A Valley Son Shares Debut EP Sunset Park, Talks Inspiration and An Old Chevy Malibu

Michael Brummett + Meredith Schneider

Last week, New York’s soulful alt-rock quartet A Valley Son released their debut EP, a collection of songs titled Sunset Park. These tracks aren’t just any tracks, they’re well-composed melodies that blend raw emotion and beautiful instrumentals to make you FEEL the music. Whether you’re sitting around a fire enjoying a beverage with close friends, cooking with your significant other or children in the kitchen, or swaying your hips as much as your seatbelt will allow you in the car, this six song EP is perfect for enhancing the quality of your every day moments.

Do we sound like an ad yet?

We were lucky enough to sort some questions with band member Trey, who gives us a glimpse into one of our favorite up-and-coming acts below.

Why music?

The short answer is: we can’t not do it. In New York where everyone is hustling and running around and stressing about where the next rent payment is coming from it’s not easy finding the time and energy to get a group of people in a room together and focus on turning some rough hewn ideas into a song.

We’ve all known each other for years, but it hasn’t been until the last year when everything aligned to free us up to go from being casual collaborators into a true band. But it takes an internal drive and energy to do that because it’s far easier to just not. It’s easier to stay home and not schlep to the rehearsal space for 4 hours at night when you have work at 8am the next day, or scrounge every dime to pay for studio time, or spend the countless hours mixing and obsessing over the tunes. So, we do it because, for ourselves, we just have to.

What sort of cohesion, or togetherness, has been forged in your time together?

After a year or more of playing together and laughing and arguing over ideas and sitting in a cramped Chevy Malibu with amp cabs on our laps passing flasks on the way home from out-of-town gigs you certainly learn a thing or two about one another. We’re lucky in that, at the core, even though we’re all very different we all sort of grew up on the same tunes: Motown, Soul, Rock, Gospel. This makes it easy because every time a new tune is brought to the group or a new idea introduced, it always falls in line with what we’re trying to do. So, there is certainly a lot of cohesiveness that has been manufactured after playing hundreds of gigs together, but there is also a core level of musical understanding we all have that makes things really easy.

A prime example is that early on in the group’s existence we were asked to play a 3-hour cover gig at a local barbecue joint. We took the gig; the only problem was we didn’t know a single cover, let alone 3 hours of them, and didn’t have time to rehearse before. What did we do? We just got on stage and I called out the keys and we just played the songs. Now we have a monthly residency at this place, and while we know all the tunes now, it’s extremely comforting to know that I can walk onto any stage with these guys and just play and it’ll turn out alright.

How do you continually find the inspired to keep creating music?

I think the first response partially covers this but in a town like this it’s really easy to stay inspired. You meet too many smart, diverse, talented, amazing people, and see too much weird, ugly, beautiful shit to not be inspired. Also, with our current political and social situation being as screwed up as it is the anger and frustration that comes from watching that unfold means a constant flow of ideas.

In fact, the title track of the record, “Sunset Park”, was written as a direct response to the divisive reaction to Michael Brown’s death in 2014. It, to me, was an obvious tragedy; a failure of the system and a repudiation of the entire philosophy behind how America enforces its laws. He was a kid, he was unarmed, he should be alive. Watching half of America respond with “He deserved it,” blew my mind. It forced me to rethink what America was and what it meant to be American. Now, with Trump as President, it appears we’ve doubled down on our callousness, our selfishness. Well, we as a band reject that. I’m not sure it’s reflected in this EP outside of “Sunset Park”, but there will be a lot more songs on the horizon that deal directly with this struggle. I don’t know if they’re protest songs, but we’re going to try to call “bullshit” on bullshit when we see it

Where do you feel the most comfortable as an artist? On stage, in the studio, somewhere else?

Definitely on stage. We like the studio, and we like just hanging out together, but something happens on stage. It’s singular. Sometimes you’re off and it’s demoralizing and sometime you’re ok and it’s not that satisfying, but sometimes it all comes together and it’s euphoric. That kind of thing only happens on stage, so it’s definitely where we feel most comfortable.

Is there a particularly challenging moment that has defined your journey so far?

This is a tough one to answer for the band as a whole but I think the most challenging part of doing any art is how much “No” you hear. Can we play your venue? No. Do you like our songs? No. And on and on. We would play and record for no one, and we often do, but trying to build a critical mass of support is the hardest part in getting to do the thing we want to do. We just want to play, and many times it’s hard to even get that opportunity.

How do you take your coffee?

In the morning, noon and night.

Was there a specific motivation or story behind the creation of Sunset Park?

I got specific with the title track, but the rest of the songs all come from personal experience of one sort of another. A bad relationship, not meeting other’s expectations, a friend’s death, nostalgia. I, personally, try to use the songs as a way to give an unfiltered view of myself. I try to be honest, despite how that makes me look or feel because it’s so hard for all of us to be honest about who we are or how we feel in front of others. I’m not terribly talkative or emotive in day-to-day life, but the songs give me a place to figure out all the shit I can’t on my own. Writing helps.

Do you have a dream collaboration with another artist, producer, or someone else?

I certainly don’t speak for everyone, but I want to make a record with M. Ward. I think his songs are unbelievable, but his ability to create a sound and take listeners to another space is unparalleled in my opinion. I’d love to just sit in a studio and experiment with him over my shoulder just being like, “What about this…”

If you could introduce yourself to an audience in any way, no constraints, how would you?

I know we’re a pretty unapologetic rock-and-roll band, but all of these songs are really personal stories and lyric driven. I think the rock-and-roll veneer makes them easier to digest, but if you really listen you’ll glimpse more than that. We want people to dance and tap their toes, but we also want people to take a second look and maybe learn something else, too.

Anything else you’d like to let the readers know?

Come to a show, we’d love to meet you.

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Sunset Park is available now via Spotify and Apple Music.

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