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BYT Interviews: Valleys
July 11, 2013 | 9:00AM
I had the chance to catch up with Marc St. Louis of Valleys over the phone earlier this week in anticipation of the band’s show at Cameo Gallery with Mood Rings and Klaus this Friday. (It’s definitely not one to be missed.) We talked about all sorts of things, from musical merit badges to falling off ladders, so read up on all that below, and be sure to check Valleys out live this weekend. And if you JUST CAN’T WAIT until then, I’d highly recommend you to grab a copy of Are You Going To Stand There And Talk Weird All Night to tide your ears over in the meantime. HERE WE GO:

How’s summer been so far?

Summer’s been alright; the band’s been busy since March, but it’s been pretty chill.

Is it as hot up there as it is here?

Yeah, it’s disgusting. It’s slightly better today, but with the humidity it was up around the 100s all week. Terrible.

Yeah, my room has either been too cold because of the AC, or too hot when I turn it off because I’m freezing. There’s no happy medium, and it’s starting to take a toll on my sanity. Anyway, how long will you guys be around when you’re in town this week?

This time around it’s not so long; I think Tillie’s going to stay for a while because she’s not living in Montreal anymore, but I’m only going to be there overnight unfortunately because I’ve got a wedding up here the next day, which is not the best timing.

Whirlwind! Well we’re super excited for the show; it sounds like a really good lineup. And it’s been out for a little while now, but congratulations on Are You Going To Stand There And Talk Weird All Night, of course! I guess if you had to articulate a mission statement or thesis for the record, what would that be?

I don’t know, the more I look back on it, we were really trying to make this a Valleys pop record, which we’d never tried to do before. So we went for that, but we can never escape our own tendencies and our own sound, so what you wind up with is a pop version of these sort of moody, darker songs that we do. It was sort of a little bit of fusion, you know? [Laughs]

Well it sounds great! Now, I was in Girl Scouts when I was little, and I didn’t really like it, but I liked this whole concept of being able to earn rad badges for doing things. SO, if you could receive merit badges from the experience of making this record, do you think you earned any specific new skills, or is there anything you’re super proud of being able to overcome challenge-wise during the writing or recording process?

Yeah, I think the first one would be the badge for letting someone else take care of your artwork, which we’d never really done before; that was really quite helpful, because we were really happy with the way that turned out. And then if there’s a badge for being lyrically cryptic, I think we’d get that, too. That’s pretty much all I can think of in terms of things I think we DESERVE to get. [Laughs]

Was there anything apart from those things that stood out to you as especially challenging during the whole process?

What’s always really challenging for me is lyrics, because I really care about them even though I know they go unnoticed most of the time. That’s actually probably why I care about it so much. So I was quite happy with the process that Tillie and I had, because we do that stuff on our own, you know? In the end I was quite happy with the overall lyrical content of the whole album; I thought it was a good balance of interesting and nonsensical and poignant all at the same time.

Right. Well, and speaking of that, it’s always kind of been you and Tillie in the forefront for the writing process, it seems; what does it sort of look like for you guys to sit down and write? Are there specific roles that you play, or is it pretty organic?

Yeah, there are no set roles or anything; each person brings something in once it’s completed to a certain degree, and then it’s passed back and forth, and we go over the structure of the song until it’s nailed down. But I’d say generally someone comes in with something fifty percent done, and then another person helps it along the rest of the way.

Cool. And the video for one of the songs, “Undream A Year”, is really nice. Were there a lot of trust falls happening beforehand to sort of get in the mood to film? [Laughs]

Yeah, we had this photo of a woman falling backwards onto a bed, and Derrick Belcham (the director) really liked that idea. I couldn’t be there for the shoot, but they shot most of it in Bushwick, and it was essentially Tillie falling off ladders for a day and a half. [Laughs]

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That sounds like my worst nightmare, but it turned out really nicely! Now, in terms of your own musical background, do you come from a very musical family? Do you remember a specific moment where you realized that music was the dream?

I don’t come from a musical family at all, I just picked up playing the drums and the guitar when I was fourteen or fifteen. I was too stubborn to stop at any point, I guess; there wasn’t any point that I said, “Oh, this is what I want to do,” it was more just like, “I need to be doing this in my life, occasionally or more often than that.”

Yeah, it’s always interesting for me to see who’s got that “AHA!” moment, because a lot of people do, whereas for others, you know, it’s not like I spent my whole life striving to be a writer, it’s just something that came as naturally as thinking or breathing. I didn’t really have to give it a second thought to incorporate it into my semi-adult life.

Yeah, it’s funny; I tried to do other things, but I kept coming back to music, not necessarily because I had failed at the other things, but music was just more of a regular thing in my life.

Right, it just fit. Now, I read someplace else that you’re also a film aficionado, is that right?

Yeah, I was big into film; that’s another thing I tried to do instead of music.

Cool, was it production or writing or…

Mostly I was just trying to write some scripts, and I was in university so it all seemed so easy. We do talk about how we write music for films often, though, for films that haven’t been made yet. That’s especially true of our earlier stuff, which is much more atmospheric; it would lend itself better to visuals than without. Tillie and I always work around themes that are more or less cinematic.

Yeah, it’s cool because there seems to have been a bit of a spike in the amount of live resoundtrackings around here recently. This weekend they’re doing an outdoor screening of Dracula, and the Philip Glass Ensemble is going to do the music, which is really cool. SO, what (if anything) would be a film that’s already made or in production that would be a total dream for you guys to score live as a band? And/or what would be the worst thing you could think of to be forced to do that with?

Well, I’ll speak for myself, but I think Wild at Heart is definitely one of those films that you’d want to do live and it’d be great. I’d never want to change the soundtrack to that movie, but to have an opportunity to reinterpret it for one night would be amazing. As far as a nightmare one, I don’t know…[Laughs]

It’d have to be a Lifetime movie or something. Or maybe that would be great, I don’t know.

Yeah, that might be interesting.

Definitely a challenge to elevate the Lifetime movie experience. Now, what are your other 2013 goals? Obviously you’ve accomplished a good bit so far, but is there anything else coming up in the immediate future apart from these shows?

Yeah, the plans for the fall aren’t set in stone right now, but we’re going to base things around the usual festivals, like Pop Montreal is a big one up here, and then CMJ obviously, and then things in between. But obviously we want to keep touring this record for the rest of the year; we’ve been quite lucky with the tours and shows we’ve gotten so far, so it’d be nice to round out the year continuing with that momentum.

Right. And how many people are coming to New York this go round?

We’re just two for Friday; we’ve been doing that this year, and it’s a little easier.

Does it get difficult to tweak things to make them more compatible with a live setting?

Yeah, there are so many different kinds of problems with more people; sometimes it’s just the logistics of actually getting people around when you don’t have a van, but also sometimes you just wind up sounding way too much like a rock band when you have people playing the actual instruments as opposed to the samples you made and used on the record. It’s a delicate balance that we’re rethinking for the fall; we might have a third person come along, it’s just a matter of figuring out what we could have them do.

And do you prefer the festival setting, or do you prefer the experience of being in an intimate space?

I love both, I just think we’ve gotten better receptions in festival settings; you’ve got audiences there for music, period, so whether they’ve heard you or not, they’re just there to experience something. Meanwhile, if you’re at a show with a modest audience, it’s cool because people are listening a lot, but a lot of the time no one’s discovering anything if they’ve heard the record, and there can be more scrutiny involved. I find the big crowds are generally a little more forgiving.

I can totally see what you mean, which is funny, because I think instinctively you’d assume the opposite effect, that the larger crowd would be more intimidating. I think it has a lot to do with that collective energy that can happen with a big audience.

The degree of anonymity kind of helps, too, in terms of being able to use that energy. But you know, even if people know the record, the live show always sounds way, way different, and people are often surprised because they’re not expecting that.

So expect the unexpected this Friday (apart from the fact that the price of admission will be money well spent, which is a given), and in the meantime, follow Valleys on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest updates.

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