Producer Alex Kaye and vocalist Liana Vanicelli are Valley Hush, a Detroit-based experimental indie pop act whose music exudes a mystical enlightenment beyond their years but still exhibit a down-to-earth charm in person.
Having recorded and released their first EP, To Feel Small, in a matter of only six months, the ambitious duo are on the rise, following up with a second EP — with more pop melodies — and even more focus on worldly issues.
During a conversation with Valley Hush, Detroit Music Magazine discussed the genesis of this compelling Detroit group and where they are headed next.
Congratulations on all your success so far. Can you give us any update on where you are with your new material?
Liana Vanicelli: We just finished our second EP in the studio a couple days ago, so we’re pretty much just preparing for releasing that. We just sent it out to a bunch of labels and people, and we’re waiting to hear back from them, and I guess if we don’t hear back, we’re just going to self-release it.
Alex Kaye: Oh yeah, for sure. I mean, it’s been a good response from what we’ve heard so far, but we just sent it. Like, I just finished mixing and mastering it last week. So yeah, it’s promising so far.
LV: I think our style’s evolved a little bit more, too. Like the first EP, we love it, still, but I think this one’s a little more focused, and we’re really trying to use melody and pop music to be an accessible tool for people. And we’re writing songs that are a little more focused on more important issues, I guess you could say.
AK: More important issues than are in pop right now.
LV: Versus, like, personal things.
AK: Yeah! I’m glad that you have that vision, ’cause I—
LV: —I guess, like, lyrically and vocally.
Can you elaborate on that a little more? You can be very emotional to watch live, and it’s a really cool experience. What are you thinking about when you’re writing?
AK: We bounce off each other a lot. Sometimes she’ll start a song with lyrics or a melody, and sometimes I’ll start one with part of an instrumental or something. But normally, almost always, we’ll show each other something pretty early on. We won’t finish something and then show the other person. Pretty much from the beginning, I’ll show her an idea, and then it gets finished together, which is pretty cool. And I know she has a pretty awesome vision for how she wants to write lyrically and present the music in like an accessible pop form, and I extremely support that. I think it’s a really cool, forward-thinking idea.
LV: Thank you!
AK: I don’t feel like I get to say that a lot to you, but I really feel, like, genuinely lucky to be involved with someone that has that kind of vision. And for me, I can always just say that I think that way when I write the instrumentals, and people just have to believe me. [Laughs] But it really shows through the lyrics, so that’s important.
LV: [Laughs] Yeah, I guess what I mean is the first EP was more personal, in a way. On the second one, I’m writing more for people, like for our generation, I guess. Like one of the main songs on there is about children, and how they’re so detached from reality, ’cause they’re so glued to their phones and their iPads, and that’s really scary. I was in a yoga class a few weeks ago, and a kid sat down during class and pulled an iPad out, and I wanted to cry! I was like, “Oh my god! What’s happening? This is a sacred practice!” It’s just crazy, but it’s not even just that. I’m trying to write, to you know, to help relieve the pain a little bit.
AK:Yeah, I feel like it’s good timing, too, with the way you’re thinking, because. I don’t know. I mean, I feel like there’s a ground movement—
LV: Well, everything’s saturated.
AK: Yeah, right, that. And I feel like people our age are getting it finally, or at least a lot of people are in a way that the past ten years just have not been. There’s been so much bullshit the past ten years. I’m not just talking about music, but everything. Especially in pop culture.
LV: I think music’s reaching a point, though, where it is oversaturated, especially with pop music. And the world doesn’t need another love song, or “I wanna take you home and do things to you.” It’s fun to listen to that stuff, but when you go to a show, you want to lose yourself in it. And when you’re listening to a record, you want to lose yourself in it.
You definitely provide opportunities to do that. You said that you have evolving musically, not only in the studio, but also live. Can you elaborate on that?
AK: Yeah, live is real important to us.
LV: It’s a different game than recording.
AK: I think we knew that before but realized that more after getting into it because we both knew we wanted it to be just as good or better than the recording, and definitely an experience. It takes a lot of planning, especially with electronic elements. It’s not like it’s just a guitar, a bass, drums, and her voice; that’d be easy. The music is definitely on the electronic side of things, so you have to figure out ways to do all that shit, and it’s not always easy. I don’t know; there’s schools of thought in the studio where certain bands won’t do things because they don’t think they can do them live. But I don’t like that. I want do do whatever.
LV: Right, right. It’s kind of a challenge.
AK: Right, that’s like part of it. I want to do whatever we want to do, period, for the recording. And if we have to figure it out live, some weird way, we have so far.
LV: Yeah, I just want people to know we work really hard to provide that experience live where it can be really captivating and it will sound like the record, but it’s even more full and there’s more energy. We have a full band, and you can’t beat that: four people versus two people. A drummer, a bass player, and they’re amazing to play with.
AK: Yeah, we’re really lucky to have them. They’re some of the best musicians in Detroit. I wouldn’t think twice about saying that. For bass and drums, they’re incredible. And it’s cool live, because for the album, I normally sample the drum sounds and then play them back on a machine or something similar, which I like a lot, I like that recorded sound, for sure. But for live, it’s a drummer, so it’s definitely different, but I like that. And people seem to like that so far, the difference between the recording.
LV: Yeah, and we’re trying to eliminate the laptop from the equation.
Hasn’t that changed a lot? That seems like a big component of your performances.
AK: It’s actually not. You would think it is.
LV: It has a backing track, but we’re trying to trigger everything ourselves now, so we’re going to have him launching something. Alex will be playing samples.
AK: It’s going to be a little more organic than it is now. I would say most electronic acts, or indie electronic acts, definitely do use backing tracks, and we know that and accept it. But there’s not a lot in our set; if you heard ours there’s not that much. There’s a lot of parts of our songs where there’s none at all. We’re trying to make it even more live than that.
As you are evolving musically, on the business end you also talked about record labels. How has that been going?
LV: We have a couple labels in mind. We sent our stuff out, and I mean, it’s an industry that I’ve been trying for a really long time to get in. But it’s the part that I don’t have much experience in, so it’s hard because you have to throw your stuff out there, and you just kind of have to wait, you know? That’s pretty much all you can do. So we would love to release this EP on a label, because I would really love to reach a wider audience with it, and I think that a label could help us grow.
AK: Definitely the right one could, for sure. We know a decent amount of people in the industry, just from being in music.
LV: Yeah, and we’ve met a lot of people that have been really enthusiastic about our music and that have helped us out, so it’s been a nice experience so far.
Can you tell us a little about your musical backgrounds?
LV: I’ve been singing since I was little. I’ve played in bands since I was fourteen – really, really young. [Laughs]
AK: We went to the same high school.
LV: Yeah, we went to the same high school.
AK: But we didn’t know each other. She was two years younger than me.
LV: Yeah, I don’t have any classical training. I was in band, like when I was in sixth and seventh grade. I played percussion. [Laughs] But that’s pretty much the extent of it. I’ve been playing in bands since I was fourteen. I never stopped. I took the last year off, before Valley Hush started, between my last project and this one. Kinda gathered closure and figured things out before diving back in. [Laughs]
Sounds like you got it rolling though!
LV: Yeah I could do with a much needed break. As much as I didn’t want to stop, I think I had to. It worked out. Everything just came together naturally.
AK: I was in bands in high school. One band? I dunno, a couple. But I always did my own music in high school. Like, it’s so weird. I’ve been doing this same thing for so many goddamn years – just, like recording by myself or my roommate on songs. Which is what we do now. I’ve been honing that trade for a long time, a really long time. I did that through high school, and then I went to Wayne State for music business for my college degree. Which was cool because it gave me classical music training, and also the business side. Yeah, long story short, I was planning on making music on the side and making business my career, and I totally flipped that by the time I graduated. When I graduated I knew I had to make music my number one, and then do the business on the side. So that’s how it is now.
Were you part of other projects as well?
AK: Yeah, well I was doing a project that was called Autumn Wolf, which was my own personal project, around the same that she was doing her project. And I’ve worked freelance at a recording studio in the area – Rust Belt Studios, worked on projects with other people, so I’m kind of like always doing other things, you know, which helps me grow and get my skills up and stuff. But in terms of my own projects, it’s usually one at a time that I’m focusing on. Like, side projects are cool, but you really have to have one thing to go in on.
LV: You gotta have a main basket for your eggs.
AK: [Laughs] Did you just make that up?
LV: [Laughs] Yeah, I just made that up.
AK: That’s our new saying. Official band slogan: “Gotta have one basket for all your eggs.”
LV: I said “main basket.”
AK: Main basket. I like it. I support it.
As you’re evolving, what are you doing as far as shows or festivals?
LV: Right now, we just have a couple local shows booked. We’re setting something up with WDET, and we applied to play the Movement festival. That’s like both of ours’ life goals: to play big festivals. There’s nothing cooler in the world, I don’t think.
AK: That’s definitely one of my goals, to tour and play the festival circuit.
LV: I played at Movement two years ago. It was like a noon slot, so it didn’t feel that real, ’cause you there probably like forty people there. But it was still a pretty cool experience. And then we’ve both played local festivals, like Dally, Blowout, all of those.
You’ve played the Secret Friends Fest as well. How was that?
AK: That was good. We had a cool slot for that.
LV: That was cool, because it was a bunch of bands from all over, and then there were some Detroit bands. It was like, back and forth. The Loving Touch is an interesting venue to have double stages at.
AK: Yeah. It worked!
There was a great turnout.
AK: Yeah, last year was their first year, and there was a great turnout then. Actually, we both played then too as Autumn Wolf. She sang with me for a minute.
So your show on Saturday [February 28], how many shows does that mark?
LV: Our sixth, I think? I think it’s only our sixth show.
You guys are getting some hype.
AK: Yeah, it’s exciting.
LV: Yeah, it feels really good to get a good response! Saturday, we’re playing first at 9:00. We’re playing almost our whole new EP.
LV: Yeah, we are.
AK: Oh yeah, you’re right! [Laughs]
LV: We’re only playing for a half-hour, so we’re probably going to play three new ones, and I’m really excited.
AK: Skip the slow ones this time.
LV: Yeah. [Laughs] I just want to make people dance at 9:00 p.m. And as hard as that’s going to be, I just hope it happens.
Valley Hush performs at The Loving Touch in Ferndale on Saturday, February 28 with Flint Eastwood, Tunde Olaniran, and Gosh Pith. For more information and tickets, click here. For more information on Valley Hush, including tour dates and music, visit their site.