This week I had the opportunity to interview the talented band- Vallis Alps, it was definitely a fun and insightful experience...
I dare you to go to a quiet place, take a moment for yourself, put some headphones on, and listen to “Young”. Chances are, you’ll be influenced to turn inwards and focus on the spiritual aspects that the song pulls you towards. Chances are, you’ll walk away thinking about what you just heard, attempting to derive more depth in your life, in your music. To Parissa Tosif, the Aussie-born lead singer of Vallis Alps, that’s the point.
“It’s about having a feeling created and making good music. We like to make people think of things on a deeper level, about deeper concepts,” Parissa explains. “We try to uplift souls, and help make people transcend and access different planes.”
Vallis Alps shapes its’ music in a way that reflects such spirituality. Featuring breathy vocals, ethereal synths and an airy production, the music challenges listeners to take a step beyond just hearing: it encourages listeners to feel. Take the song “Run”, for example. Parissa tells me that the piece is a concept about a conversation between higher and lower souls: about honesty, trustworthiness and love and the absence of those virtues. The song reflects the moments people decide to act nobly or not and the difficulty and complexity those situations present.
And yet, it makes sense why the songs occasionally seem informed by spirituality. Parissa met David Ansari, Seattle-based synth and technology/instrumental wizard of the duo, on a gap year, volunteering in Israel while discovering more about their Bahá'í Faith. While on this trip David met Parissa at a mutual friend’s house, and according to Parissa they jammed, David on guitar and Parissa on vocals.
And it worked.
“We were at a friend’s house and he was playing guitar and I was singing. It just became a jam where I would sing and he would do folky guitar stuff,” Parissa describes. “It’s hard to find someone to click with, but with him it’s easy to jam.”
That said, it’s not random that two volunteers would just pick up instruments and make great music. Both David and Parissa were classically trained since childhood, Parissa on the piano, guitar and flute, David classically on piano and tutored on drums. David grew up playing in punk bands and jazz bands, but only recently started making electronic music, 5 years ago, when Parissa came to the United States from Australia to collaborate with David on a project.
“We recorded the Vallis Alps EP in 2013,” David says. “Vallis Alps was first serious project I did where I tried to make music on a higher level. It was the first project that was more defined, and had more of an identity.”
After a year and a half in post production, the duo released the EP, mainly as a gift for family and friends just for the joy of creating, according to Parissa. They never intended for it to blow up. But it did with the song “Young” landing as high as #27 on Triple J’s Hottest 100. And only a few months later Vallis Alps was playing at Splendour in the Grass, one of Australia’s biggest music festivals. But with only 18 minutes worth of content, and limited experience gigging together, the pair had to create content and get creative to get valuable practice gigs in. The duo briefly went by the name Silva Pals, playing local bars and learning how to perform and sing entire sets. After two months practice, however, the pair was opening for Of Monster and Men and soon after touring Australia as Vallis Alps.
Fast-forward to 2017 and the pair have worked towards perfection on their Ableton rigged show. And Ableton plays a large part in Vallis Alps’ live show, from synthesizing to even lighting. David gives me an behind the scenes understanding of how they’re live show operates.
“There’s no other way to perform live as a computer musician than using Ableton because everything else has limitations,” David explains. “We use Ableton for everything. We use it for the music and for the timecode for the lights. We use Ableton for mixing monitors. Our philosophy is to get as much use out of the one tool before using other tools. Ableton is the home base and everything branches out from there.”
According to David, everything the duo plays is in Ableton’s arrangement view, running MIDI automation. This allows the pair to load all instruments in their computer and change synths automatically during songs at exact points and it keeps all instruments premixed so sound technicians make only minor adjustments during the show.
“Visually it’s easier to do in arrangement view, playing through the song and have it so 50 measures in have the synth will change without me having to get in and really mess around,” David says. “Rather than touring with 500 midi keyboards, we just automate the sounds and it’s done automatically in Ableton.”
Such intricate details worked in Ableton allows for a very refined show. The duo seamlessly sample their tunes, sing and create an ethereal atmosphere. Just watching them play, the two look so much on the same page. I am quick to find out, however, that they both consider each other creative opposites.
“We have very different personality types,” Parissa says. “Complete opposites in every way.”
“On paper and in person, we are total opposites,” David explains. “What keeps this working is that we both have a vision that's bigger than our opposite tendencies. Rather than thinking of us as opposites as being a disadvantage, I contextualize her strengths through my own lens which makes us better at explaining ideas to each other.”
David goes on.
“Opposites with the same goal makes this work. And it makes it fun. If we were the same it wouldn't be as creative.”
Their goal, as Parissa puts it, is to re-energize themselves as musicians and refocus their energy into an opportunity to share their experiences and give more of themselves to the audience. It’s to heighten the energy, uplift souls and leave people joyful and happy.
Vallis Alps does a fantastic job of creating music that allows listeners to walk away thinking about what they just heard, perhaps attempting to derive more depth from their life. The band will be performing at The Hi-Fi in Indianapolis on May 17th, 2017. You can follow more about their upcoming performances and music at the links below!
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