You probably know Valentina already, or at least her work – among others, she did the track Gabriel with Joe Goddard –, but after producing and collaborating with different people, she decided to release her first solo EP since 2013. This year, she’s back with You Know Where My Happiness Went – available here –, a five-track EP where her hypnotic, hazy voice draws you in from the first verse. It’s ideal to listen to her soothing, intimate songs, such as Violet Sky (which Joe Goddard has just remixed), You Didn’t Wanna Talk About It or RestingHeartRate, now that we’re in quarantine, so take this lockdown as an opportunity to broaden your sonic horizons.
Valentina, you’ve previously written tracks and provided vocals for Hot Chip, collaborated with many including rapper Kano, and garnered much attention previously from your track with Joe Goddard - Gabriel. But your new EP is your first solo release since Wolves in 2013. Why now? What made you decide to explore your sound on your own?
I spent the last few years mainly writing for other people and ended up feeling a bit disconnected and unfulfilled by it. A relationship ended, which kind of threw everything apart, but also naturally gave me space and aloneness, which I desperately needed. I think I had been hiding from myself a bit, and in a sense, making this EP was like coming out of hiding, although I wasn't really aware of it at the time.
You’ve produced You Know Where My Happiness Went all by yourself. In previous releases though, it was other people who produced the tracks for you, or at least you had help. So how was the process of learning on your own, listening only to your voice and gut?
It was very interesting. I think I allowed myself to do it because I never intended anyone to hear what I was making on my own, so it felt very freeing and there was no pressure. I was working on other tracks with a few producers, but what I kept coming back to were these songs, they just resonated with me in a different way. So yes, you're right, it was very much a process of listening to my own intuition and gut and not being afraid of what it said.
" I think I had been hiding from myself a bit, and in a sense, making this EP was like coming out of hiding.”
It’s usually helpful to receive insight/feedback from external people who can be sort of objective in the process of creation. Despite self-producing this EP, was there anyone your ‘go-to person’ in times of doubt? Or did you decide to make everything on your own, no feedback needed?
My friend Tev'n, one of the producers I was working with at the time, was the first person I felt comfortable enough to play the songs to, he gave me the confidence to pursue them and he helped shape the tracks. I have also worked for years with my friend Blue May, who mixed the EP and whose ears I always trust!
The titles of some songs as well as of the EP itself sounds like a heartbreak – Loss V.2, Violet Sky, RestingHeartRate. What was the starting point of the EP? Are negative experiences good fuel for creativity, at least for you?
Yes, unfortunately! I suppose it’s because you are processing something, trying to make sense of it in a way you don’t tend to do when things are ok. There is a certain attention and focus you gain which can be harder to tap into otherwise. There was a lot of change and uncertainty in my life – a five-year relationship had ended, I was staying on my friend’s sofa and I was unsure what I was doing with myself, to be honest! I started seeing someone who made me feel even more in limbo and lost than I already did, and these songs were written in the midst of all this.
Talking about something out loud can make it real. And turning not-so-positive experiences into art can be therapeutic, even cathartic. Would you say that’s the case of You Know Where My Happiness Went?
Yes, totally. I also did a lot of ‘proper’ therapy for a year and it was an amazing experience, but I felt like there was a disconnect between what I could access there and what I was accessing with my writing. I think when the therapy and the situation I was in ended, that’s when there became the space to really sit with myself and make something honest.
Your self-produced sound could be described as hazy, eerie, somewhat gauzy. It sounds very intimate, delicate. Would you agree? Is this the direction you want to go in the future, or is it more a reflection of the personal situation you created the songs in?
I think it is definitely a reflection of the situation I created the songs in, for example, the vocals are all kind of whispered mainly because I made it in the night and was half asleep/trying not to wake anyone up. But I’d say the sound is also probably about my own limitations and preferences as a producer, so it’s hard to say where that will move. I don’t want to force it into any particular direction, I'll just go with it.
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Despite the global situation due to Covid-19, you decided to release the EP anyway. How do you feel the context we’re in influences the way we perceive music? At least yours, which is somewhat moody, seems to speak perfectly about the present time…
I think it’s really significant, the setting in which we experience things. You will always have a different reaction or relationship to something depending on the context. You might attach certain meaning or feeling to things that you wouldn’t have otherwise. Like when you hear a sad song and you're having a shit time, it really speaks to you. Music is so uniquely powerful like that. As an independent artist, I wasn't really able to postpone the EP release and actually, I am glad that it wasn’t an option. It feels better to put something out into the world at a time like this and not hold it back because it might not land how you want or imagined.
Festivals, gigs and big gatherings are cancelled and postponed until the second half of the year or 2021, and we don’t have much hope for the months to come – in terms of attending concerts, etc. How do you navigate this uncertainty as an artist? Did you have a tour planned that needs to be rescheduled too?
I feel pretty lucky really, as my intention for the next few months was to do a lot of writing anyway, so I don’t feel like my situation in that sense has been that affected, at least in the short term. A few friends of mine have had to cancel gigs, tours, etc. and it is really hard to stay positive and not freak out, but I guess we have to take it a day at a time.
We’ll for sure be listening to You Know Where My Happiness Went in the upcoming weeks. But as we’re all isolating, I’d like to know what are you listening to at the moment to overcome quarantine.
A real mixed bag, to be honest. Mac Miller’s Circles (mainly Good News on repeat), Judee Sill (if you haven't heard anything, start with Jesus Was A Cross Maker), Jessica Pratt, Shygirl, the new Frank Ocean… I’ve also revisited an old Cody Chesnutt album, Headphone Masterpiece, which has had a big influence on me.
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