Interviews

An Interview With Valley of the Sun: On Writing Their Next Album, Touring With the Truckfighters, and ‘Old Gods’

Valley of the Sun

We have a lot of respect for Valley of the Sun. The Cincinnati-based quartet has quietly carved a space for themselves in the Stoner Rock scene over the last decade, crafting unforgettable tracks like “Riding the Dunes,” “All We Are,” and “Eternal Forever.”

In concert, the band clicks, pumping out enormous, groove-laden riffs. On album, it’s the same recipe.

It works.

Naturally, we were thrilled when they agreed to an interview. We connected with them in July to discuss topics ranging from the current band lineup to recording their next album.

Before we get started, here are the band members in 2020:

Ryan Ferrier – Guitar/Vocals
Lex Vegas – Drums
Chris Sweeney – Bass, Keys
Josh Pilot – Guitars

Valley of the Sun on Touring With Truckfighters

Monster Riff: We spoke to Truckfighters a few months back. One of the questions we asked was how your bands got connected. You’re over here in the United States and they’re over there in Sweden. The story they gave me was that you had just reached out like, “Hey, do you want to come tour with us?” Is that literally how it happened?

Ryan: Yeah, that was years ago. None of these guys were in the band at the time, but I was a fan of theirs. I think it was 2011 and they had just announced German tour dates. I got onto their Facebook page and I commented like, “You guys should come to the States! I’ll drive you around in my van and you can use our gear.” And they were like, “OK!” So, we did that for like a week and a half.

Monster Riff: What did you expect to hear when you originally reached out? Were you expecting a reply?

Lex: No. It was really tongue-in-cheek, you know, and then he was like, “Fuck! Now I made this commitment.”

Ryan: I guess that was when I had done Sayings of the Seers and then the next record was Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk. They heard it and they liked it and they were like, “We want to put this out [on Fuzzorama Records].” And we had already done like a small release of it. So we signed it over to them and they released it. And then we did everything with them since. So yeah, pretty well.

Monster Riff: What was it like touring with them?

Ryan: The first time was hectic. I was tour managing them as well as playing. We traveled four days without Valley on the east coast where I was just driving. And then Valley joined and we did another week. It was a record hot summer. We were in Chicago and it was 105 degrees. And we were in my 1976 Dodge van. It’s this totally boujee van with no AC. And we’re just stuck in traffic on the interstate going to Chicago and the van’s vapor lock kept stalling because it was so hot. It was so hot. The bassist at that time had heat stroke. He was sick for four days on that tour.

Monster Riff: Is there anything you picked up from the Truckfighters while touring?

Lex: It was awesome. Watching Johan, their drummer, play every night. He was just so solid. Super good.

Ryan: You know, it’s fun to get to watch them every night because they’re just a great band. So it definitely made the work in between worth it. Because you get to be at a fucking cool show that like and watch a great band and a great crowd be super into it. So yeah, that’s pretty fucking fun.

Josh: Planning is probably the number one thing after a while, like something I’ve never done before until the last couple of years with these guys. Just planning everything out in advance, as best as you can makes it so much easier. The most recent tour. It was some of the worst routing. Like, it was actually probably the worst route that I’ve ever been on. We hit 16 or 17 venues, but they were like very spread out. Like we had a couple of days where the drive was only like three hours, but there were a couple where it was like seven, eight, nine. We had one day off, and we had to get Boston, Chicago, you know, 13 hours or so. And so, yeah, it was some hauls every day.

Ryan: Yeah. Luckily we were driving in circles.

Josh: Like we would pass through cities sometimes, like, “I know we were just fucking here! We back-tracked for three hours. Let’s go fucking four hours south then come six hours north the next day.”

Monster Riff: At least on social media, you guys have talked a lot about how much you miss playing in front of a crowd. How have you been coping with that?

Josh: Oh, it fucking sucks. I mean, we’re supposed to be in Europe right now for two months.

Lex: We’re in Spain or something right now.

Ryan: It could be in Germany right now. We would have already had our weekend in Cyprus at this point.

Valley of the Sun On Their Upcoming Album

Lex: We are writing a new album right now.

Monster Riff: What can you tell me about the new album?

Lex: It’s my first one. It’s the first one of us as a band. So it’s a new thing. It’s very, very cool.

Ryan: Yeah. Chris was on Old Gods, but these guys weren’t, and Josh came in when we were in the studio. Josh came in immediately, pretty much. We were actually in the studio, I think, when he started playing with us. And Lex joined up in, like, November this past year.

Lex: That show you came to was maybe my seventh or eighth show. And they had all been in that week.

Ryan: It was like, “Hey, you want to be in a band? Let’s go.”

Lex: I was given a gift at that show, the coolest fucking snare drum in the world. Somebody gave it to me that night. I played it that night. I thought it sounded pretty good.

Monster Riff: What was cool about this snare drum?

Lex: So, my best buddy is named Kyle. He runs a company called Despicable Drums. Shout out to Despicable Drums! He showed up with this snare drum that’s covered in this black fur and has a special badge on it. There’s a cat sitting inside a pentagram. It’s basically like mayhem as snare and a pentagram drum head. He gave it to me the night of the show, and I was like, I want to play this tonight. And then, during the show, everything caught on fire. So, that might be Kyle’s fault or it might be mine.

Valley of the Sun On Their Influences for Old Gods

Monster Riff: I have a question that I think would be best for Ryan first and then for the rest of the band. One of things I’ve enjoyed about listening to you guys over the years has been the evolution from one album to the next. So, Sayings is a lot different than Electric Talons and Electric Talons is a lot different than Volume Rock. And then you get to Old Gods, which is a much different experience. Even on the surface level, you can see a lot of Eastern influences. You have these references to Buddha and Greek and Hindi gods. And then the sound is different as well. I can hear hints of My Sleeping Karma or maybe even OM. After something like Volume Rock, how do you get to Old Gods? Where does that inspiration come from?

Ryan: Well, I’ll tell you a secret, About 40% of that record is older songs. A lot of it was written previously, stuff from Volume Rock that we didn’t develop at the time that I still wanted to develop. And that’s one of the reasons that [Old Gods] has that name, because the idea initially was about all of the different things that rule you. Every song is about whatever was ruling me at that time in my life, whatever was on my mind, whether it was a girl or maybe I was just really drunk.

The writing on that record spans probably through six years. And then there was stuff we wrote in the studio. We did a lot of writing with individual riffs that were old, and then we developed them into full songs, you know? As far as the different sounds and stuff, I don’t know. I mean, we’ve always been into stuff like that. I mean, there’s a didgeridoo in Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk and there’s a piano or organ on pretty much every single record. I think part of it is that with the production of [Old Gods] is such that a lot of that stuff comes out a little bit more.

You compare it to something like Sayings of the Seers, where we did all of it on our own. And then we had a bassist like Ryan McAllister on Thunderhawk, and he was really heavily involved in the songwriting on that, and that’s why it had that Prog twist, you know? And there are elements of Chris [Sweeney] added into Old Gods. That’s why I think this new thing that doesn’t have a title yet is going to be a shift. There’s a whole new gang. I think there’s a lot of Rock ‘n’ Roll. It’s funny because these guys are super Rock ‘n’ Roll, but there’s been a lot of Psychedelia coming up. I mean, I don’t really know what it’s going to be like.

Valley of the Sun On Their Writing Process

Monster Riff: That actually leads perfectly into what I was going to ask next: What has the writing process for the new album been like for everybody?

Lex: It’s been a lot of just figuring out how to best operate. It’s like when you get a big chainsaw you’ve never operated before and you gotta carry it around a little bit to figure out exactly how to handle it. That’s just me, swinging these big ass chainsaws, but I think we’re cutting down some shit.

Monster Riff: That’s quite a metaphor for Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Josh: Ryan has been sitting back on songs. He was like, “Alright, you guys do this. Somebody come up with an idea. I’m going to tell you what I think should happen here and there a little bit.” But he’s really making it a group effort. So, we’re all working on it together.

Ryan: Yeah, I’m usually a control freak.

Josh: And he hasn’t been at all. He’s been pushing us to do more and come up with more ideas, which is really cool. It’s been a group effort, 100%, which is really awesome.

Monster Riff: Do you have any tracks finished yet or any songs completely written?

Lex: Yeah. We have a lot of riffs together and ideas and stuff, but there are a couple. We just today started the whiteboard phase, where we were like, “Okay, this is this, this idea’s definitely a thing we can really kind of start to outline.” Once you reach the whiteboard stage, it starts to become real.

Valley of the Sun On Pranks

Monster Riff: I want to back up a little bit. We were talking about touring earlier and then we got a little sidetracked. I read an older interview recently about Ryan getting dosed in caramel corn puffs while he was sleeping one night during a tour, and he was confused about why he was covered in so many of them the next day. Are pranks pretty common on tour?

Ryan: Not necessarily to each other, but more just like either in general public or just to make each other laugh. I think that’s most of it.

Lex: Maybe innocent strangers, but not each other. {Laughs}

Josh: We value each other so much that we would rather just rope someone else into our shenanigans to be the victim.

Lex: Primarily foreign bands. Like there’s kind of already the language barrier. Like, you don’t wanna come off like an asshole if you cover all their guitars in glue before they go on. {Laughs] That might not come across as funny to them as it is to us.

Josh: Amongst us as a group, there really isn’t any pranking. At least not yet.

Valley of the Sun On Their Next Album

Monster Riff: Uh-oh, I might have started something. So, new album in the works. Any idea when it’ll see the light of day?

Ryan: Well, we have studio time booked already for October. So, that’s when we’re going in to start putting some things down. I’m kinda gonna wait and see how the world goes too, but hopefully we’ll get it mostly recorded in October.

Josh: I would say hopefully, fingers crossed, next spring, maybe late spring.

Lex: We got invited to do a dozen festivals in Europe all summer, London and stuff. They’re all pretty much like, “You’re coming back next year. We’ll just set it up and pretend [2020] never happened.” So, going back to Europe next summer, and I think, honestly, it’s going to be even kind of a silver lining. We’ll go back with a whole new album sounding like what this band is and I think what we’ll bring to the table will be even better than if we hadn’t done it this year.

Ryan: I’m a little bummed about it because Old Gods has been the most successful record so far that we’ve done. We had 10 or 15 festival dates books and a number of club shows this summer. And to have that fall through when we’re basically still supporting Old Gods… We would have been supporting Old Gods right now in Europe. And so it really sucks that the album with the most success kind of had the rug pulled out from under it. So, it might be a double album situation next year.

Josh: We’ll probably switch back and forth between the two.

Ryan: But, yeah, I think it’s going to be probably May or June, if I had to guess, would be the release date. And the fact that we have studio time booked and a few songs finished. It isn’t unusual for that to happen, but it’s kind of like, let’s book the studio time and then we have the pressure to get shit done. And then whatever we don’t have done, we do in the studio, which is really nice too. We’ll do 10 hours a day for five days straight. It’s like noon to 10:00 PM. Monday through Friday is when we’re actually tracking and we sleep in the studio. It’s like you just, live, breathe, eat, sleep. It’s just recording for two weeks, you know?

Valley of the Sun On Recording

Monster Riff: Where do you record?

Ryan: It’s a place called Nada Recording Studio. It’s in Montgomery, New York. John Naclerio, he’s done every album for us.

Monster Riff: So, you get there, and you said you sleep there and get up at noon and you just work 10 hours straight?

Aaron: It’s the dream, so it’s fun.

Monster Riff: Is that what you guys have done for every record? Not you guys specifically, but is that what Valley of the Sun has done for every record?

Ryan: Yeah, we’ve been at John’s every time actually, though he moved and Old Gods was the first time we were in his new studio. It’s in the country and it’s surrounded by woods. So, back to your question about Old Gods being all like deep and shit, there were several songs [that happened] because we were writing in the studio. I probably had four songs that I wrote lyrics for in the studio. And I would just wander off into the woods and just sit down with a notebook and write up shit like, “Trees sway. Skies of gray. / Bear a sadness that no one could say.”* That’s a cloudy day in the woods in Montgomery. No other distractions, just making the best music.

* A couplet from “Dreams of Sand”

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