On the night of November 18th, I walked into City Winery Chicago to see the place packed to the rafters with people attending the performance of Macy Gray. Before she took the stage however, Dallas, TX based indie rock band Valise mesmerized the audience with a 40 minute set of soulful ambient rock music.
Valise right from the get-go looked as though they were truly enthralled to be there. They were all smiles and seemed as though they were having the time of their lives up on the stage. Throughout every song you could see them moving and bending into every note they played as though the music were an extension of their inner beings.
Furthermore, you could see that Valise had chemistry so present that it was nearly palpable. They were so in-sync with one another musically and even on a metaphysical level. The band worked together not as though they were a group, but rather one organic music producing soul. Every note, every movement each individual made flowed together as though it was meant to interconnect seamlessly with everyone else on the stage.
Musically everything was outstanding. While many aspects of the sound were meant to be touching and heartfelt, there was a kind of intensity to it that gave them real presence that set them apart from many of their indie rock peers. For such non-hard rock music the drummer Ricky was quite an animal on it. It was music you could bob your head to, but also latch onto with your heart if you listened close enough to process the meaningful and personal lyrics from the singer Vince.
One thing I was particularly impressed by was how seamlessly the musicians switched instruments mid-song. Jared would switch from guitar to keys and Casey would switch from bass to sampler with virtually no gaps in sound whatsoever. I can only imagine that such a feat took a respectable amount of practice to be able to do so well.
City Winery Chicago was actually a good choice in venues for Valise to play at. The room was spacious enough for them to produce some volume, yet it was still small enough to maintain an intimate atmosphere. The room aside from the stage and a couple areas was dark and lit primarily by candles on the tables audience members sat and enjoyed a meal with friends at as they were entertained for the evening. I liked how many of the walls were brick, yet others were vibrantly colored plaster with modern art hanging on the walls. The fire place in the lobby was also a nice touch.
Overall Valise put on an immaculate show. There was fun, heart, and passion squeezed out of every last moment that they played. I could not for one moment keep my eyes off the stage during the performance. It was hard not to be drawn in as though they were a magnet. I would recommend seeing them while they are still out on tour.
I was also lucky enough to score an interview with Jared, Ricky, and Vince after the show. We sat around their dressing room, laughing, talking, and having a pretty good time. Below is the interview:
Me: So what made you guys decide on the name Valise?
Vince: Well it’s French for “suit case”, but it’s not like too inspired. So actually we did an interview one time and someone told us that Valise was a Japanese video game from the 80’s, so that was kind of a cooler story. So if it’s cool, we’ll just say that. [Drummer laughs]
Me: [laughing] I’m always down to hear stuff like that. So how long have you guys been playing together?
Vince: We’ve been a band for about four years. This is our debut album [“Young Bloomer], our first full length album. So, yeah.
Me: And you guys had an EP out before that?
Vince: We did have an EP out, yeah.
Ricky: And we all kind of played music together sort of as we were growing up and stuff in different bands and not in bands just for fun.
Me: Right, because everyone in the local scene plays together at some point.
Me: I know how that is.
Ricky: Yeah, we actually all went to the same high school too.
Me: Oh, ok. That’s cool. So what would you guys say influences your sound and lyrics?
Vince: I would say we all have a lot of different influences, and you know you’ll hear that with any band but I do think we do have kind of a unique blend of influences. As far as lyrics go it just depends on the song, really. Depends on the message. You know, there might be a time when I’m channeling a Sufjon Stevens message or like Spirit or another time where I’m just writing something really simple like Coldplay or Death Cab For Cutie.
Me: Right. I guess it does kind of depend on the moment, I understand because I write a lot of music myself; so I guess it really does depend on the moment.
Ricky: As far as the sound, I feel like you know what kind of influences out sound is four different people with such similar but different influences and musical backgrounds. You know, and the four of those different musical styles coming together is what makes it unique.
Me: True, because I imagine that even just one of you guys on your own could do something really interesting, but the four of you guys coming together creates something on a whole new level and transcends what any one person would do alone.
Me: So what would you guys say is your creative vision as a band?
Vince: I think creatively as far as “Young Bloomer” goes we recorded each song before moving on to the next song. So I think the idea was to have no song that was like – we don’t want to have one of those records that was like just like 11 songs that are the same version of two hits.
Me: Basically you don’t want to have something that’s there for the hits and then a bunch of filler just to sell a record.
Vince: Absolutely, so I think for me, I think for several of us think that the idea is to set a platform for ourselves where we can just expound on creatively like forever. So I think that’s why to me each song sounds so different is because we don’t want to be pigeonholed as whatever, like a trinity band or whatever. We don’t necessarily want to sound – we just want to be seen as four dudes who make music that people can relate to.
Me: That’s understandable. I don’t think anyone really wants to be a clone of anyone. So what’s the story behind “Charlie Grey”, because it seems like it has an intriguing story behind it from the lyrics and everything – and the tension that takes place in the music itself.
Vince: Yeah, I think the lyrics and music definitely have this weird relationship because it’s upbeat because you have synth bass and without the lyrics I feel like it could kind of be a happier song.
Ricky: Yeah, it’s a pretty happy song musically. [laughs]
Vince: But yeah, the story behind the lyrics, it’s about loss. I kind of combined a couple different themes. I lost my adopted brother several years ago and this was kind of like all these lyrics that I had written about that. I had also gone through a break-up that was a long term relationship. So I had just kind of had like this little Frankenstein moment where I combined these feelings of death and despair and just wanted to see how people would interpret it.
Me: Right. It does kind of seem like one of those songs where you have to kind of find your own meaning in it if you don’t really know where it came from and I think that’s kind of the beauty part of it, honestly.
Vince: Thank you very much.
Me: So could you talk more about the headspace and the situation you mentioned in the song Dialog?
Vince: Yes. I felt like this phase in life I was going through I would find myself making very similar mistakes over and over again like in relationships, you know just in general I just found all these weaknesses that I kept coming back to, and that’s kind of the idea. The line that stands out to me is like “Setting my own traps, put my foot back in.” So I just felt like I was sabotaging my own vision for myself. You know, even if it was music, there were times where I was like “I want to achieve greatness in a band. It would be awesome.” and then there would be things I didn’t realize I was doing to like sabotage my own success through different ways. It was really weird.
Me: I think everyone can relate to that on some level or another because I know I do it, a lot of people I know do that kind of thing. Now last question I’m going to ask is how would you like to see yourselves grow as musicians and as a group?
Jared: I think each of us has a different vision, like personally; something we want to do ourselves, you know in the realm of this band. All of us kind of have a vision that we sort of helped make collectively for the band also. You know, we want to go in different directions, but not in just one direction. We want to do something that is more creative than the last thing we did for sure. We listened to our record and as much as we love it, you know every time we listen to it there are things where we are like “Oh, what if we had done this or that?” and we can take those ideas and put them towards what we’re writing in the future. I guess to sum it up our vision for the future creatively at least is just growing in every direction and trying to come up with something as close to unique as we can get it. I mean, everyone takes influence from somewhere, but really developing your own sound is something that is difficult to do and is something all of us want to do. And it might not even be a single sound. Might be a lot of different things. That’s what we did with this record and we might even go a step further with the next one, and there’s no telling.
Me: Well true. No one wants to make the same record twice unless they have been playing for 30 or more years.
Me: But anyway, that’s everything I have for you guys tonight. Thank you for taking some time out to talk to me. I really appreciate it. I had a good time. You guys did really well. I enjoyed your set.
Ricky: Awesome! Thank you so much, man! Have a good night.
Valise is on tour opening for Macy Gray right now to promote their debut album “Young Bloomer”. If you would like to check their upcoming dates, click here.