Play your songs right, it takes less time and costs less money… which matters when you’re a small DIY band!
Recorded and mixed live, Valve’s first full length Apnée (released 8 March 2015) brings sludge, doom and hardcore together for an absolute beast of an album. Here, guitarist C talks to MR’s Jason Guest about the band’s formation, influences and its development in the past three years, their music, the album’s themes and how they approached recording the damned thing…
Thanks for taking time out for this interview and congratulations on Apnée. It’s a great piece of work! Just to get us up to speed, what was it that drew you together to make music under the name Valve?
Hey Jason, thanks a lot! I play guitar in Valve and the drummer and I had been jamming together for a while in some bands before we started this one, but I think we wanted to go for something heavier, nothing much more defined than that. Then I guess our musical intentions took a more precise shape as we played and wrote. The line-up has also evolved with respect to that process, and we feel like the last changes in that regard have brought us closer to a common vision: we play music we want to play with the people we want to play it with.
Who are the band’s influences?
We definitely don’t aim at making something “that would sound like this album from that band but with a flavour of that other band and a similar tone to this other band”, but I guess it’s fair to say that bands like Yob, Breach, Neurosis or Mastodon are common ground for all of us. We also find a lot of inspiration in smaller scenes, work by bands that we shared a stage with… I think at this point this has even become our principal influence.
What was it that you wanted to achieve with Apnée?
We were never setting goals or anything; we were just trying to do a solid debut album that would give satisfaction to everyone in the band, something that we’d feel worthy to be pressed on vinyl, so that we can show this record to our grandchildren.
The band has been together for about three years now. What kind of progression does it mark for the band?
It has not been a quiet ride, mostly because of the line up changes. It really took us some persistence sometimes to carry on with it. But we feel much more confident with Apnée being released these days than we were when we released our demo in 2012. This may sound pretentious although it’s really not meant to, but the music is, in essence, what we want it to be. We feel more connected to the songs we play live than we’ve ever been. On another level, we also like to believe that it is more coherent and accomplished, and the efforts we all put into it have helped us grow into a more mature band. I guess it’s just the kind of feelings you have when you’re wrapping up a record you’re happy with, and since these feelings usually (and hopefully!) don’t last forever, might as well enjoy it. We are just in that phase when we focus on the release and touring, which is a lot a fun in a band’s life.
How did the band approach composition for the album? Do you write individually, collaboratively, or jam ideas out?
We are kind of slow in writing actually. Plus we play down tempo riffs for a good part, so it gets even slower, haha. This one was written on an extensive period of time. The writing process is changing and evolving through time but for Apnée, most of the ideas came from guitar riffs, then it’s a mix of everything, collaborative, discussions, jams… There was and there still is a lot of “back and forth” in the way we write, we play a song some way for a while, and then want to change it, and it can take a while before we settle with something with something that we are all comfortable with.
Is there a theme, a concept, or a philosophy that underpins the album?
The album is called Apnée, which as you may have guessed is French for “apnea”. We did not come up with that theme before we wrote the songs, but we had an idea of the track order of the record and that name came to us when we listened to the 4 main songs in that order. It gave us the image of a two-sided story, a journey that begins with reckless and straightforward vibe before transforming slowly into a bleaker and stifling story, eaten up by fear and doubts. I think the lyrics also describe this journey on various levels of interpretations, ranging from mystic references to really “down to earth” stuff that relates directly to our daily lives. For these reasons, there were also songs in the work that we chose not to include in this record, because the intentions did not fit the rest of the album.
Can you tell us about the artwork, what it represents, and how it relates to the music?
The artwork that you can see on Bandcamp and other web services is actually just a hint of the whole thing. It was designed for a gatefold LP package, so there are the front and back covers, but there’s also a wide illustration on the inside of the gatefold, when you open it. I think it’s also available in digital downloads that go through Bandcamp. On a general note, it relates to the album theme and is also a reference to the atmosphere of our live shows.
Francis Passini designed the artwork. Why choose to work with him? And how much direction was given in its design?
He was a friend of one of us and became a friend of ours throughout this collaboration. It just happened naturally, because it just made more sense to us to work with somebody we knew would get our point from the beginning and wanted to be part of it, than just walking up to somebody’s door like, “hey, I have this record and I’d like you to do the artwork for me”. We had a few ideas in mind that he incorporated in his own way, like the fact that we wanted something hand drawn, and he also suggested that the artwork should reflect the live experience during our shows, which seemed like a simple yet very good idea to us.
According to your Bandcamp page, the album was recorded and mixed live by Sylvain Biguet. Why choose to work with him?
Some of us had worked with him on another project and were very happy with his approach overall. He is also responsible for a certain number of records that we like, and we feel that he has a real tonal identity that he manages to merge with a band’s features and totally respect and preserve its signature. That’s how we felt when recording Apnée. We had him listen to the tracks that we demoed and he was really positive and interested. He suggested the live approach although we were already leaning towards it, because it obviously brings in a raw, tense and authentic vibe to a recording while also being a challenge in itself. The fact that he excels at this type of exercise just urged us to confirm this choice. And you know, if you can play your songs right, it also takes less time and costs less money… Which matters when you’re a small DIY band!
Is it all live? No overdubs or re-recording of any parts?
Yes, all recorded live in a Parisian squat called La Gare XP, except for the vocals and the tracking of ‘Odds’, which was a slightly different setup because of the nature of the song, which contains some acoustic guitar. This one was a little special, because even though we had a few ideas on what we wanted to do at this point of the album, we had no clear vision on how it would turn out. We ended up using the little spare time that we had to record it, trying things out, almost improvising sometimes, but I think we’re all happy with the result and it was a very nice experience.
Early days I know as the album is yet to be released, but is there new material in the works?
There are obviously phases where we concentrate on touring, rehearsing or other things but there is always some new material in the works in the background. Sometimes more, sometimes less, that’s all. We have been very busy with the recording, the booking and the release overall these past months but we are getting back at it these days.
Any plans for shows in support of the album? And will we be seeing you in the UK anytime soon?
Well we just got back from a tour across Europe through 7 countries, and it went really great! We got to visit many places we had never been or played before (super frustrating sometimes, because of the lack of time left to actually visit anything), and met the best people. The overall welcome was absolutely fantastic, and we feel extremely grateful to everyone that helped us making it happen, came to the shows and supported us. We had not done anything such in more than 2 years so it was such a relief to finally hit the road again. And yes, we are definitely coming back for more, probably later this year and around this time next year. We played a couple gigs in the UK back in 2012 on a tour with our friends from Dead Existence, and we just have the nicest memories of these two shows. So yes, the UK is definitely a target on our upcoming tours!
Many thanks for taking time out for this interview. Do you have any final words for our readers?
Watch out for the froggies. Thanks a lot to you and the Midlands Rock team for this interview!