Being a musician doesn't always mean you're comfortable with public performance. For Valleys singer/guitarist/drummer Marc St. Louis, it took some time to gain the confidence to play with the lights on.
“We used to ask for the lights to be turned off completely,” said St. Louis. While no longer resorting to that extreme, the band still prefers to let the music speak for itself. “It depends on the comfort level, but we're not one of those bands with tons of banter and a repertoire of jokes. The funniest guy in the band is Pascal and he doesn't have a microphone.”
Valleys base their sound on layering and contrast, combining shoegaze guitar with elements of downtempo electronic music.
“[It's] dynamics – light and dark, lo-fi and well-produced electronic sound that makes it satisfying to play...It sounds quite different live. The songs are structurally similar but live it's slightly more aggressive and noisy. We always tend to quiet down when we're recording, we're very conservative when we're mixing songs,” said St. Louis. “We save a lot for when we play onstage.”
Since 2005 the band has been evolving, noted recently with the addition of multi-instrumentalist Pascal Oliver for their latest record Stoner, a three song EP released in November.
“[Pascal] adds a minor dissonance aspect that gives a colder sound... We think these three songs seem categorically darker,” said St. Louis, adding that wherever their ideas take them is where they'll go.
“We've changed drastically over five years, we're not the same band at all,” he said, noting that the scene has changed too. “What's cool is you notice younger kids who haven't been around the scene for that long are just discovering bands, and they seem to be more enthusiastic than older, possibly more jaded, audience members.”
“Five years ago was that big Montreal explosion and we started playing right after that,” he continued. “There's definitely more of a party vibe than what there used to be, ten years ago Montreal had this whole scene of somber epic music, like the Godspeed family tree and all that. Even the rock bands seemed darker, but some dancey stuff came in and that seems popular now.”
The band's changed up distribution methods too. You won't Stoner in record stores, since Valleys have released the EP as digital-only.
“It's faster to release stuff digitally... We're having trouble making excuses to manufacture CDs because it really doesn't make much sense. You have to charge a little more for the vinyl but people don't hesitate to buy them over the CDs at every show. I don't know what people do with [CDs], you just bring them home and upload them into iTunes... then it's a piece of plastic.”
Whether in concert or in your headphones, Valleys want to take you on a unique trip best heard with the lights out.
“When we're playing we want to create an experience,” said St. Louis. “Good, bad, whatever – a little bit of an event.”