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Valley

Following the release of “When You Know Someone,” 1883 sat down with Valley to dive deeper into what this new era has in store, both for the fans and the band members themselves. 

In the midst of an era of significant change, Valley remains as authentic as ever. After becoming a trio earlier this year following the departure of founding member Mickey Brandolino, the band has jumped headfirst into a new era with latest single “When You Know Someone.” The current lineup consists of vocalist Rob Laska, bassist Alex Dimauro, and drummer Karah James.

After taking time to readjust and grieve, Valley hit the studio with Chase Lawrence, of COIN. “When You Know Someone” features some of Valley’s most raw and authentic writing yet. Exploring themes of abandonment, the lyrics are incredibly poignant. ‘From strangers to friends to strangers again,’ Laska laments in the second verse. Instead of shying away from intense emotions, Valley leans into these themes, opening up in an incredibly vulnerable way. Instead of putting up shields, Valley invites listeners to grieve alongside them, forming an even stronger sense of community in the face of massive change. 

Valley is in the process of reintroducing the band to their devoted fanbase, as well as getting reacquainted with themselves as artists. In this new era for Valley, they are returning to their roots in a way, while also entering uncharted territory. Following the release of “When You Know Someone,” 1883 sat down with Valley to dive deeper into what this new era has in store, both for the fans and the band members themselves. 

Thank you all so much for taking the time to chat with me today! I have to congratulate you on the release of “When You Know Someone,” which is sort of signifying a new era for the band. How have you felt about the response to both the song itself and the reintroduction of your band?

Rob Laska: It’s felt really good. We’re definitely going through some changes. We’re a very ‘era’ focused band. I think going into the last few months, with 2023 closing… we had a big touring year. We toured the world! Asia, Australia, we went everywhere. We kind of finished the tour with touring Canada, back on home ground. Through that year and that process, obviously some things came to an end. Mickey left the band, and we were kind of figuring out what would be our next move, if there would even be a move. What does this mean, how does this feel? We knew we wanted to keep going, but it would have to take shape in a new way. As anything does. It became less of a challenge, more of a ‘how are we going to figure out this new language?’ We’re kind of missing a limb here, as a band. There’s a new way of potentially doing things, that’s very exciting. We can walk down paths we haven’t explored yet, or wanted to go back to, or whatever it is. It’s feeling good. 

A big thing for us at the beginning when we were going through the grieving stages and emotions of the band changing is realizing that we had to ride that wave a little bit, before we felt confident again. That’s normal. There was definitely a season where we were like, ‘how are we gonna do this?’ We quickly realized that Valley is much bigger than individual people.  Valley is a person in itself, this band is one giant emotion and feeling of a person. It kind of took a second, but we’re really proud of how we came back and how we feel. I think we feel good in our own skin, maybe the best that we’ve ever felt in our own skin. Feels nice to say, being half a year in from things changing a little bit. Things are feeling good.

Like you mentioned, you had a band member step away. For other bands, this can lead to a domino effect, and other members can reevaluate as well, oftentimes leading to everyone pursuing other projects. But, you three are committed to Valley, with this new song and with this new era. Can you tell me a bit more about what went into that decision to continue to commit to Valley? What motivates you to continue on?

RL: Oh man, that’s a great question. For me, something we talked about was that there was no real other option. Even considering throwing in the towel, it’s like, okay… and then we’d go do what? We’re not really good at anything else. This is the only thing we know, live, and breathe. It’s our life nutrient. We knew deep down in our hearts that we couldn’t stop, we’ve gone too far to stop now. We need it in our lives. We knew it would change and take shape in different ways, but the consistency of having it in our lives… it’s like the air we breathe. Being in this band isn’t a check in, check out situation. It just is all encompassing. We had to realize that it’s worth it to keep going. That’s where Chase [Lawrence] came in, too. Working with him, him being like, ‘hey, I’m not going to let you stop.’ His whole thing was like: who said you ran out of chances? Your lineup changed, but that doesn’t mean you’ve ran out of chances. You have unlimited chances for the rest of your life, just keep going. I think that was a big help to us, in realigning. We’d be so lost if we didn’t wake up and keep doing this. So lost. 

Alex Dimauro: Yeah, definitely. It’s hard losing a member, it was different for all of us. I think we all decided a long time ago that this is what we wanted to do with our lives. That can maybe change along the way for certain people, but it definitely did not for the three of us. Not for me. I knew that this is what I wanted to do when I was a kid, pretty much never wavered from that. 

Karah James: Yeah, I kind of have the same answer. It’s one of the only things in my life that I really haven’t questioned, whether or not I was supposed to be here. I think I’m really lucky to have something in my life that I’m so sure of. I haven’t been lucky… like some people have that in a relationship, I haven’t been so lucky to have that. Some people have that in a friend, a place. ‘I want to live here, this is how I want my life to be, I want to be a mother,’ or something. I’ve never had that for anything else. I’ve always questioned those types of things. When it comes to [the] band and music making with these specific people, that’s what I love to do. But I’ve also learned to not be attached to it. If there was a day where the band did dissolve, I think I’ve prepared myself enough to be like, we had a great time. It’s a good question, a deep question. 

Similar to how Valley has been a constant in your lives, the band has also been a constant in the lives of your fans: your ValPal family. Could you tell me a bit about the role that your fans have played in this transition process? Do you feel that their support has aided the transition into the new era?

RL: Oh,  definitely. I think they’re incredible. We’re so thankful for a base we’ve built for many years of playing shows. From 50 people, to 100, to 500, to where we are now. It’s the only reason we could… other than having Chase and a few other important people in our lives to get us off the ground, without them there’d be nothing. That’s even a bigger question of why we’re doing this in the first place. We’re doing it because they’re there, also. We’d do it if they weren’t there, but the fact that we can put out music and there’s people on the receiving end… what a concept in itself. That’s a really special thing that you should never take for granted. We’d be happy putting out music [for] two people to listen to it, we’d still be putting out music. But the fact that there’s an audience waiting for it is a very special thing, and you can’t take that for granted. I think we’ve learnt that we can’t take that for granted. In the past we’ve gone down many different paths as a band, sonically. There’s been people who’ve jumped off the train, that’s fine. There’ve been new people that hopped on. That’s part of any band turning a new stone and trying things. What I’ve noticed with our core fanbase, they’ve been along for the ride no matter what. Oh, Valley’s trying this thing? They’re in this era? Cool, we’ll support it either way. 

There’s been so much love and empathy for us. It’s been really beautiful. They’re just amazing people. Really here to see the whole journey of our band to the end, almost like a lifestyle. They live in our world with us. That’s a really special thing. We love them so much. Without them, it would be a lot harder to transition into this new season. They’ve been amazing. They’re so supportive and so excited [about] what we’re working on. It feels really special. It feels full circle, too. It feels like we’re turning full page to the beginning of how our band started. Sonically, visually, everything. How we’re connecting worlds, how it all feels. It feels like we’re back to how it felt the first time again. Which it didn’t feel like for Lost In Translation, and a lot of stuff in between. It felt a little bit like chasing a tail, “What did this feel like? I don’t remember,” which was hard.

Absolutely. Circling back to “When You Know Someone,” you worked with Chase Lawrence on this track. Can you tell me a bit about what that creative process looked like?

RL: Chase is a special earthling, special human. I think we can all share something we’ve learned and cherished from our time with him, but for me, it was him really dialling in truth from me. Putting me in a position in the room that’s like, hey, if you’re going to keep doing this, you need to speak a thousand percent your truth. You need to not let anyone in the room. Just follow your gut with your two best friends. If you do not do that, this will not go anywhere. You will feel exactly how you’re feeling now for a long time.

There was a season after putting out Lost In Translation where, yeah, it felt like we were in a suit that didn’t fit. That was a big struggle for us internally. We maybe didn’t externally express that, but internally, those were really hard years for us. There were a lot of great moments in it, but it was very hard for us emotionally. ‘Who am I in this frame of a band? What do people see us as?’ We didn’t know. He really pushed us to be like: this new season of your life is all about truth. It’s all about putting your most authentic self out there. It’s about, almost in a way, not letting the fans in the room. We love them to death, but don’t let anyone in the room but yourself and your heart and your best friends. Because, ultimately, that is what they want. That’s what people want. People just want your most authentic self. That’s something I learnt to really start doing going forward, in every facet of our career. Whether it’s a branding partnership, or anything we do now. There’s a very simple process of deciding whether or not it makes sense for us. We realized the value of what we have, it’s special. We don’t want to give that away or fumble that. We know what our heart is. I think that’s something I learned from Chase.

KJ: Yeah. Chase is one of those people where if you’re in the room with him, you feel… this feels like a backhanded compliment, but it’s not! When you’re in a room with Chase… How do I word this? It feels as if he’s going to call you out for your own shit. You kind of feel self conscious, and I don’t mean that as like, a diss toward him. He’s not doing anything wrong. It’s like a codependency thing. Like, I feel like you see me… It’s actually a compliment. He sees people so genuinely and innately for who they are. He will not respond emotionally or verbally to you if you try to be anything other than that. I think that was an adjustment for me personally. We would be writing a song that we’d all be really stoked about, and he would just grab his phone and go look at real estate in the area. That was something he’d do all the time. [laughs] We’ve talked about this with him. He would just scroll real estate, and I’d be sitting there. He knows that I’d be like, what are you doing, let’s write this song. In that moment, though, he can’t be disingenuous with himself either. If he’s working on something that doesn’t feel genuine… there were probably six times out of ten where it wasn’t genuine to us either, but we’re wired to just get the song done. 

His ideology, which is now so obvious, is: why on earth are you writing just to write? Why are you trying to get the song done? It’s not a workout. You don’t need to push through to complete it, there’s no prize. You don’t need to get a song done that’s not that good, that you won’t end up putting out. You’re not doing yourself a favor by exhausting yourself, you’re just being disingenuous. I think it goes back to what Rob said, too, but that was my own personal experience with that. Chase is just all over the place… he’s got his hand in a bag of granola and then goes and sits nine hours at the computer and takes one pee break. He’s a machine. I still don’t get it. Otherworldly.

AD: These guys summed it up best. Chase is a very different creature, in the best way. He came in at what was a very tough time, but probably the right time. Rob says this often… I think we would’ve still been Valley, but he says Chase saved our band. I think he saved it in a morale way. In a way where we needed somebody to come in and be like: stop second guessing yourselves. I needed that too. I second guessed myself a lot. Having somebody back up your confidence, or at least say ‘hey, you’re doing the right thing, don’t worry, stop overthinking.’ Confidence breeds genuine songwriting, and just being the most genuine version of yourself. When you’re the most confident, genuine version of yourself, you’ll make the best art. We were very fortunate to have that experience with somebody who understands that whole side of things, the psyche of it all, very well.

It’s cool that someone was able to step in and give you the exact energy you needed at the time, while you were finding yourselves as a trio. Along with the single, you released a live music video. So much emotion was conveyed there, between the wide shots and close ups. Can you tell me a bit more about the video?

RL: We worked with an amazing team that we’ve put together for this era. The director is Ievy Stamatov, she’s amazing. Just an incredibly talented visionary. That started with just a quick facetime, because Karah and her went to the same high school. Ievy was like, ‘I really want to try doing something with you guys, I’ve been following everything happening.’ We really wanted to emphasize these live videos, but present them in a way that felt still in a world, in an environment. This one… there’s so many amazing people on this crew, too many to name, you can look at the credits! They’re just an amazing team, with a real vision. We obviously explained to her that this song is very open, very barren, very vast. The song feels very open, ‘you left me here in the middle of the ocean’ kind of sentiment. We wanted to present that with the same kind of visual. Open sky, wide shot, barren, just us. There’s a little bit of water behind us, but it’s framed in an almost brutalist way, with the buildings and stuff. Ievy just nailed the location, the editing… the team is just amazing. We’re so lucky to, almost in a way, show up and play our song and let them build a world around us. It’s been an amazing relationship so far. They’re incredible. We owe a lot of that video to that team, and to Ievy for really drawing it up with us.

KJ: We love Ievy. She does a lot with a simple idea. It really is just a testament that execution is everything. You can have the grandest idea… it’s way harder to have a really simple idea and execute that in such an impactful way she does. If people want to get a grand feeling across, oftentimes the video treatment is grand too. Like, ‘we want airplanes flying by in this scene.’ You don’t actually need that. You just need the right curation of shots and location.

AD: Yeah, I’d agree with that. The whole team, Ievy included, she put together such a fantastic team. It was such a pleasure to work with everybody. The fruits of everybody’s labor will be paying off for a very long time. Lots more cool things in the works.

So, in the midst of this era of change, what is keeping you grounded? Self care routines, relaxing hobbies, etc, what keeps you tethered and focused outside of music?

RL: I’m still figuring that out. I think everyone in the band is in a different part of their journey. I’m so engulfed and obsessed with what we do. My biggest struggle, still, to this day is trying to figure out how to check out of my job. Even though it’s crazy to call this a job, because I make songs for a living. The idea of it is already insane. Obviously, there’s a lot that goes with it that isn’t maybe as enjoyable. I’m learning. I don’t really know yet. I think a lot of internet control is good for me, too. If I spend too much time online, I get very hazy. Especially with launching this new era, I very quickly… I joined our Discord for a second, and looked at our Reddit pages, and was doing all this stuff for a second. Then I was like, this is so not healthy for me. I was reading and analyzing other peoples’ analysis of the art we’re putting out in the world. It really scared me. I need to control my consumption more, that’s when I spiral. I think I’m learning, recently, where I need the most work. Yeah, a lot more self care stuff. I think really keeping a focus on my mental health in these seasons of change. I like to cook! I’m getting into video games. My partner is trying to get me into more Switch to escape a little bit. I don’t know, I’m still on that process of my journey.

KJ: I feel like I have personally had a lot of life changes in the last… little while. Just going through a breakup and stuff. Also moving back with my parents, which was a choice before the breakup. That was a choice that I made because I felt inherently like living in the city… there was no opportunity for my brain to turn off. There was so much craving… craving and aversion is the source of all misery. I learned that back before Christmas. I felt like when I was in the city, all I wanted to do was hang out with people and go out, and be social, because we’re not home for long and I want to see people, you know, keep up appearances. That made me really miserable, because it was just… suddenly, I had this idea of myself that I had to be somebody. When really, you don’t have to be anybody, you know? We are nobodies. I want to be a nobody. I want to be a passenger in the car of my own life. I want to be navigating, have the map open with directions, have eyes. But I want to be observing. I feel like there’s certain environments I’ve realized in my life, and in my relationship that I’m not in anymore, where I’m sitting in the driver’s seat against my will. Ultimately, it was up to me. But, I feel like the way that this industry can really take a person, successful or not by your own definition, it can just give you a false sense of who you should be. I think I had that facade for a while. It just inherently made me absolutely miserable. I think living with my family was really important to me. Your grandparents, parents, siblings… there’s precious moments of your life that you should be taking advantage of. I felt such a need to be with them and have that time with my family. Also, eliminating that craving of ‘I have to be here, I have to be here, I have to do this.’ Living life in the passenger seat a little bit more. I feel like that really keeps me sane at this point in time in my life.

It’s so grounding to be around family, where there’s no pressure to be someone. No pressure to perform, in a way. That was so insightful, thank you. Alex, anything on staying grounded?

AD: Yeah, like the both of the wonderful people that I work with said, we have our own way of doing things. We’re all obviously in this thing together, but we’re all still dealing with our own things outside of that. Everyone’s process will naturally be a little different. I think I’m also trying to practice the ebbs and flows of life a bit, not letting the pressure of trying to do something or be something get to me too much. I think the two of these people will probably agree, I can be a little bit too chill sometimes, maybe. It can be a bit of a superpower sometimes. There are also other times where I’ll freak out, like, things are crazy! What are we going to do? But most of the time, I just let things happen. Then I assess and go from there.

KJ: Alex has BDE. Big Dad Energy.

AD: Sometimes!

It’s a good balance to have, in a group dynamic! To have a calming force.

RL: Alex is the anchor, for sure.

KJ: Except for when he can’t find his water bottle, then all hell breaks loose!

AD: The last time I lost my water bottle, I did not freak out! I was pretty chill. We were writing in Nashville. I still don’t know where it went… RIP to the Hydroflask.

An unsolved mystery! To wrap up today, what are you looking forward to the most about the future of Valley? What energy are you bringing to this new era?

RL: Nothing! Seriously, nothing. The big thing we’re leading with, with this era, is: no expectations. I think forever we’ve done interviews and gotten these questions, and we’ve always had those goals. We’ve reached so many goals beyond our wildest dreams already. We’ve toured Asia, we’ve done sold out shows… there’s a lot of stuff we forget about as a band that we’re like, ‘oh, we never thought that would happen, and it did!’ So, I think going into this new era, our big thing that we decided is like… what if we just didn’t have a goalpost? I know that sounds crazy… we’ll obviously always have internal goalposts. In terms of what we’re putting out, the energy we’re putting out into the world with this new era, it’s like, if nothing happens, that’s awesome. We feel like we already won because we’re making stuff that we love, there’s so much more love, joy and empathy. So much straight up joy in the band right now. What’s happening is great, and we’re just going to live in this moment. Whatever happens next, that’s awesome. We can’t predict what it is, and I don’t even want to know! We’re kind of just excited for nothing, no expectations. Everything will just feel special. I think that’s something we’ve really learnt from past releases and eras. Going in with a list of ‘well it’d be nice to do this this and this, and I hope this happens, and this song is the song that’s going to maybe change our lives…’ You really sit down and reflect on that, it’s like… man, the universe is going to do it’s thing. You cannot control any of it. If we can accept that, then every tiny, little thing is going to be a win. A flower in our garden. It’s going to be great. I know it sounds a little crazy, but… no expectations. We’re just riding the wave. 

AD: I would agree with that!

KJ: I agree. You’ve got to do your best, put it all out there. Let the garden grow. Gotta water everything, step back. If it grows it grows. We’re sounding really hippie right now. You get to a point in your life where it’s like… it’s the best place to be. We did it for the TikTok, we’ve been there, and it sucked. We got so lost in our head. Now, we’re doing it for the love of it. It’s fun to do, and that’s it. I think that’s how it should be. Obviously, we want to be able to do this for a long time, so there are logistics to that. But, that stuff won’t come unless you love what you’re doing. 

That has to be so freeing to get to that point, after years of putting out music.

KJ: It is freeing!

RL: It felt like a slow, slow walk to a sprint. Now we’re running with no destination. That’s awesome. To feel like you’re running to nowhere… that’s the safest feeling in the world, for me. It’s like flying in space, that’s what it feels like right now. It’s amazing. I love it.

With being fully authentic, and the honesty you’re putting into this new era, it will resonate with the people it’s meant to. I think that’s really special, too. What you’re putting out will resonate with people who can see the authenticity shining through.

KJ: You’re right, those are the people that will be attracted to it, and those are the only people we want. Attracting that group of people. I think we have, to an extent. But you’re always going to see yourself through a more critical lens. I think we have been as authentic we can be with the band, but inside, you feel like a bit of a phony. Other people might not see that, but we’ve been feeling that. That’s not to say the music we’ve put out in the past hasn’t been genuine, it’s been as genuine as it could be in the snapshot of that moment. I don’t ever want it to feel like we’re trying to discard our past, it’s not that. It’s just every step of the way, it becomes more clear. I think we’re in a really clear spot right now, until the water gets a little murky one day and we have to figure it out again. That’s just the ebbs and flows.

It’s definitely a journey, and it seems like you all are in a really awesome place right now.

RL: Thanks, I hope so. We’re still learning, you know? Always learning, never stopping. I agree. I like this outfit on us the most, so far. It feels very cozy. This feels like a good one. 

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