Plays ReNeu Boutique November 26, 2015
Music is a funny thing. Some people can spend a good chunk of their time playing music in a band without writing a single song on their own, simply because they never needed to. And then there are those musicians who want to write their own music, yet they struggle with the challenge when they have the time to dedicate to the process. This is more or less what happened to Ottawa musician, Isaac Vallentin. While touring the country as a member of Pony Girl and Kalle Mattson’s band, Vallentin couldn’t seem to get started on a project of his own despite repeated attempts. Something wasn’t clicking. Maybe he wasn’t clicking. So he did what any self-respecting musician hell-bent on writing an album does when inspiration is weak – he left town, on a jet plane. And as it turns out, a last minute flight to San Juan, Puetro Rico was just what the doctor ordered.
“I went to San Juan because it was the cheapest plane ticket I could find on short notice,” said Vallentin. “I was really burnt out after the winter of 2014. I started a design studio with one of the guys I was playing music with, and basically worked nonstop from September to May. Working was a ton of fun, but I was losing my mind from never leaving my house, not exercising, smoking too much pot and not getting much sunlight. I decided to take the cheapest week-long vacation I could find in a sunny place, and San Juan ended up being it.”
The trip contributed to the creation of the 13 tracks that make up his solo debut, Hedera, a “torrent of texture and colour, both balanced and chaotic, simultaneously empty and overflowing.”
“I wrote all the lyrics, typically with a rough melody in mind, in San Juan, then re-wrote everything with an acoustic guitar. I recorded all of those acoustic demos, then manipulated and rearranged everything in the computer.”
The trip paid off. The sonic presence on Hedera is outstanding. The album weaves in and out of comfort zones and familiar territory under the steady guidance of simple synth leads, acoustic guitar and sounds Vallentin created on his phone.
“All of the choices in instrumentation have roots in the conceptual idea of each song,” said Vallentin. “Some of the songs’ ideas are very sober, so they have ‘actual’ instrumentation as their foundation. Some are pretty exaggerated and abstract in their lyrics, so they have a more manipulated sound and form. Some of the songs are written with an omniscient voice, or are focused on very large ideas, and they have a less personal and more ‘sterile’ sound, using synthesizers or samples as the primary instruments.”
This fall Vallentin has set out to give his music a solid road test. He has assembled a band and will make his way east in this month. An inspiring end result to a project that at one point, refused to materialize.
“So far, the live arrangement has been the most fun out of everything,” he said. “Sometimes I play the set solo on guitar, sometimes I play the set solo on piano, but I try to bring out the band for every gig where it makes sense. We’re doing the tour as a full band, so you’ll be hearing guitar, drums, bass, trumpet/flugelhorn, and an old synthesizer. We’re also playing a handful of new songs, two of which we put on a 7″ vinyl as an exclusive for the tour.”