From The Horse’s Mouth: Ralph Bautista (Death Valley Rally) on The Stars Shine Brighter After Midnight EP
It doesn’t seem that long ago when bands like The Lilys, Velocity Girl, The Ropers, Unrest, and the labels Slumberland and Teenbeat Records were showcasing some great indiepop/shoegaze from the Virginia and Washington DC areas. Those key players along with others, no doubt influenced a generation of future musicians.
Not surprisingly – Norfolk, VA/ Washington DC based quartet Death Valley Rally – blasts onto the scene with their unique, highly infectious brand of noise pop recalling the classic sounds of those very roots – infusing it with vibrant doses of heavy reverb driven melodic perfection, geared for the 21st Century and beyond.
Formed in early March 2010, members include Ralph Bautista (guitar and vocals), Tiffany Riley (guitar, vocals, and keyboards), and Robin Baker (bass). The later addition of Josh Kufleitner (drums) solidified the band’s lineup. Death Valley Rally’s fantastic debut EP The Stars Shine Brighter After Midnight (Planting Seeds Records) hit record store shelves and digital download outlets worldwide on August 27, 2013. The release was mastered by the great Jon Chaikin (The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, Black Tambourine, Radio Dept. etc) and is sure to delight indiepop fans the world over.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with DVR’s Ralph Bautista to discuss the EP. This is what he said about it.
When did you begin writing the material for your most recent EP?
Ralph Bautista: The songs that ended up on our current EP, The Stars Shine Brighter After Midnight, were written over the course of 2011 and the early part of 2012. Several of the songs on our EP were recorded early on as demos (just to have something posted on our website) and subsequently rerecorded once we were ready to go into the studio in late spring 2012.
Since I live in Washington, DC and the rest of the band live over three hours away in Norfolk, VA, it’s been kind of a challenge to sync up our schedules for band rehearsal, studio time, etc., which is limited to the weekends, whenever I can drive down. That’s why I feel like everything we do as a band takes longer than usual because of the geographical distance we have to deal with. But, at the same time, it’s something I’m willing to do because I enjoy playing with these guys!
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing? Why was it so troublesome?
RB: I would have to say “Stop And Go”. Even though it’s such a simple song with mostly repetitive chord progressions, the song has a really fast tempo. And if either one or more of us play the song a little too fast or too slow, it messes up the overall dynamics of the song. Needless to say, that song gave us the most trouble in the studio.
Which of the songs on the record is most different from your original concept for the song?
RB: Definitely the song “See You Clearly Now”. We were never fully happy with the original version. So Tiffany took the reins and restructured the song and took up lead vocals. Comparing the original version to the new version that eventually ended up on our EP is like night and day. The only thing that remained the same from the original version were the lyrics.
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?
RB: No, if we had more time in the studio we definitely would have considered it. Our friend Wally Denosta contributed some vocal ideas that we ended up using on the song “One Night In Vienna”.
Who produced the record? What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?
RB: Neil DelParto, who runs Planting Seeds Records, highly recommended engineer Chris Kendrick who owns Whiskey Bear Studios in Virginia Beach, VA. He recorded, mixed, and helped us produce the EP. Before going into the studio, we pretty much knew what direction we wanted to take our songs. Chris was really good at picking up on our vision and helped steer it. We really enjoyed our time working with him in the studio. The final mixes were sent to Jon Chaikin from NonStop Sound in San Francisco, CA to be mastered. We thought it was pretty cool that he had previously worked with The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and Black Tambourine, two bands we really dig.
Is there an overarching concept behind your new album that ties the record together?
RB: The two main themes that are consistent throughout our album is love and heartbreak. It’s reflected in the lyrics. At the same time, we purposely wanted to make our songs upbeat and catchy, with a lot of hook-laden melodies.
Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?
RB: We received really positive responses to playing “Come On”, “Stop And Go”, and “Farewell” live. We’ll be on the road this November for a couple of dates in DC and Philly. As long as we see people bobbing their heads and tapping their feet to the beat of our songs, we’re happy!