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Death Valley Rally - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 3 / 10 / 2013

Death Valley Rally - Interview


John Clarkson speaks to Ralph Bautista from American indie/shoegaze band Death Valley Rally about their six-song debut EP, ‘The Stars Shine Bright After Midnight’

Death Valley Rally are an American indie/shoegaze band, whose members live in Norfolk, Virginia and Washington DC. The group, whose line-up consists of Ralph Bautista (guitar and vocals), Tiffany Riley (guitar, vocals and keyboards), Robin Baker (bass) and Josh Kuffleitner (drums), have just released their six-song debut EP, ‘The Stars Shine Bright After Midnight’, on the long-standing Virginia-based label, Planting Seed Records. The band openly acknowledge a set of late 80’s/early 90’s alternative rock influences, but there is much originality in their sound, which while dark-toned and themed, is also defiantly upbeat. The soaring opening track ‘Come On’ has buzzsaw wall-of-sound guitars that recall the Jesus and Mary Chain, and it lyrics give the EP its title (“The stars shines brighter after midnight/And help us find our way home”). ‘I See You Clearly Now’ has the sort of slow-building, creeping guitar line that might have been found on the Cure’s ‘Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me’ and ‘Disintegration’ albums, and has a lengthy minutes-long instrumental before - in what is her only vocal appearance on the EP - the mournful vocals of Tiffany Riley, brooding over the break-up of a relationship which she can see looming directly in front of her, kick in. Other standout-tracks includes the joyous ‘One Night in Vienna’, in which amidst a haze of guitars, Bautista implores a lover to make the most with him of their one day together, and the “quiet/loud” ‘Farewell’, which concludes the EP in a storming rush of discordance. In what was their first British interview, Pennyblackmusic spoke to Ralph Bautista about Death Valley Rally. PB: You come from the Virginia/Washington DC area and follow in the great tradition of other indiepop/shoegaze acts from the same area like the Lilys, Velocity Girl and Unrest and labels such as Slumberland and Teenbeat Records. How aware were you of those acts when you formed Death Valley Rally? How much of an influence were they on your sound? RB: I would have to say those aforementioned bands and many more like-minded bands from that era have had a huge impact on what we are doing as a band today. Being exposed to many of those bands and appreciating their contribution to that genre of music, it's only natural for me, as a songwriter, to gravitate towards that specific sound. PB: Where does your name Death Valley Rally come from? RB: It was inspired by the Sonic Youth song, ‘Death Valley '69’. Tiffany, being a huge Sonic Youth fan, came up with the idea of our band name. We all liked her idea, so we were more than happy to roll with it. PB: How much experience had you all had of playing in other bands before Death Valley Rally? Were you all in other groups? RB: We all have been involved in one or more bands in the past. Interestingly, our roles in Death Valley Rally are different in comparison to our earlier undertakings in previous bands. This is my first foray as a lead vocalist in a band, as well as, being the primary songwriter. Our bass player, Robin, played drums in a prior band. And Tiffany, who now assumes guitar and keyboard duties, was the bass player for one of her past bands and lead vocalists for another. Along with our drummer Josh, we all have talked about switching it up and playing different instruments for future songs. But, that remains to be seen. PB: Death Valley Rally formed in early 2010, and it has taken you three years to get this first EP out? It is a superb EP, but that is a long time for six songs. Why has it taken so long? RB: Living more than three hours away in Washington, DC from the rest of my band mates, who all reside in the Norfolk, Virginia area, has been somewhat of a challenge. I can only commit to driving down one or two weekends a month, which slows down the whole band process, when it comes to rehearsal, studio time, etc. Fortunately, the rest of my band mates have gotten used to the situation. And it's become standard operation procedure for our band. PB: The EP was mastered by Jon Chaikin who has worked with the Pains of Being Pure At Heart, Black Tambourine and Radio Dept. How did you meet him? Why did you decide to ask him to master 'The Stars Shine Brighter After Midnight'? RB: It was through Neil, from Planting Seeds Records, who introduced us to Jon. We saw the roster of amazing bands that Jon had worked with in the past, and instantly knew that we wanted to work with him. Jon had a good ear for what we were trying to accomplish. Once the mastering was completed, we were really happy with how our EP sounded. PB: Planting Seeds Records like Slumberland is another long-established label with a strong catalogue. How did you become involved with them and Neil Delparto who runs it? RB: Tiffany and Neil have been friends for years. Once we formed Death Valley Rally, she was pretty persistent in getting Neil to listen to our recordings that were made during our rehearsals. Eventually, he gave a listen to those recordings, and, despite how raw sounding they were, he liked what we were doing. That's when he invited us to join his label. He's been really helpful in all our band endeavours, and we're truly grateful for all his support. PB: 'Come On' opens the EP, and has the lyrics of "Come on/Come on/Let's find a way out of here." Do you see that song as you have put it at the start as being a rallying cry to both yourselves and your fans? RB: The whole premise of the song is not to hesitate in sharing your feelings with someone you truly care about. At the same time, it's all about the hook and the catchy chorus for us! You hear it throughout 'Come On'. PB: You have described your music as being "a contradiction of sorts," and certainly pull of a double trick of being dark in sound but also upbeat at the same time. Was that what you meant by that remark? RB: We wanted to find a happy medium with our sound. Especially, if you pay attention to the lyrics of our songs on the EP, there's an overriding theme of heartbreak and loss. It would be easy to take the music in a somewhat gloomy direction. But, we would much rather keep the vibe of our music upbeat. PB; 'One Night in Vienna' tells of a couple who like Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy's characters in 'Richard Linklater's film 'Before Sunrise' have one night together in Vienna. What inspired that song? RB: That exact movie! I remember watching Linklater's film ages ago. That film left a lasting impression on me. The movie ends, when the characters, somewhat naively promise to meet each other in six months at the same train station, without ever exchanging any contact information. It left the audience to ponder what ended up happening. Of course, a decade later, Linklater answers that question with a sequel. PB: You're going to be touring the East Coast shortly. What plans have you got for the future? Will there be an album? RB: We're pretty excited to be playing some live dates in November. We already have plans to be out on the road this coming up January. Also, we will be shooting a video for our song "Farewell" in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we've been working on some new material. There's talk about releasing a 7" record in the spring and possibly another EP. Hopefully, it won't take us another three years to release it! PB: Thank you.

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Death Valley Rally - Interview

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