Local band Valice takes Austin to church in weird and wonderful new music video
There are not too many bands in Austin with a true cult following, but one group is making it happen in a magnetic new music video.
"Don't know where, don't know why" (stylized in lowercase) is the standout track on Valice's new EP as of September 30, Do you want to be alone?, cranking up the weirdness factor with a mix of spiritual motifs, Southern sounds, and psychedelic twists.
Yet, disparate as that sounds — and probably heretical to some — none of those styles are really that left-field when thinking about music history, from gospel music (spiritual and Southern) to The Beatles (spiritual and psychedelic). In fact, the group has "a whole alternate life as a Beatles cover band," says bassist George Feledichuk in an email to CultureMap.
"That requires a lot of time and dedication to accurately recreate some of their more complex music," he writes. "But we’re glad to be back to focusing on our original stuff."
That dedication certainly comes out in the music, which is layered to high heaven and deftly balanced between an organic pop rock jam and something more experimental. (It's doubtful — but not impossible — that the jaw harp gets broken out at every rehearsal.)
The undeniably churchy song got the full religious treatment in the video, released on October 7, which sets up keyboardist David Fong as a slick cult leader and singer Ricci Valice as a skeptical visitor; Both could have careers in acting if they wanted them.
Drummer James LeBlanc and Feledichuk play more godly and infernal characters, respectively, in an interesting us-versus-them that draws lines between the band and the cult (truth and illusion?) rather than the more traditional heaven and hell.
"Our goal was to have the music video right on a line where it could be enjoyed by everyone no matter your views," wrote Ricci Valice in the email. "If anything, we wanted to show how sometimes, the very uniquely American export of Christianity can lose its way to the point where even Satan and Jesus would team together to lead people away from a cult of personality."
Austinites may recognize the Hyde Park Presbyterian Church as the main shooting location, as well as friends in the cast. Among them is Chance Hoops (who makes his own music as Fak3 5miles), the especially expressive dancer whose eyes roll back in the church scene. The band didn't know Hoops was a musician when they invited him on set, but now he raps in a deadpan on the Gorillaz-like "All my lies," also on the EP.
Valice's golf cart-riding Airbnb host inspired this album cover. The EP title is stylized all in lower case, as are all its song titles, for an extra bit of indie 2000s quirk.do you want to be alone by Valice
The city also appears — albeit opaquely — in the content of the song, via a recording of a radio broadcast. Valice, who grew up in Christian Megachurch culture, says the band found one sermon "hilarious and, in a way, beautiful. We were shocked that you could still hear something like that on the radio today."
He continued, "When I got home, I added the recording over the loop I had, and loved how evocative the result was. It felt so Austin to me, and like something I’d never heard before. It’s rock, it’s pop, it’s EDM, it’s swamp, it’s blasphemy, it’s whatever the opposite of blasphemy is, all in one."
The oddly touching video — which has been submitted to the South by Southwest film festival — is by the same crew that created the more feverish, but equally memorable music video for "Julie, Pt. II" in 2020. It adds to a canon of Valice music that few bands have just three years after their first official release, and so does Do you want to be alone?, which feels like a concept album with strong cohesion from song to song, without getting stuck in any ruts.
"Overall, the title of the album is really a core concept that is answered somewhat differently by all of the songs," writes Feledichuk. "The songs are generally tied together by a sense of uncertainty, insecurity, and isolation. Lyrically, it’s a very personal and vulnerable record, but sonically it presents more as a fun, accessible piece; I guess you could say it’s someone in a loud outfit standing alone in the corner at a party."