Interview: Valentina

This interview was originally published in Issue 17, May 1st. Words by Tiffany Daniels, illustrations by Jhinuk Sarkar. Forenames are usually reserved for established pop stars, but occasionally an underground act latch onto the trend – whether out of arrogance, ignorance or necessity. Valentina falls squarely into the third bracket, with an Italian surname that eludes both Google and the common British tongue. Based in London, the young musician is keen to avoid the singer-songwriter tag that brands most female guitarists. That much is clear from her debut EP Weights, which was released on Little Chaos Records at the beginning of April. Produced by Kwes (who’s previously worked with The XX and Micachu) and her ex-boyfriend Blue May, all five tracks are wrapped in a static that cracks an otherwise lush melody. It’s a poignant listen dedicated to the loves and losses of adulthood. In the following interview DrunkenWerewolf’s Tiffany Daniels speaks to Valentina about keeping her record close to her heart, music made by a community and the benefits of having to start again.

 

How long have you been playing music?

I’ve been [playing] music [since I was] pretty young; through my whole life it’s [...] been part of [me]. [I’ve been] seriously playing gigs of my own [for] the last five years; [the time] before that was a journey to get to this stage. I’ve always written my own songs, and I’ve always sung, but it takes a while to get the place where you feel ready to [embrace music].

How long did it take you to record your debut EP Weights?

We set out to make [the recording process] painlessly. I had a bunch of songs, and we were like, “We’re just going to record them, no hassle”. We had ideas of how we wanted to do it, and it was all meant to be very simple. It ended up taking a lot of time, for various reasons! We didn’t have our own studio for a lot of it. Then the whole EP got lost! So we had to start all over again!

How did it get lost?!

On the computer - it was some sort of computer hard-drive mystery. But it was really good, because we ended up in a place where we’d intended to be in the first place. It was surprising; [the re-recording] came together really quickly because we’d learned from our mistakes. It was really simple and we got a bunch of friends and musicians together and just did it. We didn’t think about it too much!

Who do you include when you say “we”? Are there other people included in Valentina?

No, but people like Blue May and Kwes – who produced it – and then there are musicians that I worked with in the studio and wrote with. Then also there are a couple of musicians who I play live with as well. Just all kinds of people, mates really...

You recorded it with your ex boyfriend, Blue. Was it easy to remove your personal life from your working life?

No it wasn’t easy! I was kind of like a nightmare in a way, but we’d done a lot of music before so it was natural too. We decided to [record the EP together] after we’d broken up, so it wasn’t like we broke up in the studio, but it was a mad thing to do. It was sometimes unbearable when we were together, but something good always came out of it. It was a weird dynamic.

Did it influence the recording?

It did, and there was a lot of tension at points because we both so much just wanted to get it done, for [professional] and personal reasons, and the songs are very personal too.

 

Do you think it’s important to draw a line between home life and celebrity?

In my case - working with Blue - [I] couldn’t draw a line. Some people find a way, but I couldn’t [when] you’re so honest with someone, and they’re so honest with you. Then again, when you’re in the studio and you’re really tired you don’t need someone saying to you, “That was shit!

Have the people you worked with influenced your sound? Essentially you’re a singer-songwriter, but that doesn’t reflect on the EP.

I think I was very aware [of avoiding that sound]. Three of the songs were written on my own on the guitar, and then a couple of the songs were written with [other people]. I thought they’d work together as a body of work, but I didn’t want an [acoustic] record. I knew the right people to take the songs into an interesting setting, and for it to be done with sensitivity; for it to be about the songs, but for there to be something surrounding them. It was definitely done intentionally!

 

From an outsiders perspective it seems quite easy to fall into a scene in London, regardless of whether it indicates a certain sound. Do you think that you and your friends fall into a scene?

I don’t know if it’s a scene so much, but I think that you gravitate towards people who are into the same thing, and people who you respect and they respect you. I think as far as collaborating with any of these people, it’s really important to me. Especially I’ve kind of realised it recently, it’s good to let go of your ego sometimes and fill in gaps, where your weaknesses are covered by other people’s strengths, rather than trying to do everything by yourself.

Have you collaborated with established acts before?

I wrote one song with a gay called Max who’s in Wolf Gang, and I’ve worked with a few others, like Romeo from The Magic Numbers. It’s weird to force that kind of thing. I hope that I’ll find myself in the right place at the right time, but at the moment I feel like I have the right people in my life.

What do you have planned at the moment for 2011?

I don’t want to say too much, but there’s a lot of exciting things going on. Hopefully [there will be] quite a lot of gigs; the gigs are picking up. They’ll be on the website! Mainly I’m focusing on new songs and ideas.

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