Fronted by Trey Powell, three of the four A Valley Son members grew up in small southern towns, and all eventually migrated to New York City. Their debut LP is largely inspired by the experience of growing up in an isolated community to then living in one of the most bustling cities in the world. Asking the question: what becomes of home once you leave what you’ve always known to be “home”?
“The saying goes that you have your whole life to write the first album and these songs certainly encompass that up to this point. I was able to put a lot of the things I’ve done and seen into these songs—good and bad—and if feels good to be able to move on from it, in a way. That idea of moving on in the face of all the internal and external factors that keep us looking back or stuck dreaming of some nonexistent future is kind of at the heart of what the album as a whole is about. The world keeps moving, despite our best efforts.” — Trey Powell, A Valley Son
But The World Moves begins on a pensive note with the instrumental “Take Me There,” which sets the landscape of the quiet, solitude of the band members’ youths. Some songs sound washed in nostalgia while others like “In the Low Light of the Late Afternoon” have a restless quality to them, a desire to get out and experience a bigger world — one that is constantly in motion outside of our own scope of reference.
On tracks like “Sunset Park” and “Lights In The Sky” the guitars sing and dance with a tonal quality reminiscent of Delicate Steve. On the latter, one can also hear world influences come into play. Track 8 out of 10 on the record, the song seems to symbolize NYC’s big city lights and the cultural diversity and influences present in a large metropolis. On closing track “Bring Me Home” things come full circle, as the tone once again slows down and the band takes pause to reflect on the journey — their personal journey, and those of their friends and family, some who’s stories didn’t pan out as hoped or expected.
Once again the theme of home arises — is it a place, certain people, or is it within yourself? What happens when you lose parts of your home? As the album title implies, as the world moves, perhaps so to does the definition of home. Because home and life is what you make it.
Below frontman Trey Powell talks about growing up in rural Virginia, the music, and his favorite southern eats in Brooklyn. Listen to A Valley Son’s But The World Moves in its entirety now before its release on September 8th.
What was the music scene like in Virginia when you were growing up? Was there anyone locally that influenced you?
A Valley Son: The town I’m from is called Deltaville. It sits on a peninsula and is the kind of place where everyone has either been there since the beginning of time or had recently moved there to deliberately get away from the rest of the world. Which is to say, it’s not the kind of place that fosters a ton of artistic endeavors, especially the angry, angsty, loud kind I wanted when I was growing up.
But, I met some guys and we started a band and we were awful and it was perfect. Until very recently, it was still the most fun I have ever had playing music. Just sweating in my dads workshop bashing away at instruments we could hardly play. It was heaven. I still think about those guys and that time a lot, they’ve all made it into songs on this record in one way or another.
Do you feel like you have one home place?
No. Not anymore. I used to personally identify a lot more with my hometown, but I think in the same way that as we age, our parents stop being our parents and we start seeing them for the flawed, wonderful, multi-faceted humans they really are, the same thing has happened to me with the meaning of “home.”
The word and the place means different things at different times and if you put too much stock in it — or too little — whether you’re trying to find it, leave it or simply understand it, the idea can morph into something dangerous. The hope and despair that I’ve seen in myself and in others looking to come to terms with what “home” is, I think kind of defeats the purpose of the idea.
Think of your hometown: what’s one smell, sound and sight that instantly come to mind?
Diesel fuel. There is something incredibly nostalgic about it for me. Every time I walk by an idling box truck here in the city and smell it I think about childhood and the old diesel engines on the workboats at the marina.
Is there something about most of you being from the South that brings you together musically?
I mean we’re all huge fans of southern soul and rock but I think the biggest thing was church and gospel. All of us grew up in and, eventually far away from, the church, and I think it’s as much at the root of our musical connection as anything else. I know for me some of my earliest musical experiences were singing hymns, and that kind of song is inherently communal with the harmony and the group aspect taking precedence over any individual performance. I think we all come at music with the mindset that a song isn’t a place for individual spectacle but every piece has to work together towards to goal of making the song itself more powerful. It’s about raising up the whole, not yourself.
With technology these days, do you think it’s possible for people to “make it” living in rural communities?
Definitely. As far as I can tell. However, there are two impediments that render any level of technological innovation somewhat moot with regard to staying afloat in rural southern communities. First, is that people do what they know. If your mom and dad were doctors or lawyers and everyone in your family went to college then you probably have a better chance of being a doctor or a lawyer and going to college. Not because a person comes from an inherently smarter group of humans — I’ve known doctors who can hardly write and carpenters who turned down Ivy League educations — but because things we’re familiar with feel more attainable. And, for whatever reason, our world doesn’t value someone who can build you a home as much as they do someone who can sew up the cut on your leg. So it becomes a generational cycle struggling for people in certain socioeconomic thresholds to make ends meet.
My dad builds houses yet I barely know a T-Square from a level, but if someone asked me to build them a house I’d say “Yeah, I can probably figure that out.” Point being that in rural communities you are exposed to a limited group of people and experiences and it’s hard to get a broader understanding of what you’re capable of in the world at large because you simply don’t know what you don’t know.
The second thing is pride. I think there’s an inherent competitiveness and stubbornness that you have being from the South and the more people tell you the way you live and how you “make it” isn’t the way people are doing it elsewhere there’s a tendency to dig in and say, “Fuck you, this is how we live.” So, that’s a really long half-answer to your question but, in short, yes. Technology can help people “make it” but the problem isn’t so much access to resources as it is access to or willful ignorance of external ideas.
What’s the biggest misconception about Southerners?
Hard to say. People are judgmental and presumptuous everywhere so for every “Southerns are dumb and racist” there’s a correlating “New Yorkers are assholes.” Misconception is really just stereotype and I try my best not to pay that any mind.
If someone only had 24 hours in Brooklyn, where would you take them?
Depends on the day but if it were a Saturday night I’d take them to Sunny’s Bluegrass Jam in Red Hook. Nothing else like it.
Best Southern food in New York?
This is really tough. I’m gonna make this a two-parter. For BBQ it’s hands down Hometown BBQ in Red Hook. It’s not really Southeastern style like I grew up on but it’s still my favorite in the city.