Folk/rock band Valley Young originally formed in the Knoxville area in the spring of 2011 and has been working on their latest EP "Year of the Bear" across a few states including Colorado, New York and California. Lead singer Artemus James and keyboardist Annabelle LaFoy are revisiting their stomping grounds with a performance at Barley's Taproom and Pizzeria this Saturday, Aug. 23 beginning at 10 p.m.
Valley Young was created as a result of collaboration between LaFoy and James when they played in the band 'Cain and Annabelle.'
"I just had written some songs that had been different from what we had been doing and wanted to put together a full band," James said, "as opposed to a duo so we would have a bigger sound, and that was it."
According to James, Valley Young's music draws on the music he heard growing up, such as Neil Young and The Beach Boys. "I would say it's moody, it's ethereal, inconsistent . . . the structure of the songs aren't traditional, it's got a lot of layers to it," James said. "I was always drawn to that reverb, dreamy, ethereal sound."
The band's latest piece is their aforementioned EP entitled "Year of the Bear," containing four original songs that took over a year to finish while James and LaFoy were moving from state to state. Valley Young recorded this EP along with a full-length album, the working title of which is "Upright in the Sunlight." This album is due to release early next spring.
"Favorite part: living in Brooklyn while we recorded. Least favorite: feeling the stress of being creative while at the same time knowing every hour you spend doing so is costing money," LaFoy wrote in an email interview when asked about her favorite and least favorite part of working on the EP. James added that Bryce Goggin, producer of "Year of the Bear," worked hard to make sure the band was happy with the sound of the album.
"He's sort of in control, for the most part," James said of Goggin in the studio. "The songs were already structured and we had a really good idea of what we wanted to do and what we wanted it to sound like. "He just kind of made that happen with his experience and his studio techniques that he uses."
LaFoy and James are the two static members of the band, while temporary members have played other instruments for performances. "We've played with a handful of drummers, guitarists, pedal steel players and we've been so transient that nothing has been able to stick... I call it 'musical musical chairs,'" James said. LaFoy also emphasizes the difficulty of finding creatively dedicated musicians to join the band, saying that finding dedicated musicians to work without pay in the early stages of the band's career can be difficult.
"Original music doesn't pay much at first," LaFoy said, "and it takes dedicated band-mates who understand this concept who are willing to sacrifice a little time to make a solid band into a living, breathing band."
James said that his favorite part of performing is feeling a connection with audience members. "Whether it is four people or four hundred people, you know you get in a groove and you feel the energy of the people in the crowd and you feed off that," he said. The band is currently touring the nation, stopping at locations such as the Bowery Electric in New York and The Honest Pint in Chattanooga. Saturday's performance will be the first at Barley's for Valley Young. They will be opening for This Mountain, a band from Johnson City. "We sound really different than any other band that I've heard," James said. "You listen to our music and you're like, 'that kind of sounds like this or that, but it's not folk, it's not rock, it's not Americana, but it's kind of a mish mash of all of that.'"
Future goals for Valley Young include promoting the release of their full-length album, touring and making "a living playing these songs," LaFoy said."We don't have to be wildly famous," LaFoy said. "Just being able to pay the bills with original tunes would be nice!"To listen to and purchase "Year of the Bear," and to learn more about Valley Young, visit www.valleyyoung.com.