Being a musician doesn’t always make a person comfortable with public performance. For VALLEYS’ guitarist, singer, and drummer Marc St. Louis, confidence comes with practice.
“We used to ask for the lights to be turned off completely,” said St. Louis. While they no longer have to resort to that extreme, the trio still prefers to let the music speak for itself. “It depends on the comfort level, but we’re not one of those bands with tons of banter and a repertoire of jokes,” he continued. “The funniest guy in the band is Pascal [Olivier] and he doesn’t have a microphone.”
The local psych-pop trio base their sound on layering and contrast, combining shoegaze guitar with elements of downtempo electronic music. This process always emerges naturally during the band’s writing sessions.
“It’s not really premeditated or anything but it just so happens [that] we work best that way,” explained St. Louis. “It always winds up with overlapping of layers.”
The band’s dark atmospheric sound starkly contrasts with the electronic elements. According to St. Louis, this is a deliberate exercise in instrumental juxtaposition, and the effect during live perfomances makes up for the group’s minimal eye contact with the audience.
“[It’s the] dynamics [of] light and dark, lo-fi and well-produced electronic sound that make it satisfying to play. It sounds quite different live. The songs are structurally similar but live they are slightly more aggressive and noisy. We always tend to quiet down when we’re recording. We’re very conservative when we’re mixing songs,” said St. Louis. “We save a lot for when we play on stage.”
For VALLEYS, writing is a fluid process that continues even after the track has been released. Refitting songs for different arrangements and contexts gives them new life, and keeps things interesting for the band.
“We’ve been playing some songs for three years now that we’re changing this week for the next show. First you change them around because different people join the band, but I’m starting to think now that they’re just going to keep changing until we stop playing them,” said St. Louis.
The band has been evolving since 2005. Their most recent addition is multi-instrumentalist Pascal Oliver for their latest record Stoner, a three song EP which was released last week. Stoner is darker than last year’s Sometimes Water Kills People, in part due to the band’s expansion.
“[Pascal] adds a minor dissonance aspect that gives a colder sound… We think these three songs seem categorically darker,” said St. Louis, adding that wherever their ideas take them is where they’ll go.
“We’ve changed drastically over five years. We’re not the same band at all,” he said, noting that the scene has changed too. “What’s cool is you notice younger kids who haven’t been around the scene for that long are just discovering bands, and they seem to be more enthusiastic than older, possibly more jaded, audience members.”
“Five years ago was that big Montreal explosion and we started playing right after that,” he continued. “There’s definitely more of a party vibe than what there used to be. Ten years ago Montreal had this whole scene of sombre epic music, like the Godspeed [You! Black Emperor] family tree and all that. Even the rock bands seemed darker, but some dancey stuff came in and that seems popular now.”
Since then distribution methods have had an overhaul too, and VALLEYS took the increasingly popular option. Stoner was a digital-only release, and will be pressed on vinyl with another forthcoming EP early next year.
“It’s faster to release stuff digitally. We’re having trouble making excuses to manufacture CDs because it really doesn’t make much sense. You have to charge a little more for the vinyl but people don’t hesitate to buy them over the CDs at every show. I don’t know what people do with [CDs]. You just bring them home and upload them into iTunes… then it’s a piece of plastic.”
Whether in concert or in your headphones, VALLEYS want to take you on a unique trip which, according to St Louis, is best heard with the lights out.
“I don’t want to speak for the three of us but when we’re playing we want to create an experience,” he said. “Good, bad, whatever &- a little bit of an event.”
VALLEYS play M for Montreal at Cabaret Juste Pour Rire Friday, Nov. 19 @ 10:15 p.m.