#CREATORTALK is a series of articles and interviews, with a focus on the creative industries and the talent working within them. In this edition of #CREATORTALK, we speak to NYC-based musician El Valerie.
PW- Hey Valerie! How are you doing?
Hi!! I’m doing pretty good, thanks for asking!
PW- So first thing’s first. For those who haven’t met you yet, how would you sum up who you are and what you do?
My name is Valerie! I’m a musician and visual artist (I’ve actually done nearly all of my own album and EP covers). I kind of think of myself as a one-woman art factory. And a big nerd.
PW- You recently released your debut album, “Electro-Pampas”. What inspired you to make the album, and do you have any highlights from the process of making it?
Oh boy, so Electro-Pampas was made during an interesting time in my life. I moved back home to finish college, which I’m still doing right now. I left home at a young age and lived in Baltimore, Maryland here in the US for a while; figuring out what it means to be an artist (which I am also still doing), working a bunch of retail jobs, and taking in the incredible experimental music and art scenes there. I made like 8 or 9 short EPs – all my first recordings were made there, with the city’s crazy influence. When I moved back to New York, I had a lot of feelings that I needed to translate into music. After like a zillion EPs, I felt like it was time for a bigger statement – Electro-Pampas is my first full-length. Completely recorded in my bedroom!
PW- One thing I found really interesting is the limited edition release on cassette tape. Obviously tape was huge back in the day, but is very rare to find now. What made you decide to release a physical version on this format?
Cassettes are actually bigger than most people realize! They’re an affordable way for DIY artists to physically reproduce their work. When I lived in Baltimore, I worked in this record shop called True Vine Records (shoutout to Jason Willett!), and there was a huge rack of new cassettes, from local bands and bands passing through town on tour. But for my release, tapes were actually Joshua Lenzo’s (of the band John Zealous) idea – he started Haunted Attics Records, and he suggested cassettes when we were working out how HAR’s release of ‘Electro-Pampas’ would go.
PW- I was reading that your Mum shot the cover picture for “Electro Pampus” and that the words on the card are hand-lettered by you. What was the inspiration for both the art, and this creative collaboration?
As far as the lettering goes, I really just love to do everything myself. it’s part of my “one-woman art factory” mentality. When designing the j-card, the layout guy, Ethan Bellhouse, asked if I wanted to pick a font or make scans of a handwritten tracklist and liner notes. I immediately went for the handwriting idea – it just feels more personal. I used to hand-draw and photocopy CD-R sleeves and actually cut and tape them together to put the CD in. Doing everything by hand just feels right, like you’re really putting your unique mark on each copy of your work. DIY all the way! And for the cover photo, I seriously just found that baby photo by chance in my mom’s house last year, and I was like “Whoa. There’s my album cover.” I would definitely say that my mom, Isabel, is an influence on me and my work, though. I get a lot of myself from her.
PW- Creativity can be all-consuming, which most readers will know all too well. How do you chill out after finishing a big project?
Honestly, I am super hyperactive. I’m not great at chilling out. If I have an idea, I compulsively need to write it down in the middle of whatever I’m doing. I even annoy MYSELF. Ha! But I’m really into painting lately, which is so calming. Visual art has always been incredibly cathartic for me. Watching movies and just chilling and talking with friends is vital to me as well. Sleeping in and doing nothing feels great too, though. And listening to music, of course. 🙂
PW- In this kind of industry, it can be tough to feel like you’re moving forwards sometimes. How do you battle these feelings when they come up, and do you have any advice to other people who might be struggling in a similar way?
Eh, there was a time when I was focused on an idea of success in the music ‘industry’, but I’ve changed a lot since then, and since I started writing music at all. I think it’s more about your personal, creative human journey more than any outside factors. Like, can YOU rock out to your own music? Do YOU like it? Ultimately, that’s what’s important. I would say don’t be so self-conscious. Accept when things don’t work out. Have a good relationship with yourself, and you’ll make stuff that YOU are really proud of. Things will always change. Be nice to yourself!
PW- And final question! It’s more of an invitation actually. Use the next few sentences to tell us what you’re up to next, and where we can follow you online 🙂
Like I mentioned earlier, I’m bad at chilling out – I’m writing my second full-length right now!! Just working and learning and doing my best to be better, artistically and everywhere else! I’m on Twitter (@conventionalval), and I’m thinking about making an Instagram for my artworks.
My Bandcamp page has everything musical I’ve ever done, and all the lyrics to Electro-Pampas – lvalerie.bandcamp.com! And hit up Haunted Attics Records if you’d like a tape! https://hauntedatticsrecords.bandcamp.com/album/electro-pampas-deluxe
Thanks for reading, y’all!