Valley has mastered the glimmering LA pop sound better and with more grace than most established, native artists. And they’ve been doing it since they were in high school. They have had their share of ups and downs while navigating the music industry as young adults, led by the chaos and lack of routine on the road, which has been a learning experience for Toronto-based band. But it beats the humble beginnings at Starbucks that vocalist Rob Laska leaped from.
The group’s latest release, an EP, Sucks to See You Doing Better, out today, follows up their full-length Maybe and EP, This Room is White. But more importantly it offers a more sophisticated list of songs that indeed adhere to glitter and polish that they aimed for but also shows a rawer side to lyricism. The EP includes a healthy mix of new songs, acoustic revamps, and re-releases. The title track with its limitless production and forthcoming lyrics about an encounter with an ex, was the best choice from the four new songs on the EP to introduce the current phase of the band with.
“The song was written from the perspective of a relationship, but we do dive into other past experiences,” Laska told American Songwriter. “Things like just losing it in you basement and watching Harry Potter marathons and giving your time away to useless things because you feel like you can’t make it and everyone else is getting there but you. And it stemmed from working at Starbucks when an ex came in with her fancy Tesla and I’m like’ shouldn’t you be living in Paris or whatever’ and I’m clearly not at that level. But we’ve experienced it takes time to get to where you want to be.”
“A lot of the songs were worked on during the pandemic, but ‘Sucks to See You Doing Better’ was the oldest one and it always felt special,” Laska continued about the title track. “We always heard people singing it back and the title just rang true to the experiences we’ve had. As artists we go through a lot of comparisons and asking why we are not at certain points yet in our lives.”
“Homebody,” the group’s ‘loner anthem’ from the new EP, was written in November of last year and presents how the best songs can remain poignant even when the situation changes.
“Homebody is one of our favorites,” Laska told American Songwriter. “We wrote it in November in LA and the term ‘homebody’ was dropped by one of us and it just felt like something we hadn’t spoken our truth about. And we just kind of wrote down phrases and the song is about choosing to be a loner which is opposite of everyone’s situation now, because now we have to. But it’s very much about wanting to be alone and choosing not to leave your room and be sad for more of the idea. We pushed boundaries with that one. It was Karah (James’s) idea to fuse slide guitar into pop music and we mixed it with trashy drums and sheek production, so ‘Homebody’ is the quintessential Valley song because it’s a hybrid of everything we have done.”
Valley’s esteemed vision for sound and production stems from their perfectionist attitudes, which can often escalate to obsession. And as much caution and care Valley carries for the end-result of their music, those choices do not come without stress and correction.
“This had been part of the band’s narrative since we formed,” drummer/vocalist Karah James said. “We definitely ride the line of thinking too much and not think enough. We try to not care and then we hate it so it’s a wavering feeling of needing everything to be perfect and being obsessive.” James will often take the smallest oddities such as an inaccuracy with a snare frequency, then opt to re-do all the drum parts. “We get really caught in this cyclical trap of standards that we put on ourselves,” she said. And I’ve learned to accept that’s the process. We obsess then release it and then it’s everyone else’s and we let go of the ownership.”
James’ obsession and dedication to music was not always as solid as it is now, though. When she started playing music seriously, in high school band, she quickly realized it might not be the best decision for her social or personal image and quit all together in 9th grade.
“I went to sports and science school,” James said. “And that’s what everyone did, it was social suicide to do band or music at that school. And I wish I didn’t care about that then because and in grade 9 I quit band.” But James’ detour was brief. After attending band camp in the summer and meeting a teacher who saw her potential and excitement over music, who would sway her to enroll in a school that would foster that inherent part of herself. “I decided the week before school started to switch schools and I started thriving and everything fell into place. Looking back, it was so silly for me to try to do anything else other than music. But I’m thankful that I had people there to push me. Because when you’re young you don’t always know what you want, and other people figure it out before you do.”
James’ journey remains invaluable to her and it ultimately put her where she is now with Valley- a successful band of four best friends that live and breathe music together, with escalating success and loyal listeners.
Valley’s breakout single, “There’s Still a Light in the House” from the Maybe LP, has surpassed 14m streams on Spotify and only accounts for a piece of the 38m total streams of their music. And it is a hopeful and encouraging jumping off point for the trajectory of Sucks to See You Doing Better.
“’There’s a Light in the House’ was done really well land we didn’t really project it to be racking up that many streams,” James said. “I think people relate to the lyrics. And that’s how I define our success, being able to relate to people around the world. Most of the time it just warms my heart that there are people listening and relating. Sometimes it’s a lot to comprehend, but it’s special and we absolutely don’t take that for granted, we’re kind of pinching ourselves every day.”
Laska and James with guitarist Michael Brandolino and bassist Alex Dimauro have written more songs this year and they say their favorites are yet to come. So, stay tuned for even more music, until then enjoy Valley’s breakout song “There’s Still a Light in the House.” You can download the new EP here on Spotify today.