Interview with Drogheda, Ireland native rockers Keith Smith and David Black of Valentino is Dead.
(Hey! Here is an interview with Keith (vox/guitar) and David (drums) from a very awesome punk band that I have talked about before on this blog. Their music is awesome, and even though I call it punk, they really go beyond simple definitions. Enjoy reading!-Derek)
Derek: So tell me how Valentino is Dead started out? How did you all meet, and more importantly, decide on the style of music you wanted to play?
Keith: Well myself and Boey have been playing music together for years in various other bands and projects before we formed Valentino is Dead. After recording our debut album with guest musicians we decided the songs sounded too damn good to leave them trapped in the recording. After much searching we found our awesome drummer David Black and bass player Clive Walsh and haven’t looked back. While myself and Boey more or less steer the direction of the band musically, David and Clive bring their own unique take on the songs we bring down, which makes for a very diplomatic and balance approach to writing new material. The chemistry and balance between us all works really well.
Derek: In your biography on your official website you mention that you are “A band that refuses to be pigeon-holed and constrained by genres and one that continues to blend all the best elements of alternative, rock, pop, ska, punk trad and country.” I can really relate to this statement personally as I never want my music to be classified as one thing only. How do songwriting sessions go, knowing that you guys follow numerous traditions of music? Is it difficult blending all of these styles in the studio?
Keith: I think having the freedom to write in whatever style we want with no outside pressure from record companies or management, means we’re free to explore ourselves musically and that comes through in all the styles you hear on our album. Yeah there’s a mix ska, hard rock, punk, indie and pop in there, but it all still sounds like one band – it still sounds like us. It’s a bit like mixing one quarter JD with three quarters coke – it still tastes like JD only better! We have these key ingredients that make up every song we write so we’re never struggling to make songs fit together.
Derek: David Donnelly said about your songs that “Influenced by the homeland, they deliver songs that have meaning, reflecting on their lives, experiences and politics.” All of these themes are very personal, from sharing your political views to your own life’s experiences. How do you go about really pouring your souls into your music? Is it simply just, “this is what I’m feeling; therefore I’m going to write about it?”
Keith: Honesty is one of the key ingredients in our music whatever the style or the lyrical content of a song. You can’t go wrong with honesty because even if your music doesn’t appeal to anyone else at least you can look at yourself in the mirror and hold your head up high because you didn’t compromise your integrity to suit someone else or some external factor.
When it comes to lyrics our goal is always to connect with the listener or the audience so if they believe in what you are saying or singing about, if you are being honest, then they are more likely to connect with you.
Derek: What is the Irish rock scene like nowadays, how do you guys fit into it overall? Is there a ton of competition to get slots at venues?
David: The Irish rock scene is pretty decent these days with a few Irish bands, with a rock sound, breaking through to national radio play, TV, etc. Competition to get on festival lineups is always competitive but it’s always been like that. It keeps everyone on their toes! We’ve been lucky to have been selected for some cool festivals this summer. A lot of the bigger festivals at home and abroad want to see a track record of bands playing festivals, so next year we are hoping to be rocking out to even bigger audiences!
Derek: Some of your members have played alongside some of my all-time favorite bands, most of all Rancid. Can you talk about how these experiences of playing with seasoned veterans of rock and punk have impacted you?
Keith: Having been handpicked by Rancid to open for them on their Irish tour was a real vote of confidence in us but it didn’t do anything to settle the nerves in the run up to the shows. As a huge Rancid fan I was very nervous about meeting my musical heroes but those nervous quickly disappeared after we met the guys. We found ourselves swapping band stories with Matt Freeman and even getting into a bit of a slagging match with Lars! It was very relaxed. Then watching Rancid take to the stage each night and connecting with the fans really drove home to me the importance of writing songs people can connect with. Songs and lyrics that touch people, delivered with an attitude you can believe in.
Derek: What can you tell me about the album ‘Misadventures in Punk Rock’? How long did it take to record/write?
Keith: Recording ‘Misadventures’ was a lit like watching a flower bloom, although in our case it was probably more like a flowering thorny cactus – tough, resilient and dangerous with its own twist on beauty. Recording the majority of the album in our own home studio meant we were not under any time pressures to get it down. This meant we could try out ideas and experiment. Having only heard most of these songs in a live 4-piece band situation we were blown away by how the songs could really flourish in the studio. For most bands, they might demo a song first, then record it and then learn how to strip that recording back down to a live scenario. For us, we had the ballsy live version already down so we were just adding the flourishes on top. It was an interesting way to record but I think you can only do that when the songs are strong to begin with. If something sounds crap live then recording it and trying to disguise it is like putting tinsel on a turd!
Derek: When you play live, what kind of vibe are you trying to create with your audience? What do you want them to think about you when they leave the show?
David: We put a lot of effort into putting on the most energetic, manic, ‘in your face’ kinda show. We want everyone to let loose, feed off our energy and have a great time basically. If we do that and people leave with a smile on their face then our job is done (smiles).
Derek: Any new projects on the horizon, or stuff you would like to do but have yet to do it?
David: We are busy in the rehearsal room putting the finishing touches to new songs for the next album, which we hope to start recording at the end of the summer. We are all buzzed about them. After that we’d like to do a bit if touring internationally, particularly USA! We are hoping to put a Fundit project together to get us over there to play a string of gigs to our fans stateside.
Derek: Are there any specific places you would like to play that you haven’t had a chance to yet?
David: Plenty! We’d like to play a few festivals in Berlin, Germany as they have a great rock scene there. Anywhere in California! Basically, we’ll play anywhere people wanna hear us – there’s no show too big or too small!
Derek: Anything else you want to say before this interview ends?
Keith: Viva Valentino is Dead!
Valentino is Dead can be found at: