Eye of the Storm

Valleys Play with Darkness and Light on New EP

Valleys are only “two-thirds” stoner.

Don’t be fooled by the name of Valleys new EP Stoner.

As lead songstress Matilda Perks explained, the EP’s matter-of-fact title isn’t intended as an adjective for the band or their music, but comes from a book by John Williams.

“It’s the perfect novel,” Perks declared. “It has nothing to do with drugs whatsoever. I loved it and I thought about it all the time, so when we made this record I knew that had to be the title.

“Everyone’s going to think we’re stoners now—but that’s only two-thirds true.”

With a sound that holds pop melodies underwater, Valleys brought a strong new voice to the trend of reverberant, experimental bands with last year’s release of acclaimed album Sometimes Water Kills People.
The band’s artful contrast of distortion and disquietude with steady rhythms and soft, coalescent vocals, it was as if Valleys knew something we all didn’t.

Now this enigmatic collective is set to give us more of their cryptic art rock with the release of Stoner, digitally released today.

Valleys began as a duo comprised of Montreal native Marc St. Louis and Matilda Perks. The two met through friends back in 2004 when St. Louis was playing in various other projects. It didn’t take long for them to start experimenting musically together.

“We thought we’d just keep it a two-piece band to make it easy,” Perks said, “But now we have Pascal [Oliver, guitarist]. People always think we’re still a duo, but he’s a full member now.”
As enigmatic as Valleys are on-stage, off-stage they are down-to-earth people, humble about the attention they’ve been getting.

“We’ve been described as ‘avant-rock-desert-dreamscapers’,” said St. Louis. “But, essentially, it’s pop music.”
Perks, who was raised as a Buddhist in the Shambhala tradition, explained some of the influences on Valley’s songwriting.

“I was recently looking at the songs I’ve written and they all seem to be about a struggle. I was always really secretive growing up about being a Buddhist because I thought people would think it was weird.

“I think we’re all inspired by certain bands and we all kind of like the same music,” she continued. “Marc and Pascal are really different in the way they play, but they’re also complementary. When we play, it all comes together.”
The new EP has already been garnering attention, with one track, “Ordinary Dream,” streaming online as a preview of the EP on Pitchfork. Its sound is rich and evocative; the vocal arrangements range from melodic chanting in “The Cold Cold Skinny” to haunting shouts of desperation in “Ten Thousand Hours.” Ethereal synth-sounds are scattered throughout the songs amongst ambient guitar layering, reminiscent of Sonic Youth with an added element of chillingly dark, uneasy esotericism.

“The EP is really varied,” said Perks. “[Ordinary Dream] is the most concise version of what we’re doing right now, but we take more time with the other songs. They’re all pop songs [existing somewhere] in the middle of all the distortion and noise and everything.

“Some of the songs were really long,” St. Louis added. “We’d go on playing with noise and guitar feedback, but then when we listened to it we were like, ‘We don’t need to exaggerate with 16 minutes of feedback—maybe just seven minutes.’

“The music is more of a narrative and, for me, a lot of it is about anxiety,” continued Perks “We start off with this unsettling feeling, and it kind of builds on itself, but then there’s a release. After this build up in a frenzy of anxiety and fear, it eventually settles into this warm sort of calm.”

Valleys recorded the album with Orson Presence. Working in his home studio helped bring everything together, they explained.

“We never record live,” said Perks. “We take our time with everything. We’re basically still writing as we’re recording, so we never know what the song wants to be before we record it. We all have our parts ready, and the way we put them together happens in the studio.”

Valleys play Nov. 19 at Cabaret Just For Laughs (2111 St. Laurent Blvd.) for the M for Montreal festival. Show starts at 9:00 p.m.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 13, published November 9, 2010.