Canadian indie-pop foursome, Valley, skyrocketed to streaming success in 2020 when their dream-like bedroom tunes started landing on key playlists around the world. The irony behind their upbeat but heartbreaking songs resonated with Gen-Z fans around the world and resulted in a staggering 2.5 million monthly listeners on Spotify alone. Music Existence recently caught up with the band (comprising of Rob Laska on vocals, Karah James on drums, Mickey Brandolino on guitar and Alex DiMauro on bass) at Toronto’s Field Trip Festival to discuss their breakout success in the U.S., TikTok, and plans for their next album.
Music Existence: I want to talk about the latest single “Champagne” and having Karah sing lead vocals for the first time. How did that all happen?
Rob: Well Karah’s always sang in the band in a very secondary lead way. If I’m singing in my lower range, she’ll sing in her high range and we’ll always compliment each other which is very Valley. But “Champagne” came about because I got sick, so the day we were writing someone had to sing on the demo so Karah sang it. It ended up sounding so good that we were like, “We should just keep her on it” so it was a very happy accident. I feel like a song will tell you which way to go and that song felt just right with Karah being on it.
M/E: I love when a mistake ends up being the final thing.
Rob: It’s the Universe scratching your back.
M/E: With the remix how did everyone get involved singing on it?
Rob: All of our first instruments were vocals, we’ve all sang lead in a band at one point so it just made sense.
M/E: Karah, do you consider yourself a singing drummer or a drumming singer?
Karah: A singing drummer. I don’t even consider myself a singer which I know is bad but like when I think about myself and my skills, vocals is not one of them….I just have poor self confidence but I know that I can sing but I’ve always played drums so I consider myself more a drummer.
M/E: You guys played BottleRock and Gov Ball recently and you have Life Is Beautiful coming up. What has it been like breaking into the U.S. festival market?
Rob: Yeah, Life Is Beautiful is a big one. It is different but not in a bad way. Something like Field Trip is very communal and family orientated and it’s a very Canadian vibe. I think the bigger festivals are more like hustle bustle and there’s a lot of insane acts that are there and you need to cater to everyone and it’s definitely more. The day feels crazier.
Mickey: The day is a marathon!
Rob: You’re really sprinting the whole day. Versus here, you’re building up to the show all day but it’s really fun you get to hang out at catering and meet a bunch of your heroes. At BottleRock (in 2021) they had a pizza making station…
Alex: Oh My God.
Rob: And Mike and Alex are making pizza and Dave Grohl comes by and says, “What’s up!”
M/E: Were the Foo Fighters making pizza too?
Rob: I think Dave was getting a pizza, yeah!
Alex: That was the best food I’ve ever had at a festival and they gave us two boxes of wine!
M/E: Let’s talk about the band’s presence on TikTok. You guys have had a few videos that have done really well but how do you balance doing videos for fun and doing videos for work?
Rob: We’re on TikTok when we want to be because I feel like forcing anyone to be on that app is never successful. I think that app is about discovery, comedy and being yourself and if you’re not feeling it then you shouldn’t be on it. So our rule with TikTok is like, if I’m feeling it I’ll go do it, but we have our creative director who does a lot of our socials who will come to us with funny ideas so we live by those two pods.
Mickey: She makes sure the deliverables are done.
M/E: But speaking of deliverables, it seems like if you’re a band today the best way to tap into the Gen-Z market is through TikTok apparently.
Mickey: You don’t have to push your music on TikTok as much as people think.
M/E: Labels don’t think that.
Mickey: Yeah but that’s where an artist gets signed then dies the next year – in terms of popularity not literally – but I really believe that people are going to find you from all different angles if your personality is what people fall in love with. Being on TikTok, in a car like, “hey guys check out my new song” that worked really well in the first six months of TikTok getting popular. We happened to fall into that pocket by accident so it worked well for “1999” but we haven’t done it since because it hasn’t worked and it doesn’t really work for people as much anymore. Do stupid things, be silly!
Rob: People want to know who you are!
M/E: I worry about the sustainability of an artist who just focuses on TikTok.
Mickey: There is no sustainability.
M/E: But, I was really impressed with your Shrek 2 TikTok recently! I appreciated how it was specifically Shrek 2 and not just Shrek because Shrek 2 really was ahead of it’s time…
Rob: Shrek 2 was beyond it’s time!
M/E: So what are the plans for the rest of the year?
Rob: Lots! Lots of festivals! We’re finishing our album we’re about 50% done.
Alex: I don’t think it’s a secret that it’s a full length record.
Rob: And then we go to Asia in the fall! We’re going there for a full tour, a press tour too and then we come back and finish up more of the album over the holidays. Then we go on tour! A North American headline tour which is going to be over a month long, all of Canada and America and yeah I don’t know what’s going on after that!
Check out more Valley tour dates here.