The official student newspaper at the University of Houston-Clear Lake

Q&A with Valeluna

The story of Valeluna: Past, present and future.

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Valeluna played a show at Scout Bar Oct 12. After the show, The Signal reporter Trey Blakely sat down with Valeluna to ask them about their history, the show and their future.

 

Tyler McMahon, lead vocalist for Valeluna. Photo courtesy of Regan Bjerkli, communications major.

Q: What is the story of Valeluna? 

Ty McMahon, lead vocalist: Valeluna started in Regan [Bjerkeli]’s garage, actually. Cool how that works. Me and my cousin, Justin, always wanted to play music together. We started out jamming, playing covers here and there. At one point Justin was going to a studio with a friend of ours, they were recording a The Weeknd cover and he brought me in. We were playing and I said, “Dude, why aren’t we taking advantage of this? We have songs, let’s go ahead and do it.”

So we cranked out a couple of songs and said we need to take this further. I went to some random party and I saw Aaron [Skipper]. I said, “Hey man, I got this band and I need a drummer.” I showed him the demos and he said, “Yeah, let’s do it.” Ricky [Ward] was a buddy of mine from high school as well.

So we started jamming in a little UHAUL unit. We recorded what was more or less another demo.

We started playing live, started playing a bunch of battle of the bands; we won two. Started playing here [at Scout Bar]. There was a Texas Buzz thing back in the day and we got voted “Best Rock Band of the Year.”

With the next album I felt like there was something missing. Enter Josh [Sharer], the other cousin. He had just graduated and moved back into town. I said, “Hey man, can you learn piano?” He learned piano [and] picked up trumpet which he hadn’t played since he was 12. We went in, recorded another album.

Our vocalist [Justin Allison] left recently. I took his vocals, started playing his parts. And Zach [Lyons] just finished up college recently. I said, “Hey, can you learn this and learn it in a month? I’m talking hours-worth of music in a month.” And here we are. That was about three years in total.

Zach Lyons, lead guitarist of Valeluna. Photo courtesy of Regan Bjerkeli, communications major.

Q: What’s the third album? 

McMahon: We’re gonna go a little more experimental, a little more progressive.

Zach Lyons, lead guitarist: I think the dynamics are gonna go both ways. The spectrum’s gonna get larger. There’s some new ingredients in the soup.

McMahon: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I have very strong political views and want to incorporate those into the music. The ideas of liberty, self-ownership. I’m wearing a “Taxation is Theft” shirt. We’re gonna make a statement because I feel that our music is accessible enough for people to like it, whether or not you agree with the message, and you don’t have to agree with it, but I want people to hear it.

One of our goals is we want to leave our mark. When I’m dead, I hope people will hear what we were.

Ricky Ward, bassist for Valeluna. Photo courtesy of Regan Bjerkeli, communication major.

Q: What comes after tonight? 

McMahon: No tour yet. Like I said, libertarianism, capitalism. We’re not gonna tour until we have a demand for it.

Lyons: A demand where it makes sense, basically.

McMahon: This is all coming out of our own pockets.

Lyons: That’s a lot of money to throw away if no one wants to hear you.

McMahon: The next realistic goal is for us to be more active. We’re gonna play places we haven’t before, meet people we haven’t met. We’ll focus on writing new material, venturing out into more trumpet, more leads.

I have to tip my hat to both Zach and Josh. Zach learned hours of music so quickly. Josh picked up a whole new instrument and another that he hadn’t played in years, and singing backup vocals.

Lyons: The last time I was at Scout Bar I was actually seeing this band on New Years. Playing with them was one of those pipe dreams in my head.

McMahon: Zach is a virtuoso, to the point where I don’t want people to hear me play anymore! There is actual biological family, but I really do consider this band my family.

Josh Sharer, keyboardist, trumpet and backing vocalist for Valeluna. Photo courtesy of Regan Bjerkeli, communication major.

Q: Is there anything you’d say to a question you haven’t been asked? 

Lyons: I would say to anyone wanting to be a musician, learn your instrument. Truly learn it and don’t stop. It’s a journey, not a destination. There’s sometimes this phobia that getting too involved will take the soul out of it. That’s completely rubbish. The more you understand what you’re doing the more accurately you can say what you want to. Go as deep as you can.

McMahon: To add to that, just do it. You know. [imitates Shia Labouf] DO IT.

Lyons: You can spend ten times as long making excuses while you’re not doing it.

McMahon: It’s one of those things where I’ve always wanted to do this. You can do it. If you think you don’t have the time, do whatever the fuck you’ve got to do to make it happen.

Lyons: The biggest obstacle is typically yourself.

Ward: Building on that, there’s an economic aspect to it as well. We haven’t taken any of the money that comes from our shows.

McMahon: It’s a non-profit.

Ricky Ward, bassist: It all goes straight back into the band, stickers, merch, recording.

McMahon: It’s starting to pay for itself at this point. It was getting to the point where I’d ask, “Do I go out tonight or do I pay for this recording?”

Sharer: I wanted to say that family is a huge part of what we do. We play because we like doing what we do. We don’t profit from this for ourselves, we do it for each other, and I think that’s a huge part of our success.

Aaron Skipper, drummer: It’s also worth noting that it’s important to branch out and welcome other bands, try to support them. You’ll see this elitism sometimes where bands will turn their nose up to other bands around them.

Lyons: If you feel the need to compete, compete with yourself. Try to outdo yourself. You never lose trying to outdo yourself.

Aaron Skipper, drummer for Valeluna. Photo courtesy of Regan Bjerkeli, communication major.

Q: In the story of Valeluna, what was tonight’s show? 

McMahon: Tonight’s show was the beginning of a new era. Losing Justin took a big toll on us, but this is the beginning. We’re still here, and we’re gonna keep going and keep progressing and getting better at what we do.

Lyons: Don’t look at it as Valeluna losing anything. It’s a lateral move forward.

McMahon: Embrace change. Be like Bruce Lee, be like water.

Lyons: The essence of what people enjoy is still there, but there’s gonna be some really pleasant surprises.

Valeluna are Ty McMahon, Zach Lyons, Josh Sharer, Aaron Skipper and Ricky Ward. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as listen to them on Spotify and Bandcamp.


Also published on Medium.

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