Culture  Uncanny Valleys

Local psych-folk duo on inspiration, melancholy, and their new LP

Local psychedelic folk-pop outfit Valleys packs a melancholic punch with synth-heavy, airy tracks anchored by surprisingly heavy lyrics. Despite this, the dynamic between the band members, Matilda “Tillie” Perks and Marc St. Louis, was anything but anguished as they playfully bantered throughout their interview with The Daily.
The duo formed after Perks asked St. Louis to play drums in her first musical experiment, The Disasters. After this band dissipated, Perks, St. Louis, and former Valleys member Pascal Olivier realized they had a kind of musical chemistry together. The band, which can now boast of having songs featured in Skins and Belgian film Beyond the Walls, had an inauspicious beginning in the early 2000s. “We only had a keyboard and guitar at first,” Perks explained. “Our friend kindly gave us a bass guitar in Toronto, after he realized the only real reason we didn’t have bass in our songs, was [that] we literally had no bass.” Over the years, Valleys’ sound has matured, as they sought to reflect the flawed beauty of raw human emotion through their bizarre instrumentals and wispy vocals. Perks said, “We have [a] very intricate layering of sound.”
Perhaps because St. Louis majored in English, and Perks holds a degree in Philosophy, the artists both tend to be very pensive and poetic; these two qualities are reflected in their sound and the complex, narrative-like quality of their music. Songs such as “Romantic Teenage Dirtbag” and “Debt Bondage” use dynamic variations in tempo and tone to take the listener through a type of story. The duo claims that their sound lends itself well to films and television because of this serpentine quality. Specific emotions are often the inspirational bases for their songs. “As we play, the message or mood of the moment takes off from there,” St. Louis explained.

Perhaps that’s why Belgian director David Lambert commissioned the duo to both appear in, and contribute songs to, his film about the painful course of a gay relationship, Beyond the Walls. “That was probably the [proudest] moment for our band,” said Perks, beaming. It’s fitting these musicians would be chosen to score a film with such a vulnerable emotional undercurrent. Both Perks and St. Louis expressed their belief in the role of the artist as someone who “slows down” daily occurrences in order to access unadulterated emotion. As Perks elaborated, “We try to transmit strong sentiments in our songs, so that people have a chance on their own to have that kind of a connection with themselves. Music is like a portal into the mind of the musician; it’s an invaluable intimacy to be able to have direct contact with another person in a kind of ‘mind-melting’ experience.”

Although the musicians admit that their sound is consistently one of “melancholic nostalgia,” Valleys is releasing a new LP on April 30 with Kanine Records, Are You Going to Stand There and Talk Weird All Night, through which they evolve the musical mood of their previous work. “We wanted this album to be much more of a pop production,” St. Louis said. “The vocals are higher [in the mix], and it’s not orchestrated in our traditional style. We really wanted things to be more straightforward.” The new album began to take form last year, after the band contracted from a trio to a duo. “We were still writing songs – mostly separately – and we realized we had all this music, and needed to do something with it,” Perks explained. They both concur that it is a new style of sound, focused around “late night themes.”

St. Louis’ songwriting was inspired by observing the scene and community of Mile End, as he has been a bartender at Nouveau Palais for the past two years. “I see this area as small-town. I grew up here, and I hardly ever leave. I notice this kind of behaviour that develops, a kind of ‘village behavior.’ It’s like, you’re bored, so you do whatever you can; you get yourself in trouble.”

Valleys also has a silliness to them, a quality that grounds them when their sometimes-inaccessible instrumentation threatens to sever the connection with the listener. Inspired by one of Perks’ favourite books, John Williams’ Stoner, the band’s album titles are based on inside jokes between the two friends. “We were thinking of naming it ‘Tanlines of Love’ or something dumb like that,” St. Louis laughed, “but we decided this title was more…shocking and comical.” Clearly, the group doesn’t take their newfound recognition too seriously, and are still figuring out the boundaries of ego between what’s “reasonable” versus what is stereotypically “rock star,” especially when playing shows with well-known bands like Mogwai. “Playing with Mogwai was our favourite show. We were at Metropolis and there were so many people there! I may or may have not kissed the merch guy during the after-show backstage party,” Perks hinted.

The new LP will definitely be an interesting moment for this duo’s musical career, as they see how their reception is affected as they move into a more upbeat style while still maintaining serious themes.

While waiting for the new album to come out, fans can look up the group on Bandcamp or wait for the sneak peek release of their song, “Undream a Year,” set to come out sometime this week. Additionally, the group is participating in Passovah Production’s fifth anniversary show with Miracle Fortress, Young Galaxy, and How Sad at Il Motore tonight.