Gushing Over Vallis Alps at North Coast Music Festival [Interview]
Vallis Alps are pretty big in Australia, yet are just gaining momentum here in the states. That momentum has been exponential this past year, with two tours across the country and counting. The more these two play, the more shows they sell out. Their unique sound is a flawless juxtaposition of hard beats and soft vocals. We caught up with David and Parissa at North Coast Music Festival in Chicago after their set to get to know what brought these two together to make such beautiful music.
Sensible Reason: How was the set?
David: It was really fun.
Parissa: It was a really fun show.
David: I think it was the most exposed to Sun I’ve ever been during a show, which was really nice, it feels good to have sunlight instead of just lights.
SR: Vitamin D
Parissa: That’s true, people were dancing and just giving us so much energy, so it’s beautiful.
SR: How does the show compare to the last time you were in Chicago? You played in a totally different setting.
David: When we played last time it was at Schubas Tavern. I remember that night was the most laser-focused attentive crowd. Every moment you would want them to be really listening, they were listening. I feel like today the energy was more excited, partying, festival, summer.
SR: Less focused on you, more focused on the atmosphere?
David: Exactly. The focus wasn’t on us, the focus was on the excitement of the environment. It was really cool.
Parissa: It’s a different energy, you can’t really describe it. But both equally amazing.
SR: How did you end up coming back to the area so soon with being so far from home?
Parissa: This is our third US tour this year and this festival lined up really well for us and our booking agent thought so as well. It worked out really well.
David: This is only our second US festival, right?
Parissa: Yeah, it is.
David: It was awesome, fun.
SR: It seems like the more you play the more you are booked. You started with a handful of shows and sold them out, then next thing we knew you were playing more sold out shows, and now this festival tour. How does the momentum feel? Is it overwhelming?
Parissa: For us, touring in the US is one of the only ways we can really connect with people in a deeper way. Every time we plan more shows we get really excited because we’re so far away in Australia. So, it’s so nice to actually be here and immerse ourselves in the US and each city is so different. So being able to experience each different city is awesome.
SR: How does your following compare here in the States as in Australia?
David: With Australia, a lot of the people that come to our shows have heard of us through the radio, where as the people who know us here are people who are super switched on with internet blogs and YouTube channels. So, they’re really deeply focused on us and our story and our music where as in Australia it’s the hype of being on the radio. So I think, generally, the people that we perform to here has a higher ratio of people who know all the words. It’s much smaller rooms but the focus is much more intense. That’s how it feels at least.
SR: How did you two end up getting together in the first place with [David] being from the US and [Parissa] from Australia?
Parissa: David and I both volunteered at a place called the Bahá’í World Centre in Isreal after high school. We basically just met at a friend’s house and we were both playing music and sometimes you find someone you click with musically but it’s kind of rare to be able to just jam and make new songs. We started making new songs immediately and I had never experienced that with anyone before. So we did that but then I moved back to Australia and he moved back to the states but we always sent each other music. Two years after we had gone home I went to Seattle and we recorded the first EP and that’s when the electronic side of things got started. Then we released it and we were like “Whoa, people actually like this, let’s do this seriously.”
SR: So you guys started doing it kind of Postal Service style for a moment. You have an interesting juxtaposition between your ethereal singing voice and David’s hard electronic production, what’s the creative process with that?
David: I think fundamentally we’re very different people. We’re complete opposites in so many ways, so it’s really interesting to me that we connect on music because we approach the actual process of music really different. But, because of that it, keeps us really curious to what the other person is doing and what the other person thinks. Parissa will write melodies in ways I would not think of because I’ll approach it in really conventional ways or unconventional ways. And it’ll be vice-versa with production. I’ll have a certain idea and she’ll be like ‘no no, dig into the root of this’ or ‘expand on that.’ I think we’re really different and we try to let that breathe in our music. What we found recently is the more we can let the music write itself and the less we try and fit it in a box that’s in the middle of the Venn diagram of the two of us, the more we can explore and find new places rather than direct compromises.
SR: That’s kind of the beauty of what you do. There’s a great push and pull of what you do, it’s soft then hard then back again. Is that the best part of being so different, or do you find your differences to be a challenge in the writing process?
Parissa: It’s funny, we have this insane curiosity for the next step. We love to see what else we can do and change it up and try a different sound or try writing a different way. I think that’s why so many of our songs are so different from each other and the range within them. I guess that is a blessing in many ways because it’s a fun process but also challenging, for instance, to put a live show together that is consistent with energy enough to flow and grab an audience that isn’t too dynamic. If all of our songs are so different and we’re releasing them at the same time I wonder sometimes if people will like it if it’s so different. I guess it’s a blessing and a…challenge?
David: An absolute curse [laughs]. The creative process is very often a curse but the end of it is usually worth it. Not always, sometimes we’ll get to the end of an idea think it’s not as exciting.
SR: Speaking along the same lines of the end of an idea, you just released a new track a few weeks ago called “Oceans,” but you played an unnamed track today at your set. Why is it still unnamed?
Parissa: The practical reason is that we released “Oceans,” recently so the name had to form as we put it out to the world. It really needs a name, we have to choose a name. The other one just isn’t at that point yet, but we have a few options.
SR: You already had one EP come out already this year. What’s the next step?
David: We’re just writing right now, honestly. We’ve never just written to write. With the first EP, we had 3 weeks to come up with something while she was in Seattle and we were together, and then we spent another year and a half trying to figure out what that was after we already recorded it. Our next EP that we released this year, Fable, that was us really pushing ourselves to follow up an unexpected success which came with its own pressure. Now that we finished that, we’ve been touring like crazy this year. I think we’ve been writing just to get creative and we’re letting it dictate what our next steps are. We just put out another track that was born out of just wanting to be creative, putting aside the format we release it in. Making it secondary to the experience of creating.
SR: What inspires you most?
Parissa: Music itself, we’re so obsessed with music and the power it can have in general. As a writer, you experience that power as you create it.
SR: Sometimes it takes 5 hours to come up with someone so small, and other times it takes 30 minutes and something beautiful can pour from you, right?
David: The craft itself is really deep. There’s no end to where your curiosity will take you so that in itself is really inspiring.
Parissa: And also just seeing music as a vessel. I think I’m most inspired by music that reflects on deeper concepts. So, things that are really important in society. For us, music is a way of trying to reflect on reality and concepts that are really important to us. The last track we released was all about women and the fight for equality between men and women throughout the world right now and a conversation we had about how inspiring it is to see so many women in all the roles they play in society and how they fight for that equality.
Catch this inspiring duo on the rest of their World Tour. Tickets at their website. Dates below.