Vala: ‘COVID Limitations Have Helped Solidify Our Sound’

Updated: Apr 28

A retro inspired indie/pop group coming straight out of Manchester, Vala uses funky guitar riffs to create tunes that leave you feeling incredibly content with life no matter the situation…

Even if it was raining in an open air beer garden, I’d still be smiling to songs such as ‘Only One.’

Known for performing around the northern circuit, gigging with the brilliant ‘Sofar Sounds’ and are now setting themselves up to have another cracking year ahead of their release of the ‘Swimming Kit’ EP.

We spoke to Joe (lead) and Tom (bassist) about their retro aesthetic, the bands many influences and their journey so far.

The ‘Swimming Kit’ EP is out, how did you find your first time self-producing your music?

Joe: Really loved it, even though it doesn’t sound polished it’s much more satisfying. It’s always difficult working with other people, like producers that can’t necessarily see exactly what you’re thinking.

It’s good if you don’t have many of your own ideas, but we’ve always known what we want to sound like, so finally doing it ourselves was freeing. Not being in a studio spending £300 a day just panicking was nice.

Tom: With those freedoms, it means we can come back to ideas as well. When you’re working with other people you only get one chance to revisit a song, but doing it yourself meant we were in control of how many drafts we do. For me as well though, it was just nice to have something to focus on during lockdown.

How did the band's retro aesthetic come about?

Joe: I don’t think it was anything that was thought about too much, we all listen to older music so it just naturally stems from us trying to replicate our heroes. My biggest influences are The Strokes and The Beatles. Tom would you say your biggest bass influence is Duran Duran?

Tom: Maybe. I’m very 80’s in my playing style, but I don’t think I could pinpoint just one band.

Would you say film culture inspires your music just as much as other bands?

Tom: I think so! Especially when Joe puts his ideas out there, he will go for a certain aesthetic plus we’re in an age now where you have to find a way to capture new attention on social media. I don’t think it’s in the active thought, but subconsciously definitely.

Joe: I’m not thinking of films when i’m sitting down thinking of a song, but when we start building everything else around it we begin to look at a lot of films. I always reference songs that could fit as a film soundtrack, it’s part of the process when I visualise my work.

Then ‘Do I Talk Too Much?’ is quite romantically themed and you’ve got two music videos for it - what inspired those?

Joe: The looping video is Matt and I going very slowly on a skateboard and the inspiration being a scene from the ‘Mid 90’s’ film which Jonah Hill directed. There’s a particular scene in which they all skateboard down a hill, we couldn’t skateboard in LA, so we did it in a Manchester suburb. The live video was just played on greenscreens behind us.

Our video editor Jack on Facetime and we just dumped loads of screen recorded clips from Youtube that we liked to put in the background, making up around sixty science fiction films mixed with clips from our own videos. It was fun to make. It’s been good to find creative ways to make videos.

What can we expect from your next releases?

Joe: Bigger… Better… and self-produced again! It’s got electronic drum kits - it’s got the works, we see it as an evolution.

We’ve revamped an old song to fit our newer sound, the last songs from the ‘Swimming Kit’ EP have been a bit more lo-fi, self-produced and down beat perhaps, but these next batch of songs still have the pop choruses but produced with the new recording style.

Given the pandemic limitations of this past year, doing everything ourselves has really helped us to solidify what makes us - us. I’d say they’re a good mix of where we were before lockdown and where we are now.

Tom: You can really see our new direction, I much prefer the version we have coming out now. These songs are a lot more mature, they have a definite style within our genre now, before I wouldn’t say we were lost but I think we’ve found ourselves better now.

What platform has worked for you guys the most and what do you view as the most effective for any new artist?

Joe: I think the most legitimate place is Spotify, it looks more impressive if the numbers are big there - it’s hard to fake. Anyone can be on social media and rack up the followers, but if no-one is listening it doesn’t mean much.

Tom: Spotify gives great data too, weekly we can look at where our listeners come from and how many of them there are, it’s a good tool for us.

Do you find Spotify difficult in terms of their reputation for how they pay per how many streams?

Joe: It is a bit fishy, but at the moment as a smaller band it doesn’t make any difference to us at this stage.

If we were a bigger artist we would probably get a bit miffed that we weren’t selling loads of records anymore and everyone could listen to us for free. However, we’re not directly selling any records so streaming money is better than nothing!

It’s a very convenient platform, everyone has access to Spotify. They’re heading in the right direction as well because listeners can donate to the bands directly.

Lastly to round it off - give us three artists to shout out that you think people should give a listen to.

Phoebe Bridgers for sure. Although she won some Grammy’s not too long back so I don’t think she’s gonna need our shoutout!

Our friends Sunflower Thieves have been killing it, they went to uni with Matt, they’ve just released a new single out that’s mint so check them out.

Mamilah are a seven piece, Leeds based jazz band, with a familiar drummer. Some unbelievable releases!