Vallis Alps on independence, accepting change and looking forward
Winding up the dial to set the becoming of a synth’s curiosity, VALLIS ALPS‘ debut single ‘Young‘ had us wrapped from its very first breath of life. A track painting the bliss of youth, as well as how very fleeting it all happens, it was soon learnt how relatable the duo exist, as well as being incredibly talented at capturing various energies.
A chance encounter stimulated by similarity, Parissa Tosif and David Ansari believed in their project passionately enough to allow its progression from opposite sides of the world. Now both residing in Sydney, the pair work tirelessly on their Vallis Alps baby; resulting in two acclaimed EPs, touring on both the local and international stage, and performing at festivals and conferences including SXSW, Falls Music & Arts Festival and The Great Escape.
Having just ticked off an almost sold out run of Australian dates with America to follow, as well as festival appearances announced for Lightning In A Bottle (USA), Splendour In The Grass (Aus) and Reading & Leeds (UK) also on the horizon for 2017, we caught up with Parissa Tosif of Vallis Alps to chat of their learnings, challenges and successes.
You were based in Canberra, and David in Seattle when Vallis Alps was born. How did you two cross paths?
Both of us took a gap year in Israel, and we volunteered there at the Bahá’í Centre, which is the Administrative and Spiritual Headquarters of Bahá’í Faith in Israel. So we just met at a friend’s house and clicked really quickly musically. There’s only been a few people I’ve been able to write instantly with, and David [Ansari] and I were just jamming from the beginning; it felt really right.
So that was in 2010, and then in 2013 when I was living in Canada, I went to visit Seattle and we made the first EP.
And you both live in Sydney now?
Yeah so we both moved here – I moved from Canberra and David from Seattle [laughs] – he was definitely more far away the poor thing. I’m like, “You’re never leaving Australia now” [laughs]. So yeah, he moved here in June, 2015.
Was that for the project?
Yeah! So we decided we wanted to give it a go and thought Australia was the best place to be in, so he moved here.
How did you two work on music being on opposite sides of the world prior?
So we actually did all of the songwriting in the month that I was in Seattle for the first EP, and following that we would email each other and Skype, bounce around ideas with everything over the Internet.
Did it ever become too difficult that you second-guessed the whole thing?
I don’t think we’ve ever gotten to the point where we’ve second-guessed it. It’s like if things become really challenging, there’s always a reason behind why things don’t feel as good as they could. That’s actually been the best point of growth for us. For example, last year we were figuring out so much about collaboration and writing, because there were some really challenging things that came up. I think those challenges were just reflections of the fact that we knew we had to make adjustments more than anything; but we’ve never felt like we didn’t want to keep going or anything like that.
So I guess with every complication you’ve come across, it’s made you two a stronger unit?
Yeah, totally. We first made this project for our friends and family, and then when we released it we were like, “Okay, maybe we can actually do something with this.” So we had to kind of learn how to be in a band [laughs]. Our manager Melody [Forghani] helps so much with ideas as well, but having two people to think about creative ideas suddenly is like, really interesting and amazing, but also challenging at times, so it’s been a good learning process.
You’ve just released your Fable EP. Do those four songs together tell a specific story?
We kind of loosely based it around this conversation we had about the fact that we’re learning so much and that we kind of feel with age, we might forget? Also with things that generally when we’re young, we really resonate with things like taking risks and having courage, and not being too comfortable with life the way it is every day. We wanted to make sure that we remembered some of these lessons.
From there, it kind of just evolved into each song having a really strong meaning behind it, or a set of lessons we wanted to remember, continuing on.
You mentioned in your socials that the piece took two years to write. Was the writing of the tracks to this body of work always intended to be an EP?
Well initially, because we’d just moved to Sydney and were like, “Okay we have to do a show in a month, we need more content” [laughs]. I think ‘Fading’ emerged from those first few weeks as a guitar and vocal song – a totally different song at the time. Then other songs started to emerge that we were writing on the road initially to kind of fill our set, but then once we eventually became more comfortable it was just a natural thing we were doing regularly; which was just writing music, and we still try to do that.
So these four songs were never intended to come together when they were initially first written, but by the end, they all connected and all fit the conceptual ideas of the EP.
You mentioned that ‘Fading’ started out differently to what it is now, has that happened to other songs of yours?
Oh yeah, 100%. I think ‘Run’ is the only song that stayed the same, it just clicked really quickly. ‘Fading’ was the most dramatic change I would say, but they all changed a lot. We actually took all of them on the road and were trying them out, so a lot of them had changed during that process; feeling what the audience is feeling with the songs, but also how we’re feeling and tailoring as we go along.
The overall character of this EP beams much more open light when compared to the darker tones of your self-titled. Was that a conscious decision?
We definitely wanted to make this a lot more forward-looking, so I guess the first EP was more nostalgic, and yeah I would say less light [laughs]. Then when we got to this one, alongside with the concept that we were thinking about, we also wanted to get away from anything we’d done before and just move forward, but also make it a forward-looking EP. Maybe that’s why it feels light, as we tried to make it positive and uplifting, looking to the future as opposed to looking at the past, in a way.
Your lyricism is beautifully written, and ornate in detail. Do you have a background in any sort of creative writing?
That’s so sweet [laughs], but no actually. It’s funny, I think what really helps us is that we play all these lyric games where one of us will come up with something, and the other will edit it in a certain time frame, or write some concepts, like pages and pages and pages, and the other person will help narrow them down. So I think what really makes us enjoy it is having a teammate to do it with.
I think that’s a really nice way of doing it as well, because you’d tap into that whole “practice makes perfect” cliche. You’d just get better and better at it doing it that way.
Yeah definitely, and also I think we’ve found what makes us feel inspired. There’s just some days where you can’t do it, like it’s not working, and then there’s other days where it’s just flowing. It’s weird.
Vallis Alps aesthetically uses a great deal of electronic production alongside live instrumentation. What’s the best thing about working with this hybrid?
The electronic world has so many options and sounds, but there’s something really special about using real instruments. The vulnerability of them as well as the wholeness of the sound they provide, I think there’s something really magical about that. A lot of our songs are initially written on acoustic instruments, and then moved to an electronic platform, so I think with that foundation we try to bring it through a bit as well.
You release music independently. Is that how you envisage Vallis Alps to remain?
Yeah definitely. We just have a lot of fun doing things ourselves. I think we all bring really unique skills to the team; I’m studying law so I try and do all the law and business-y stuff, David has a design background as well as many other incredible things he does. Melody obviously has so many different skills in many different areas, so we try and bring all of those in. We enjoy pushing ourselves creatively, but we’ve also found that we have an incredible team around us that we’ve kind of built ourselves, and it’s really beautiful to be able to have those relationships and friendships start to form. So I think it’s definitely something we want to keep doing ourselves.
You’re currently touring Fable, and just performed two sold out Sydney shows. What can fans expect of your current live show?
Our live show at the moment, we’ve tried to make it as much of an encompassing experience as possible. I know it sounds pretty lame [laughs], but we wanted to move away from what we were doing previously, where it was like start a song, stop a song, start a song. We’ve blended the songs, kind of into three parts, where each one has a video synced with it, so we want people to feel like they’re taken away into this little world, but also really just having fun. We want people to feel like they’re having fun, having a good time, being uplifted and joyful, that’s the goal.
It’s a multi-sensory experience.
Yeah maybe, except smell. One day we would love to have like [laughs] aromatherapy puffing from underneath the chairs [laughs].
Will you be joined by any additional members?
There’s just the two of us at the moment. We call David the octopus [laughs], because he just plays so many different instruments.
You’ve just been announced on the Splendour In The Grass lineup for 2017. How much does a festival setting differ to a venue show? Do you have a preference?
Yeah! So exciting! There’s definitely not a preference, both have their own incredible characteristics, but I think festivals just have this energy of like a mass collective that brings a lot of fun – I’ve never felt that energy anywhere before, especially when you’re singing on stage, it’s a really exciting, special moment. Then again, headline shows are also in their own way very exciting, and they have their own vibe.
What’s next for Vallis Alps? Are you writing at the moment or are you purely focused on touring?
We’re definitely writing, we’ll keep trying to write as we’re touring, we just really enjoy it. We are touring for the most part of this year, and are actually going back to the States soon too.
Grab your digital copy of Vallis Alps‘ Fable EP via iTunes.
Words by Hannah Galvin.
Photo credit: Sean Walker.