck is going on?” How do we navigate through this? I wrote those things down and that was kind of just my introspective thoughts. So, I mean, that kind of sums it up for me. I think a lot of the pandemic is forcing us to relearn things that get lost with everyday life and get lost with just hustling and forgetting about simple things. I think for me personally I can say that at the age that I’m at I don’t really want to slow down. I think slowing down kind of makes me really anxious because I know what I want to be doing. I know there’s going to be a time in my life where I can slow down and it’s not now. I just don’t want to. But also, obviously, if you’re seeing like silver linings and stuff, I’ve definitely talked to more old friends. Just because you have time and you have the headspace to do it and like everybody’s kind of in the same boat. It’s super super rare that you have that same sort of adversity globally. When does that ever happen? Every country is in the same boat. That just doesn’t happen, so it’s pretty interesting. Especially, I think we’ll look back on it and there’s going to be so many things that come out of Corona. Just the way that businesses operate and the way that people interact with each other. Some good and some bad I think. It’ll be interesting. 

Mickey: I remember having this conversation. You talked about realizing the little things. The fact that when I go to the grocery store, I can only get one carton of eggs for the whole house. It feels like you know, the fifties for a sec because you’re like, “Whoa.” We’ve been so spoiled and so fortunate. My dad makes bread every day but he can’t get the yeast to make bread anymore. It’s like all these little things you take for granted that kind of make your day. You realize how fortunate you are. Not taking those for granted, when we get it all back.

Definitely relate to that. I just wanted to get your perspective and see how you have been doing. I know it’s a hard time and everyone has their own adversities they face, but it’s good to know that you all are doing good and hanging in there.

Mickey: Yeah, we are just keeping as busy as possible, working.

When we last talked, you had done the tour with Lennon Stella, but within the last year you’ve also toured with The Band Camino and did a few shows with The Beaches. Can you talk a little bit about those experiences?

Karah: The Lennon tour was amazing. We just had such a fantastic time. Her team is amazing. And I think we were in a very transitional period when we did that tour. It molded us a lot. We got to see how her team works and just like the type of people that we wanted to work with. We were very malleable at the time. So, I think that had a really good influence on us. The Camino tour was sort of the ultimate camaraderie. It was so much fun. We all just got along. It felt like summer camp kinda, which was really great. The shows with The Beaches, also kind of the same vibe. We’ve known The Beaches for a little while now just because you know, Toronto and we are on the same label on stuff. It was just really fun. It just felt like summer camp. Playing shows with your friends and there were two other bands that were opening. So yeah, it was really great. I really have nothing bad to say about them. It was kind of the best way to end playing shows. Which we didn’t know it would be our last show before the pandemic. So it was a good memory.

Mickey: It was nice to come home from tour and do three nights at the biggest venue we’ve played in Canada with, you know, one of our very very good friends. All the girls from The Beaches. So it’s just really cool to come home to that, after traveling and writing and stuff. We got that last taste of shows.

For sure. It also must have been a great feeling to see that fans had taken to your idea of the jean MAYBE jacket. Was it always your intent or hope that fans would latch on to that and want to show you their versions on tour?

Mickey: We didn’t originally make it for that reason, but we kind of realized when we saw someone online make one for the first time. We’re like, “Whoa”, this could totally become a thing. On the Camino tour, in almost every single city, there was a group of kids that showed up with a MAYBE jacket. It was just the craziest thing. We got pictures and videos with almost all of them because they’d come to say hi after the show. We’d always go out and meet fans. It’s just the wildest experience ever to be in Kentucky, you know, somewhere you know nothing about. And we’re from this place in Canada and we go to Kentucky for the first time and there’s a group of kids wearing MAYBE jackets, telling us that the album got them through really really hard times or breakups or really hard transitions. It’s just super, super crazy. 

VALLEY © Shannon Beveridge
VALLEY © Shannon Beveridge

Do you have a favorite fan story?

Mickey: We got a care package. In Colorado, we got a care package from a fan. It was a shoebox full of goodies. It had socks and phone chargers. It was basically a tour package. She said that we’d run out of clean socks on tour and she gave us gum because we needed to have fresh breath when we talked to fans. It was so cool. 

Karah: I think the fan thing for us is just meeting people. I won’t say who but there was one fan in particular that we really connected to and just really felt that he was a big part of our community and he passed away. So that was really, sort of, an influential moment for us. I mean obviously under very sad circumstances but I think we just really realized how much we love connecting with our fans and we love meeting them and we love the commitment that they have. It’s just incredibly special for us. I’m just sitting here in quarantine, and I miss all of the faces. I see these people online and you get to know people that you really never met and it’s just really special. I really can’t even put it into words but honestly meeting the faces on tour, as opposed to just seeing the numbers online. It’s really great and it just makes everything feel really tangible because it can feel really intangible. Especially now since everything is online by default. It’s just, kind of tough. You just crave that human connection and that’s one of my favorite parts of touring and everything.

Within the last year, you have been included with Ones to Watch - All Eyes On showcase and nominated for a JUNO award. As I said, it’s really cool to watch you guys succeed. How do you feel about the last year? In what ways do you think you have changed or stayed the same?

Mickey: Honestly, it all happens very slowly. It feels really fast and then it feels really slow. Every mile marker you’ve hit, you feel kind of proud and you get really excited that you got there. Then that kind of becomes your new standard. We try to remind ourselves, not to be living on a treadmill, but still, keep the drive to always want more. Balance out being unsatisfied in a good way and being satisfied in a good way, if that makes sense. Being content with being happy with your life, and being very grateful, but always kind of striving for more. It’s been weird because it’s like, “Wow, we got this Juno nomination.” It’s like, “Okay, well we better get that Juno.” Then if we do get the Juno then thinking “How do we get the Grammy?” Of course, it’s going to be a never-ending thing and you have to recognize that for it not to drive you crazy. I think everybody goes through that. We’ve made sure to take a moment to be grateful for every step of the way. But, you know, I don’t think I feel any different, because it’s just the new standard. It’s kind of like graduating from grade 11 to grade 12, or when people say, “How does it feel to be 21?” Well, it feels the exact same as 20 but 365 days more. I feel like I would have to go back in time to figure out how I feel now.

Let’s talk about the new music that you all have in the works. I saw that you took a month out in LA to do some writing late last year and you were even writing just before this interview. Give me a little glimpse of what’s happening with the new stuff.

Karah: We’re working on new music, but also keeping in mind that people are just discovering the music that we already have out. They’re discovering MAYBE and they’re discovering “There’s Still a Light In The House.” We’re really stoked to sort of keep feeding toward some of the success that we had on MAYBE and I think just recognizing what people latch on to. That was sort of “There’s Still a Light In The House.”  We were stoked to release a different sort of vibe. The chill mix for that song. I think people are discovering it. That was kind of our little way of releasing something new to tie them over until we release new music. I think that’s probably not going to be still for a little while, but I mean we are working on new stuff everyday here. 

Also just trying to keep the MAYBE era alive because we feel that it still has a lot of life to it and people are always gonna discover your music out of order, you know. They might not discover new music first. They might discover an old record or whatever so just kind of really making sure that all the strings are cohesive and just everything sort of bleeds into another. Kind of this big world of Valley. We’re trying to do a lot of that for the new music or whatever it’s going to be. Putting a lot of sounds from MAYBE in that. Just like creating a world, I think. A world of Valley.

Watch: “There’s Still a Light in the House” – VALLEY

2020 obviously has looked different than any of us have anticipated. What are the good things that have come out of this year? What are your hopes and goals for the rest of the year?

Mickey: Honestly, you gotta look at the bright side we find of everything. Right now, we were going to be in California, on a tour. California is one of my favorite places in the world. But I was also, you know, slightly relieved. I was getting a little stressed that we wouldn’t have enough time to really nail out all the music and finish producing all the new songs and stuff. But now, we get to spend a month together quarantining in a house, living together and making music. We still found a way to kind of make the best of the unfortunate situation. We’re just really stoked that we got to work on music for a month, straight. We finished a lot. We finished a lot of songs, more than I actually expected, which is really good. We did photoshoots and a visual for the next song that we’ll be releasing. Being able to be together, every single day. Wake up. Make breakfast. Make music. Watch a movie and go to bed. I think, was a really cool thing. That was definitely a good unexpected thing. I mean it sucks that our tours got canceled. But safety first. You have to understand. Throw your hands up at some point and do what you can.

Who are your top three artists at the moment?

Karah: Well, before we moved in together. When I was just living alone. I would go on three-hour walks and listen to Immunity from top to bottom. Three times in a row. It was so excessive and I don’t know why but Clairo was my quarantine vibe. 

Mickey: Definitely Clairo. Dua Lipa, for sure. Really bumping Dua Lipa.

Karah: Oh yeah, The 1975, they are releasing a record.

Mickey: Can we do 30 instead of three? I’m only kidding

I mean, for sure.

Mickey: I made a quarentunes playlist. It has Dua Lipa, ELIO, Conan Gray, Charli XCX, Kacey Musgraves, The 1975, and Doja Cat. Natalie Cole, throwing it back. Paul Simon, Charlie Puth, Lauv, and Babygirl. How did we forget Babygirl? Our favorite band. There’s 30. It’s all there. 

Finally, what would be VALLEY’s theme song that isn’t one of your own songs?

Karah: “Everywhere” by Fleetwood Mac, no?

Mickey: Yeah, I could get behind that. 

Karah: We all love Fleetwood Mac. That’s our favorite band collectively as a group. “Everywhere” because it was so ahead of its time. And like, what a banger. But also, that was the first song that we ever recorded, or covered. Rob and Alex showed Mike and I. That’s when Mike and I were like “We’re starting a band with these people. We need to start a band with you.” We were so stoked on the cover they did. We would cover it at live shows and everything. It was probably pretty cheesy and pretty bad but still the theme song I would say.

Well, that’s all I really have for you unless you have anything else you would like to mention?

Mickey: We’re really excited about the new music. We’re really excited that people are digging the chill mix of “There’s Still a Light In The House.” We can’t wait to give you more music and more visuals. 

Karah: We hope that everyone is staying safe. This will all be over soon. 

Mickey: It won’t happen forever. We will get through this and everyone’s going through the same thing generally. Obviously, everyone has their own reality of it. 

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