Valley Queen is a Los Angeles based band who has an edgy indie sound that you can’t get enough of. If you dig their sound as much as I do then I have good news for you! The band’s debut album, Supergiant, drops on July 13. I got to chat with Valley Queen’s frontwoman, Natalie Carol, about the band’s debut album, their upcoming tour, and more.
TYF: First and foremost, how did the band form and how did you guys come up with the name Valley Queen?
Natalie Carol: We changed band names about three years ago when writing and sound started to evolve. We were a band filled with new members that originally started in college with the present-day member, Neil Wogensen. Valley of the Queens is a place in Egypt that has been visited since ancient times and is known as a place to lay matriarchs to rest after death. I like that image, knowing that there is a place that houses the feminine of the past.
TYF: You guys are based out in Los Angeles which has a huge music scene. How do you make your music stand out from the rest?
Natalie: There are so many people here [Los Angeles] who are trying out different avenues of making music. Sometimes you can feel lost in the sheer volume of the community. However, I really like Los Angeles as a place to habitat because of its burgeoning ideas, new-ness, and progressiveness. I like to think that Los Angeles supplies me with a more dynamic way of thinking that enhances what it is is I am trying to say when we go out and perform. Hopefully, we create something as fresh, dynamic, and diverse as the place we live.
TYF: How do you guys fuel your creativity?
Natalie: That’s always changing and shifting. Movement is a big part of it. Dylan said in his book, Chronicles, how songs often come when in motion whether it’s on a train, on the back of a horse, on a plane, etc. I resonate with that. I also enjoy the feeling of coming home after a long stint of traveling – that can be creatively energizing, too.
TYF: Your debut album, Supergiant, comes out on Friday the 13th! Early congratulations. What can you tell our readers about your album before it comes out
Natalie: Oh wow, I didn’t realize it was Friday the 13th until you just said it. That’s auspicious, isn’t it? Supergiant is a rock record and it’s getting presented to the world as a rock record, absolutely. But some of my most prized and tender moments on the LP are when we utilize the space to quiet down and stretch out, and that’s something I don’t think the world is expecting after the very high volume singles we have put out so far. There’s a shift that happens that expands the scope of what we are trying to express.
TYF: How did you guys come up with the title of the album?
Natalie: The title track of the album came from the galaxy’s/universe’s biggest and most rapidly burning stars, Supergiants. The title alludes to light and expansiveness, but all of the aesthetic imagery of the album is dark and remains mysterious. I like pairing the idea of light with images of darkness to suggest their companionship.
TYF: What was the last song you guys made for the album and what’s the story behind the track?
Natalie: The last song on the ordering of the album’s songs is actually the last song that made it on the record, “Highway Pearls.” It was in competition with two other B-sides that we decided will be released as a pairing later on. I like the way “Highway Pearls” leaves the listener on the album. Shawn definitely opened up his guitar parts ala Brian Eno to create a forever into the distance kind of feel, which I like as an ending. It asks questions about the future with warmth and desire.
TYF: A couple of years back, you guys performed as part of the NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert series. What was that experience like?
Natalie: We all really enjoyed that. We were shocked by that opportunity. Bob Boilen happened to be at a studio where we were tracking one day at SXSW three years ago. We had not even put out an EP or full-length record, we were just getting started. A few months later, we flew into D.C. It was surreal. Most people don’t know this but you get this beautiful view of downtown D.C. as you’re performing. You feel up on the clouds.
TYF: For short acoustic sets such as the NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert, how did you guys pick what songs to sing?
Natalie: Definitely went with songs that felt the strongest and most enjoyable to play at the time. We performed the song, “Ride”, which didn’t get recorded in the studio until this record, years later.
TYF: Does the prep for an acoustic set vary compared to when performer for larger venues?
Natalie: Yeah, we are definitely a plugged-in rock band; that’s the setting where the band is at its most natural. I like playing broken down shows solo because the band is most alive plugged in. I enjoy sharing the bare bones of the song with just a guitar or maybe even add another guitar.
TYF: You guys have a huge tour that kicks off this summer until mid-fall. What’s your favorite part about being on the road?
Natalie: I think that question goes back to what inspires me, which is movement. Being on tour creates a new sense of dynamic in your life’s rhythm that often expresses itself creatively. I like that aspect of the tour. I think the tour also provides this wonderful opportunity to feel yourself evolve as a player and entertainer and you actually feel yourself being good at something, if the tour is going well. But even when it’s hard, as touring often can be, you feel an experience and get something out of touring.
TYF: You guys will be sharing the stage with Social Distortion & Justin Townes Earle on some of the shows on the tour, how did this opportunity come about?
Natalie: I know Social Distortion got handed our album through management friends before it got released and they apparently liked it. I think it went from there. I’ve been familiar with Justin Townes Earle’s music since I was at university and I respect him as a songwriter. Touring is an opportunity to see how other artists are navigating their way through their careers. It will be cool.
TYF: You guys released the new track, “Ride.” What is typically your writing process like?
Natalie: A lot of times, the songs I end up keeping come from times when I feel I just had to write, I had to create a conduit for a feeling that had to soothe itself or shift in some way. Other times, the motivation isn’t as urgent, but the songs emerge out of fragmented hours, minutes, moments that all add up to some bigger idea.
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TYF: How do you guys make sure everyone’s input in the band is being heard during the creative writing process?
Natalie: The expression of the whole band really starts to happen when we start the arrangement process. Sometimes we jam on one movement for a while, and it starts to take a new shape or a new approach to the way I imagined it when I first sat down with the guitar. Having bands really allows for a sonic experience to happen in the present moment with the audience. So while the song may be discussing memories or future times, the music is always there to cement the experience in the existing physical space. That happens when the band comes together and makes that as a collective.
TYF: What message do you want listeners to take away after listening to “Ride”?
Natalie: Don’t forget to howl at the moon at midnight, skyclad.
TYF: If you could build the perfect playlist to listen to on the road this summer, what would it include?
Natalie: The new Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks Record, Sparkle Hard. Pavement, for that matter. New Laura Marling project, LUMP. My friend Mackenzie Howe just turned me on to this very cool bass player/singer-songwriter from the 70’s, Suzi Quatro. I know the guys are into the new Kamasi Washington record, Heaven and Earth.
TYF: Lastly, I know you guys have a crazy packed summer already with all of the upcoming shows but have any fun summer plans during your oh so rare free time?
Natalie: Been looking forward to Pickathon and Winnipeg Folk Fest for months. Those are our fun summer plans!
Jam out to Valley Queen’s new music here.