With a highly anticipated debut EP promised for 2021, LA dream-team Valley Boy and their woozy, transportive indie-pop are a duo well worth keeping an eye on.
Following up their September single Black Cat, the pair have stepped things up a notch; dropping new cut Cigarettes, an ode to being the reluctant and scared kid in the friendship group.
Well and truly on board with everything Valley Boy have to offer, we sent James and Ian some questions about their longterm friendship, dreams of shows in the Great British Bake Off tent and what’s to come in the next six months.
Tell us a bit about Valley Boy and how you came to create music together?
James: We’re a duo of two guys named James and Ian. I’m James
Ian: Ian and James**
James: We met in middle school P.E. class at the tender age of 12 (maybe 13) and bonded over loving music. I was very into playing guitar at the time and Ian was already a bit of a prodigy on the drums. He was also a prodigy at jumping into trash cans and shooting me in the back with his airsoft gun.
Ian: We spent the entirety of our teenage years playing music together at James’s Mom’s house. After high school we went our separate ways musically (I had a skin condition that prevented me from making music with James), but we reunited when I played some nice chords on a piano at a Hanukkah party in the valley in 2017. Those chords inspired James to write a song and Valley Boy was accidentally born.
James: There’s a lie in the above paragraph but you’ll have to guess what it is.
At what point in your life did you decide to make a career out of your music, and what influenced that decision?
James: Even though all we did in high school and through college was write songs and perform them at local venues, it took me a while to connect the dots between spending all of my time making music and actually making a career out of it. The thought process was always “okay, let’s practice a shit ton and then invite all of our friends and family to see us perform”. I really didn’t know how to start making a career out of music until I became obsessed with Frank Ocean’s album 'Channel Orange'. For a while it was some of the only music I could listen to and I got it in my head that I’d just try to follow in his footsteps by becoming a songwriter first and eventually transitioning into making music for myself. I basically did just that and even wound up meeting the producer of Channel Orange, Malay Ho, and worked with him for a time. There’s something to be said for manifesting things into reality haha.
Ian: I truly never considered anything other than trying to make a career drumming. Living in LA offered a pretty natural path to doing just that because there are endless bands to play and tour with. As I got older I became more interested in other aspects of music making, specifically production. It wasn’t immediately clear to me how to make a career out of producing, but James and I fell into a couple of lucky production gigs around the same time Valley Boy was getting started and all of a sudden I was able to quit my coffee shop job and commit fully to music.
James: Yeah, once Ian and I started writing and producing songs as Valley Boy I took a step back from writing for other artists because it felt so damn good just making music with Ian that was for us. As a songwriter for other people I had so little control on what songs got released (most weren’t released at all), but as Valley Boy we get to write what we want, produce it how we want, and then we even get to release it!! (imagine the party confetti emoji here)
Tell us a bit about your new single ‘Cigarette’, where did the idea for that one come from?
Ian: We had just borrowed a Juno 60 Synthesiser from a friend and were messing around with some sounds when James played a cool chord progression that made us excited. I made a bassline on the lower half of the synth and we knew pretty quickly we were onto something fun. James pretty much improvised on the spot the lyrics as they are in the final version. (This whole event is immortalised somewhere in a voice memo on his phone).
James: It was only after-the-fact that I even realised the song was an ode to my friendship with Ian and how I viewed him when we were kids. The subconscious is a strange and beautiful thing. The word “cigarette” became this grand symbol for all of the reckless shit Ian would do that I’d be party to by association when we were growing up. At the time (middle school/high school) I was always a bit more introverted and worried during Ian’s shenanigans, but in retrospect those are some of my happiest memories.
What have you learned about yourselves during the chaos 2020? Picked up any new hobbies along the way?
Ian: To be honest our lives and habits haven’t really changed since the chaos began. I still wake up each day and wait for James to come over to our home studio so we can mill around and spend all day trying to be productive. I’ve learned this year that I really don’t need restaurants in my life and I don’t miss them that much.
James: Oh, I desperately miss restaurants. I also really miss performing. I had gone years without it before Valley Boy took shape and we had only just begun to perform around LA before the whole world basically shut down. I miss movies... I’ve gone off topic, sorry. I started going to therapy right around when covid took hold and since less has been going on each week it’s been easier to focus on what I talk about each week and keep me on track with unpacking the oversized emotional luggage I’ve been carrying around my whole life. Also, I started making croissants with my fiance and we’ve gotten fairly competent. When we watch The Great British Bake Off we can tell who’s laminated their dough correctly haha.
Is there anything you wish you’d known when you first got into the music industry?
Ian: I wish I knew that Instagram was going to matter so much so I could have better mentally prepared myself for that unfortunate fact.
James: I wish I’d known to trust myself sooner and that the good stuff only comes from doing things I actually enjoy. I’ve found that the music is much better when I’m trying to (musically) please myself than it is when I’m trying to please an unspecified number of imaginary people that may or may not exist.
Who are some of your favourite upcoming artists from LA?
Ian: Valley Boy
James: Ice Kooler
Ian: Boylife (only bands that have “boy” in their name)
James: Delacey (my fiance, but I would love her music regardless because she’s a genius), Sonntag (the musical alias of our friend Zach Johnston who also shoots and edits all of the Valley Boy music videos), Youngest Brother (the musical project of our friend Niv Bavarsky who is also a frequent illustrator for Valley Boy), and Moses Sumney although he’s already arrived and no longer is in LA.
Ian: G.Weller (the “boy” is not written in his name but it’s there in spirit)
What would your dream tour & rider look like?
Ian: Dream tour would be any tour at all at this point. Rider would include Gummi Bears, sparkle water, and cheese.
James: I would like to perform to packed venues of humans who enjoy our music and after each show I’d like to interact exclusively with dogs, preferably 40 pounds and larger. I’d also like to perform in the tent where the Great British Bake Off Show is filmed for Paul, Prue, and Noel Fielding dressed as Old Greg on this tour, but (if it’s a dream tour) we definitely play some dates in Japan and one of those dates is for Fuji Rock or Summer Sonic.
If you could have any director/filmmaker create your dream Valley Boy music video, who would you choose?
James: we often fantasise about getting fellow valley boy, Paul Thomas Anderson, to make music videos for us.
Ian: The obvious answer is PTA, we even emailed him once. No reply. His movies really nail the vibe of the valley and I think he would do an excellent job.
James: alsooo Hayao Miyazaki. His images populate a large part of my subconscious and it would be such a thrill. Honestly though, I love working with and making videos with our friend Zach Johnston. He is a reluctant filmmaker these days but he is one of the greats to me. He’s not from the valley, yet he’s understood how to find beauty in the mundanity of that strange suburbia with us, and our visual identity at this point hinges on his quirky lens of reality.
What can we expect from you in the next 6 months? Any big plans in the works?
James: Just an aside, but our first band was called “The Works”. We played exclusively in our hometown at a couple of venues and some birthday parties, but we were really something. We had an unironic alto-saxophonist. This song, “Cigarette” is the second single set to be part of a six-song EP titled Thursday/Friday that we’re planning on releasing in March of 2021.
Ian: Each song is going to have a companion video and they will all combine to make a little movie. Other than rolling out the songs and the videos, you can expect us to continue to reluctantly post strange things on instagram to appease our former manager.