Photo Credit: Chris Phelps
Like Angela Bassett once did (for different reasons) in the cinematic gem, ‘Waiting to Exhale,’ Valley Queen set their past aflame to start anew with their April 21st release, ‘Chord of Sympathy.’ Once the flames settled we got a chance to sit down with their own Natalie Carol to talk about the significance of the aforementioned, the importance of artistic growth, the idea of online personas, and more like their West Coast run that kicks off on April 23rd in San Francisco, California.
Kendra: So y’all burned the past and started anew on ‘Chord of Sympathy.’ Do you think that you’ll continue this tradition with each new record or is this era of Valley Queen going to stick around for a while?
Natalie Carol: I have no idea what’s going to happen next. I had no idea back then and I have no idea now. The torching the past idea came as I was envisioning visuals around the album. I didn’t realize we were torching the past as we were in the process of doing it. It’s hard to understand a phase when you’re going through it. I guess you’ll just have to watch and see if we burn everything down again, it’s very possible.
Kendra: Because some artists have had great careers sticking to the expected, while others—like Beyonce, Taylor Swift, and Paramore—you never really get the same album twice from them. Would you say being open to that artistic growth is what gives artists more iconic longevity nowadays?
Natalie Carol: Of course, right? The nature of being an artist is moving with change, creating a direction for yourself to go in even when you don’t know where you’re going. The whole process of making an album is both a personal practice and an artistic unfolding of the relationships within the collaborations on the project. It comes back to creating something for and inside yourself and those you make it with. That’s what resonates with listeners I think, or at least for me as a music lover and listener.
Kendra: Let’s talk about “Cassavetes” and the idea of changing oneself for acceptance. In a time where so many are living online and infatuated with seeing people like their posts and comment on their pictures, do you think the internet has given us this sort of detachment from who we actually are because we’re stuck living to be this idea of “cool” in the virtual realm?
Natalie Carol: That’s a good question. I think about what Kurt Vonnegut said a lot when dealing with the digital sphere, “We are what we pretend to be, so choose wisely what it is you pretend to be.” Seeing people’s personas online is like watching their egos digitally embodied. But I think it’s important to remember the ego has a function, it’s what individualizes us, what gives us a personality, and what gives us style or the ability to inspire others. Of course, if you leave it unchecked it grows into something destructive, and chaotic.
The internet is certainly a place that makes me anxious because we tend to posture ourselves within it but inside it, there’s an immense potential to share something that transcends the medium. Ultimately, I feel like we’re all the same self looking at itself anyway.
Kendra: Back to the burning, because that’s what you did in the video for “Cassavetes.” You three set fire to a lot of things, including your debut LP, in the middle of Joshua Tree. This video took me back to my childhood because I’m from Cabazon in that area, and for fun, we’d just hit bottles and whatnot in the field as kids. With that, I’d love to know what’s something you wish you could’ve burned in that desert fire?
Natalie Carol: We had so much fun filming the video, we felt like kids in the way you just mentioned. We also cleaned up all the junk, I promise!
I think I already used the filming as a personal opportunity to burn old notions I had within my creative life I wanted to clear out. I had a lot of crippling notions about myself as an artist in the past, particularly that I couldn’t move forward or be successful without certain people to help me. It’s easy to trap yourself. The burning ritual that the video turned into was a way of un-tethering myself to notions that were keeping me from moving forward. I do still love our first LP, ‘Supergiant,’ tho! I burned it as a way of not living in the past.
Kendra: You’ll be back in the Joshua Tree area (in Pioneertown) at the end of April, wrapping up a West Coast run. Being from down there, we didn’t get a lot of tours coming through except for Coachella, Stagecoach, and artists that played the local casinos – but Pappy & Harriets really opened things up. Is this a venue you’ve gotten to check out already or will this be your first time?
Natalie Carol: We have played Pappy’s twice before and we love it so much. I can’t wait to leave the city and see the Joshua Tree sky, and maybe some aliens.
Kendra: Time for a side note – So Easter is my favorite holiday. Don’t ask me what the holiday is actually about because it’s only my favorite. After all, I love Spring and the candy is top-notch. With that, if you were to receive an Easter basket, what sweet treat and album on vinyl would you hope was in said basket?
Natalie Carol: Reese’s all the way. I’m down for the cups, I’m down for the pieces. Vinyl? Patti Smith’s ‘Easter,’ naturally.
Kendra: Lastly, with ‘Chord of Sympathy’ out on April 21st and a West Coast tour already booked, what else can people expect as we continue into spring (and soon summer)?
Natalie Carol: I’ve collaborated with some friends on more pieces created within the ‘Chord of Sympathy’ universe you can expect to see throughout the summer. I’ll also be having some in-person conversations around the books and works that inspired the songwriting of the record in Los Angeles after our record release shows you should look out for, those announcements are coming later.
We are starting rehearsals with our 5-piece live band in two weeks, and I’m hoping this will start a chapter of going and creating some sonic worlds in the physical space. Come meet us there!!