“It’s very much a huge definition of who we are in terms of sound, melodies and structure – sets a tone for anyone looking for a taste of what Maybe Side B will feel and sound like.”
“We’re recording our first album,” vocalist and guitarist Rob Laska excitedly said to me in studio in March 2018, as he shook both of my shoulders. This interaction occurred between takes as guitarist Mike Brandolino was rapidly clicking his computer mouse to navigate the recording interface. He was editing the current session in realtime as drummer and vocalist Karah James listened back to the takes. “I like that one,” James said confidently.
VALLEY was in the midst of recording and planning a last minute cabin retreat to record vocals for their Universal Music Canada debut album Maybe — a collection of songs that are slowly being cast out into the world in three parts: Side A, B, and C. When I asked why they were travelling to record vocals, bassist Alex DiMauro quickly answered, “vocals are a really personal thing.” “You have to really feel it,” Laska chimed in.
2018 saw the release of Maybe Side A; an EP stacked with indie pop anthems about the struggles of growing up. Now, the four-piece has released the first brilliant single off of Side B titled “A Phone Call In Amsterdam”; a love story set in a time and place from the perspective of a dear friend of the band’s. The song tackles the paradox of wanting someone in your life but being too scared to tell them how you really feel. Distancing yourself from that person can preserve that feeling while other times it can dilute it.
“But one day there was kind of a switch that flipped and the floodgates opened.”
– Alex DiMauro
The beautiful amalgamation of genres on “A Phone Call In Amsterdam” didn’t happen without some critical thinking. I remember sitting in their home studio just outside of Toronto; listening to the band go over takes and levels with a fine-tooth comb. The band constantly referred back to a grid drawn on a nearby whiteboard, crossing tasks off as they were complete.
“We built the recording you hear today out from essentially a bunch of tiny pieces of the original demo.”
However, simply completing the tasks wasn’t enough. There was this unspoken energy in the studio on the day I observed the band recording the song. Despite approaching all of their songs with both passion and precision, I could sense that “A Phone Call In Amsterdam” was particularly special.
Fast forward to 2019. With the band gearing up to release Maybe Side B and embark on a North American tour with Lennon Stella, I decided it was time to ask each member of VALLEY why the song is special to them. It’s truly a candid look into all the frustrations, excitement, and sense of hopefulness that went into the track and in turn sparked the creativity for the rest of the album.
MIKE BRANDOLINO – Guitar / Vocals
“I think ‘A Phone Call [In Amsterdam]’ is a special song for me because it feels like the quintessential VALLEY song; the one we always wished to make. It’s got a mix of sounds from the past and the future with a lot of influence from our childhood. For example, there’s a lot of acoustic guitar and piano sounds & patterns that are influenced by Fleetwood Mac and Coldplay but with a modern twist. 70s Drums sounds layered with explosive new age drum samples etc… There was a lot of experimenting and the songwriting feels very organic and genuine. Overall, it feels like everything we have been searching for! It’s lyrically open ended so you adapt it to your own story and whatever’s going on in your life while you listen.”
ALEX DIMAURO – Bass / Vocals
“It’s 100% pure VALLEY, one of the first tracks we wrote for the record! It was written in late summer / early fall of 2017 if I remember correctly.
It was written [at home] entirely pre-writing trip! I think that’s kinda why it’s special to me / my favourite song. It’s really organic. We had a really hard time in the early stages of writing the record. But one day there was kind of a switch that flipped and the floodgates opened. “There’s Still A Light In The House” happened, then I think ‘A Phone Call [In Amsterdam]’ was next! When those 2 songs were being written, I think it got us all hyped and at that point we really knew what direction the record was gonna go in.”
KARAH JAMES – Drums / Vocals
“’A Phone Call [In Amsterdam]’ is sort of the quintessential VALLEY song in my opinion. It’s the song you can always come back to and the one that feels like home.”
ROB LASKA – Vocals / Guitar
“‘A Phone Call In Amsterdam’ is one of the most freeing songs on the record for me. I think it very much exists on its own with texture and space. It carries a lot of emotional concepts about distance and love between two people that are physically not in the same space but the melodies are very hopeful- the juxtaposition really gives it feeling and that final drop feels like fleeing.
Some of our favourite sounds that we’ve ever recorded in the history of this band are in this song. Lots of wacky OP-1 samples, the bridge acoustic guitars which sound like a floating dream, the gospel choir in the post-chorus, the outro at the end with gospel and sax fading in and out — it was really such an unforgettable experience recording and piecing every sound together.”
Follow the band’s journey.