Maybe it’s just us Baby Boomers who are complaining, but where have all the good bands gone? What happened to the days when band members sat in studio corners and tour buses hashing out lyrics and cords for their next big hit? What happen to bands even playing their own instruments, singing their own songs and not relying on synthesized drums and auto-tune?
We were spoiled when the Beatles hit the scene and set the music industry straight when they insisted they write and sing their own songs! But somewhere in the past 50 years, this doesn’t seem that important to the people running the industry. Low costs and big profits are what they want. Let the fans download the songs…it saves them the cost of producing vinyl and CDs.
Add to all this the articles that have been put out over the past decade about the lack of good, quality opening acts for the touring rock bands. Even Ringo Starr has taken up the cause recently for smaller local bands, saying how the industry has made them actually pay to be an opening act (read the article here).
And who do I blame for this mess and lack of new talent? The media! Yes, the reporters who write about music…the Gillian Gaars, Matt Wilkinsons, Mikal Gilmores and Anthony DeCurtis‘ of the world! Where’s the beef, fellas? And I can’t leave myself out of this mess. As a blogger, I too have the power to introduce the world to new talent….
And on that note, I’m stepping up. Let me introduce you to The Vals with their “unashamed take on 60’s pop” and “comparisons to the days of Lennon, McCartney, Davies and Townsend”.
I was turned onto The Vals (from Belfast, Ireland) several years ago by Pat Matthews, owner of the internet radio station Beatlesarama!!! For readers who have been loyal followers of my blog since the beginning, I’m sure you remember me mentioning this band in the past. Two albums later, I still have hope that they will make their break into the U.S. market and bring with them the hope and inspiration that there are still bands out there with real talent, who write their own music, sing their own songs and play their own instruments! Bands like The Vals are our hope for the future of music…
I would have loved to have Skyped my interview with leader singer/songwriter Paul Doherty, but I don’t have a voice for radio. I’m going to leave the live interview to May Pang and Cynthia Neilson when the interview Paul on their show Dinner Specials with May Pang on Monday, October 17, 2016 at Noon (EDT).
Until then, here’s a short warm up interview as I ask Paul about The Vals’ history and their music…Enjoy! (Where it was possible, I linked songs to their respective videos that will open in a new window when you click on them). And check them out on iTunes.
1. The Vals website says there have been many changes in the group before it became the line-up that we see today. Can you tell us a little about the history of the group and about the name “The Vals”?
I suppose The Vals is my baby really. I have been writing songs for around 10 years and have been expressing these in a band format with friends for many years now. There have been lots of line-up changes. 25 in fact in the last number of years. I guess this is down to a number of things. With me writing the songs and music it can sometimes not be as rewarding for some musicians to play in terms of creativity or a lot of the times it might be too demanding. Sometimes also the style of music changes for an album maybe and it requires additional musicians or less. I have been very lucky to share the stage with some great musicians and continue to do so with the great band we have at the minute. Myself, Matt, Conor, Barry and Gavin have been playing some great shows of late and really nailing the sound that for years we found so hard to capture. Every show we play is like a really great night out and that’s how it should always be I think.The name of the band came from a friend of mine at a time when we were throwing ridiculous names around. One of the guys came up with ‘The Lords of Rhythm’ one day, that’s when I began to worry haha. I liked The Vals because it kind of harks back to a 60’s type band name in my mind.
2. There’s no denying the heavy Beatles sound in your music. When did the Beatles become such a huge influence on your sound? And are all the members of the band Beatles’ fans?
It’s funny, I love the Beatles but when writing songs I don’t think about them at all. I think influences just flow out when songs are born and in my case some of my biggest influences are The Beatles and a lot of the songwriters around at that time. I also like making music that appeals to me. When recording songs I like to incorporate lots of Meletron, stringed instruments even some traditional Indian music which can all be referred back to the fab 4. Vocally I do go for the whole John Lennon vibe, but that is for 2 reasons really. One is the love of Lennon’s voice and how it stands out in tracks, I loved that. When I was just a kid I remember his voice drawing me into music on the radio one day, then I heard it again and the more I did the more curious I got about who the Beatles were. That’s where the love affair began!Secondly I use double tracking quite a lot because I’m not a particularly good singer. When we started out as a band no one wanted to sing so I was kind of forced into it with the intention that someone would come along and take over once we found someone. That hasn’t happened yet as you can tell! ha.All recordings are done in my little home studio, nothing flashy, just a little room out the back of my house. I have a special piece of equipment though in the studio which is a varispeed unit from Tittenhurst Park (John Lennon’s old home). This unit would speed tracks up when recording and was there when he recorded Imagine. It was later left for Ringo when he bought the house from John in the mid 70s. It’s really special having that in the room when I record.All the other guys are Beatles fans, some more than others. Some rehearsals are either filled with lengthy discussions about The Beatles recording or song writing techniques while others have us playing Beatles songs at length. For our upcoming tour we have added a special version of Strawberry Fields to the set!
3. In 2008, you organized Valfest in Belfast as a “Peace and Love music festival”. It attracted the attention of Yoko Ono, who sent you a personal note. How did she find out about your festival and have you had any further contact with her? Have you been able to share your music with her?
I have been very lucky to have some correspondence with Yoko, all through the wonders of the internet. When I organised the festival a few years back we had some great people on board. We had Henry McCullough who was with Paul McCartney and Wings plus we had Eric Bell who was a founding member of Irish band Thin Lizzy. Word just spread on the internet which was incredible and there was a message one day from Yoko. To say it was a surprise was an understatement. It came at a time where I was having a difficult time securing the venue etc and it was causing a lot of stress. Yoko’s kind words gave me a real lift and from then on everything just flowed and it was a very successful night in terms of money raised for the chosen charity and also the response we got from people attending. I would love to have another someday soon!
4. The first track on your amazing first LP (Sticks and Stones) is titled “Too Many People”, the same name as a popular McCartney tune from his Ram album. Coincidence?
I discovered RAM very late and got a surprise when I saw this title. No one ever believes me though ha. I really love this song now but it didn’t have any influence on our track. This is one of the McCartney songs that could have slotted onto a great Beatles record in my opinion. Love it!The Sticks and Stones album kind of has that whole live jibe about it as we recorded the whole thing in 3 days in Germany. I remember I kept saying if the Beatles can do it in a day we can do it in 3!
5. Have The Vals had the honor of playing Liverpool’s Cavern Club? If so, when? And tell us what it was like?
Yes we have, many years ago. Twice actually in 2006 and in 2007. It was a fantastic experience. We took everything in and really embraced all aspects of the Beatles story while in Liverpool. It’s great being in a place steeped with so much history and full of likeminded people who love The Beatles. When we walked in we were all in awe of the place and how it looked. I remember binging on the Beatles anthology shows prior to going. I would recommend anyone to visit who is a fan, you won’t be disappointed. I was also very lucky to play in Hamburg a number of times and play in the famous Indra club. When we were on tour recently, myself and Steve Cradock from Paul Weller’s band were allowed into the basement of the Indra by a friend of ours and seen all the graffiti on the wall that the Beatles left during their time there. It was very special.
6. Your website says that in 2011 you collaborated up with Henry McCullough (famous for his 2 year stint playing with Wings and his guitar solo on McCartney’s ballad “My Love”). How did you meet Henry? And how much influence did he have on the song “Look To The One”?
The Vals played some shows with Henry around 2010 and during then we got chatting, got on really well and talked about the possibility of recording something together. I sent Henry a demo of a song called ‘Look to the One’ and much to my surprise he rang me telling me how much he really liked it. We hired a studio in Belfast and recorded Henry’s tracks in one day. I was blown away by how motivated he was in getting the right harmony to sing on the track and finding the right guitar solo that fitted. This was a guy who did it all with the likes of Paul McCartney but yet he had the time to make music with us local lads and was really loving every minute of it. When Henry finished his parts he came downstairs and patted me on the back and said ‘Great song Paul, that’ll be a hit on the radio’. I felt about 10 feet tall and started to well up. It was a lot coming from someone like Henry. He was right; the song did wonders on radio all over and to this day still does. I put that done to Henry sprinkling his magic on the song.That day in the studio and the other occasions we were together will live long in my memory along with the old Wings stories, his musical knowledge and just the aura he had about him. He was kind, funny and an unassuming legend in my eyes. I loved that when we asked him what his favourite music was he said: ‘It all’. I learned a lot from Henry.7. Tell us the backstory about your Ode to football/soccer, “Pickepackevoll
Arnd, a good friend of ours has a very popular football TV show in Germany. We got talking about the show and I went away and wrote Pickepackevoll which is a segment of the show which is very well known where players score funny own goals or gaffes. We went on the show and played it live on national television. It was also used to raise money for a charity aligned with the famous football team Werder Bremen. Arnd brought us into the stadium to watch a game prior to the tv show and they played it in front of all the fans. It was one of the best experiences ever hearing it played in the stadium. Will never forget it. We were touring in Germany around the time of release and had people singing it back to us each night. Diversity is good sometimes!8. The Vals second album, Wildflower Way, was another great album with a very heavy Fab Four feeling to it the songs. But, the song “Suzie Reaches For The Sky” stands out in my mind along with the video that goes along with it. What was the influence for the song?
This is a song that everyone asks what does it mean or who is Suzie ha. Much to peoples amazement it is actually a song about a dog that lived in our street when I was a kid. It was a small dog but used to climb up on the small roof of the owner’s house and bark at soldiers as they passed (Belfast in the 1980s / 90s). I kind of took that idea and worked with it but it kind of took a different direction with the rest of the lyrics so I can see how people can’t see the whole dog story within ha. It has that whole 50’s vibe in places too which I love and grew up listening too. We always enjoy playing this live.9. The Vals have toured extensively, especially doing festivals throughout Europe? What countries have you played in? Do you have a favorite country/festival to play at?
We have been very lucky to play in lots of countries around Europe and take in a lot of experiences of both the audiences there and different cities / towns. It’s hard to pinpoint a favourite country / festival but favourite tour would definitely be a tour we did of Europe with Paul Weller. Paul is a real legend and just being around him and watching him perform every night was amazing. The venues for each were incredible: from the Admiralpalast in Germany to the Bataclan in Paris. We had a little stall after each show selling records and cds and loved chatting to people from each country and making a real connection with them.The festival we enjoyed most recently was the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival at home here in Belfast where we played alongside our heroes The Zombies
! Those guys are incredible and were a joy to be around. That show will live long in the memory.
10. In what country would you say get the best reaction and have the biggest fan base?
I don’t think we have an overly big fan base but I think we are very lucky in having people who enjoy our music spread across the world. This is very humbling. In Germany we have had some really cool experience playing to millions on television there and playing some really great shows. Everytime we go there we get a great reception and it has become a second home almost.
11. Over the years, I’ve expressed to you several times (at least once a year), how much I would love if The Vals came to the U.S. to do a tour so I can see you live and share you with my friends. What’s holding you back from coming? And what do you need to happen to actually make the trip?
It’s always been a dream to come to the U.S. and play. There was an offer to come to New York many years ago which fell through but it is something that is on the list of things we want to do. All we need is a flight to get us there and venue who are willing to have us play. I hope we can sort something real soon!
12. What’s on the horizon for The Vals? And when can we expect a new album?
As mentioned I have built a little studio now so I really hope that I can start putting music out a lot more frequently. Without exaggerating I have collated about 100 songs which I am dying to record so I will have my hands full in the next while. The hope is to have something new out really soon. The songs all vary in style and sound so it always keeps things interesting. I really want to keep rolling songs and albums out as much as possible and continue to play live for as long as possible. It keeps me going.
For more information on The Vals, visit their homepage. You can also follow Paul Doherty on Facebook and Twitter.
To buy/download their music, go to iTunes.