Valley: An Indie Sound Feature

Toronto-based Valley came to be after band members Karah McGillivray, Mike Brandolino, Alex Dimauro and Rob Laska were all double-booked for studio time with the bands they were with at that time.


Almost instantly, the members made a connection that went on to help form the band and establish the creative connection they present within their music.

“Mike [Brandolino] and I were doing a song called ‘W.A.L.,’ which is the first song off of Car Test, and the engineer at the studio said there were two other guys already booked, but that we should meet them,” McGillivray said. “They came walking in and Rob [Laska] had this really dirty mustache and then Alex [Dimauro] was wearing this really cool AC/DC shirt. Mike and I were like ‘who are these guys?’ and we just clicked instantly.”

For McGillivray, the meeting in the studio was fate.

“It was fate because we sort of think back today and we think what our lives would be like now had we not been in the studio at that specific time,” she said. “It would be crazy if we weren’t double-booked. We probably wouldn’t have ever met.”

The band’s first EP Car Test was seen as a way for the members to test the waters and find out what the band was really about, all while producing songs with meaningful lyrics and a piano-driven melody that could stop anyone in their tracks.

Car Test was kind of us figuring out what our sound was and what we like and what we don’t like and who we are as a band, because obviously it was our first release,” Brandolino said. “It was a collage of influences that came into Car Test and a long timeline of stories, whereas our second EP that’s coming out was mostly written between the time of Car Test and this EP and everything that went on in our lives and stuff translated into a soundtrack which became the new EP.”

Within the last few months Valley have released two catchy singles: “Swim” and “Soldier,” which have begun to gain popularity a lot in the U.S.

“For the most popular single that we have, ‘Swim,’ was more heavily inspired by Rob. He will come up with an idea and … that was a weird one because it’s one of the later ones that we wrote,” Dimauro said. “He would just jam it out and Mike and I would just freak out and kind of go ‘alright let’s work on that.'”

In terms of songwriting, every member of the band has a part in creating the finished product. In terms of “Swim,” Laska presented it to the band who then added more to it in a long process that they say is never ending.

“In terms of producing the song we all throw ideas in and generally we’re on the same page. One idea builds on the next and it just continues and continues. Karah is infamous for writing the second verse,” Brandolino said. “Then we’ll re-record it 7,000 times until we’re happy with it.”

“That’s the one good problem we have, we constantly want to keep writing new music because we’re never satisfied,” Laska said.

“Swim” is a track that was heavily influenced by a blend of indie acoustic and surprisingly, EDM, according to McGillivray.

“I wrote most of the drop and Rob was more of the indie guitar feel and the lyrics and the melody and stuff like that,” she said. “I’m really influenced by EDM music, guilty as charged, and I think that’s where I saw the song going and so it was more of that vibe at the drop.”

It could be a club song, it could be a Chainsmokers song. It’s just what I am influenced by and I think you get exactly that.

For their most recent single, “Soldier,” the band decided to take a more gospel approach to certain parts of the track itself.

“We always had this idea in the chorus of having these belting vocals so we went to Humber College where Karah goes,” Brandolino said. “We got a whole bunch of singers who were in a gospel group to sing the chorus with us and do big epic harmonies because we were really influenced by that.”

“‘Soldier’ is inspired by a ‘50s do-wop in some parts. In my verse and in Rob’s bridge it has those chord changes,” McGillivray said.

Valley already shows growth in comparison to Car Test and newer songs like “Swim,” and some of that growth stems from recent occurrences within the music industry that have changed … everything.

“Stylistically I think we grew a lot with this coming EP just in production and songwriting and our general sound has doubled since Car Test in terms of sophistication,” Brandolino said.

“We’ve looked a lot into different musical influences because last year was really big with … even now with Bowie dying and Prince, you kind of go back and listen to all and it kind of influences where you’re going.”

According to Dimauro, every song on the new EP was written differently which keeps it interesting for the members within the creative process, while also giving listeners something unique to experience when they listen to new material.

“I want people to celebrate this EP with us because … it’s a homecoming, find your sound type of EP. This is Valley. This is Valley at its core. If there’s any words I could use to describe this EP, that’s what I would use.”

Valley hopes to grow with its listeners as much as it connects with them, whether that be through its music or even meeting face-to-face during shows.

“We want people to grow with us, too. I think it’s important with artists … like the artists I find myself going back to are artists that I grew with,” Laska said. “I think that’s super key because that ingrains you in the artist’s roots.”

Valley’s forthcoming EP is out soon.

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