Long riffs and binding grooves: an interview with Valfader Interview

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With the ability to sculpt riffs that almost need a certain bravery to stand before and a skill in casting melodic designs stretched with rigorusly seducing grooves which take on a predacious quality when locked together, UK band Valfader has emerged as one of the most imposingly creative and thrilling adventurous propositions to come out of British heavy rock/metal in recent years. Hailing from Bath the trio of guitarist/vocalist Dean Gaylard, bassist Matt Jones, and drummer Gareth Jones first drew acclaimed blood with their Whispers of Chaos last year with even greater attention and praise coming through the epic single Opening earlier this year. Long overdue a chat we stole time from the band to talk about the birth of Valfader, their organic songwriting, and depriving sound engineers of half day holidays as well as plenty more…

Hi guys and thanks for taking time to talk with us.

First up can we find out about the beginnings of Valfader, how you all met and started the band as well as personal histories before the event?

It all started about 9 years ago, yep 9 years ago. Me (Gaz) and Dean were in a rock / prog band playing local bars in Bath – Bristol area from 2005 till 2009 and along the way we met a lot of awesome musicians which we still know today. We had a nice little run supporting some awesome bands but we were nothing serious. Sure in our booze fuelled minds we were going to take over the world, but it didn’t matter how much we put into the band we were going nowhere slowly. We split in the winter of 2009 and we both stopped playing music all together, and went our separate ways but still remained good friends. After 7, or maybe 8 months we ran into each other at a venue in Bath and we started talking about the good old days, music and whose round it was next ha-ha. Anyway, we talked about having a little jam at a local rehearsal rooms and that was it! We realized after the first jam that the passion was still there, ok a little rusty, but planned a second rehearsal a week later to pick up where we left off. A few months into it we started to look for a bassist. We asked a few mates but none of them could commit, but that didn’t stop us, so we posted an advert on the Web and after a few weeks, maybe 4, Matt rolled up and as they say, the rest is history and here we are now

Did you start out with a specific intent or direction for the band?

Not really – we really aren’t that organised! We never really plan stuff or think long term. In the beginning we never sat down and said “let’s be a stoner rock band” or “let’s be like this band”. We just knew what music we liked and enjoyed jamming together. After that, our “sound” came together so we put it out there to see what happened.

Your sound merges the rich essences of stoner and heavy rick with sludge and doom bred emotive tenacity, not forgetting the voracious riffs. It is a distinctive and increasingly unique sound daring people to try and label it. How would you describe your music to newcomers?

Ha – we have no idea man! It’s not something we have really worried about or tried to do! We have read lots of different descriptions about ourselves that have used the terms doom, stoner, psychedelic, rock, progressive, metal and ambient so take your pick I guess!!

How do you see it has evolved since starting out in 2010 and the recent release of Opening?valfader opening

In the beginning our songs were much shorter, more uniform in the sense of verse / chorus etc. and more one dimensional. However as we all played together more and brought our ideas to the table, the songs grew longer in duration and more diverse in different sounds, which is where we are now!

Is Opening a single or EP, I have seen it described both because of its length, often in the same piece ha-ha.

We put Opening out there as a single. As you may have noticed we tend to write long songs so this was just one track for us… however, if people want to consider it as an EP then that’s cool.

Last year saw the release of your debut EP Whispers of Chaos, which was where we discovered you. It has seemed to have whipped up a storm of attention and eagerness for the band. How has it been on the inside since its release?

On a day to day basis, not much has changed for us really. We all still work full time jobs, look after family, meet up for jams and try to get gigs! However we now have this global online presence which is lovely. It’s been very humbling and gratifying to see how far our music has travelled and how well it has been received. The attention for the band seems to come in waves, which can be a bit of an emotional roller coaster!

Did its success surprise you even with your obvious confidence in your own music?

It totally blew us away – completely. We still remember talking in the van the night before we were going to put it out there on Bandcamp, we really had no idea how it would be received as we don’t sound like other bands out there – we were so tense!! The amount of positive reviews and comments we received were far in excess of anything we could have hoped for, so a big thanks to everyone involved again!!

Was there any extra pressure on you because of its success emotionally for your next unveiling?

It’s hard to say – I guess so though. We were all really clear that we really wanted Opening to be another step forward from the EP, which we feel we achieved.valfader4

Did you learn anything from the EP which made you approach Opening any differently?

(Gaz) – I was a lot more relaxed this time around and I believe you can hear that in my drumming. Recording Whispers I was nervous as hell and only had a day to record four tracks, so was holding back trying not to fuck up. On Opening I was more relaxed and enjoyed every minute, plus the producer and a good friend of the band who came to film us are fellow drummers, so I was talking shop all day with them which made a nice change.

Opening consists of a single epic fourteen minute or so track; so with your songs generally on the side of epic in length how difficult was it to write a track of such a long presence to ensure it enthrals ears and imagination constantly, which it surely does?

In all honesty there was no real intention of making it so long, the song evolved out of the initial clean riff and just kept growing. I think we have a pretty relaxed approach to song writing, we rarely set out to do something deliberately, it’s usually just a case of letting the mood of the music take us somewhere and not getting too analytical about it.

So it a track which evolved organically in sound and length, or one you planned more precisely before strings were plucked and riffs spawned?

Generally our songs do evolve quite organically, though this one was more or less written as a whole prior to playing it together. This is quite unusual as I think we benefit greatly from each other’s contributions when song writing.

How long did the song take to record, I heard it was done in a day?

Yep – all done in a day!! I think the sound engineer thought he was in for an early finish when we told him we only wanted to record one song – then he found out it was 14 mins long!!

Opening presented a different facet to the music found on the EP; is this a swing in direction for future releases to explore or just another character in your overall sound?

A bit of both really. Again – when we write songs we never try to make them sound a particular way or force them into a genre. They evolve naturally which means all our songs are quite diverse. We are currently writing quite a lot of new material, some of which is more like Opening in style, others more like tracks from the EP.

VALFADER  Cover ArtworkThere is also an intimacy to the song maybe not as open on Whispers of Chaos, something you feel too?

Yeah definitely, it’s quite an emotional song, and I (Dean) felt pretty damn nervous about recording so many clean vocal lines. I think there’s quite a vulnerability to the song, but hopefully that’s a good thing, there’s no pretence, just an honest expression of something both painful and beautiful.

Riveting riff driven rock whether stoner/sludge/or simply of heavy metal descent seems to be on a very healthy and powerful ascent across the UK right now with emerging bands, such as Morass Of Molasses, Desert Storm, XII Boar, Caravan of Whores being four examples coming to mind alongside yourselves. Are you finding the appetite and hunger is there from fans too not only for releases but live shows?

Honestly? Not really! It does seem to us that people don’t seem to be prepared to go out to local shows and bands to support music scenes anymore. People will spend hundreds of pounds to go to some large venue to watch a band that’s been around for 20-30 years but don’t seem willing to walk down the road and spend £5 to see 4 or 5 bands that they haven’t heard. We have played some gigs where there is a good local scene and support for new music, but feel these are all too rare. We have also played on bills with some amazingly talented musicians to pretty empty rooms!

How about from promoters and venues putting on gigs, same attitude?

We are lucky to work with Cowbell promotions in Bath. These guys are REAL music enthusiasts who put on shows simply because they love the music. They have been amazingly supportive of us and helped get us out there, so a huge thanks needs to go to them. The music industry desperately NEEDS more people like this. Unfortunately all too often promoters and venues don’t really give a shit who you are or what you sound like, they just want you to guarantee ticket sales and make money. We understand that of course they are businesses and have costs etc. to cover, but there seems to be little to no interest in music, or working with and supporting bands

What comes next for Valfader and for the rest of 2014 from you?

We are having a little break over the summer after a run of gigs and then hoping to get back into the studio to record a new full length album towards the end of the year. This thing is shaping up to be massive. Over an hour in length and more riffs that you can point a very pointy thing at!

Finances are tight if absent for most emerging bands so many are turning to crowd funding sites to try and finance releases etc. Something you feel you might look at ahead or do you feel it is an option still only for bands with an established active fanbase right now?

It’s something we have considered and talked about, but not something we are completely comfortable with I thinkvalfader3

Once again a big thanks for chatting with us; any last words or thoughts you would like to leave us pondering?

Thank you! We really appreciate websites such as yourself and the work you do to help bands. Huge thanks to everyone who has bought our music, come to see us, sent us nice messages or supported us in anyway. It really makes a difference and is so appreciated by us all. And support local music – new bands need your help!! Don’t worry – Dave Grohl and Trent Reznor are ok for money!!

And lastly give us an idea of the most inspirational records which went some way to sparking the need in you to make music.

GAZ – It’s all about Sabbath and Zeppelin. Just hearing any tracks of theirs inspires me to play the drums whether I’m behind the kit or not.

DEAN – Well the bands which got me going originally were Metallica, Pearl Jam, Pantera and probably a load of dodgy Nu metal bands when I was 16, ha-ha. Now I’m always searching for music which doesn’t sit too comfortably within one genre, I really love Opeth, Elder, Baroness, and Maeth to name but a few!

MATT – oh so many!! I suppose early on bands like Slayer, Nirvana and Pearl Jam gave me the idea of picking up an instrument and playing it. Deftones, Glassjaw and Isis made me want to express something emotive and beautiful, and the guys from a band called Jim Fear first made me believe I could do it!!

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Pete RingMaster

The RingMaster Review 26/08/2014

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