Bianca Valentino

Catcall – The Collapse Board Interview

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Did you grow up in Sydney?

Yeah I grew up in Carlingford in Sydney. It was a pretty standard suburban upbringing — I hung out with my family and went to school. High school was pretty standard. I enjoyed my childhood. I got into music pretty early but my parents weren’t really big music fans. My sister was, she got into music as well but both of us discovered it by ourselves. Watching Rage on Saturday morning kind of ignited it and we went from there. I had an older half-brother that was into music and then there were family friends into it too.

In a previous interview you commented that you didn’t have too many friends at school?

Oh really? [laughs]

You mentioned that you used to spend a lot of your time talking to people on the internet about music.

I did have friends at school I just didn’t have friends that were into music. Around the end of high school I was getting into a lot of stuff like Fugazi and I didn’t have anyone to talk to about music so I went online to forums and stuff. That was how I would talk to people about it. Then I went out and started seeing local bands and meeting people. After that I didn’t really sit on internet forums anymore. I didn’t really have anyone to share music with for quite a while during those last high school years until I started going out — that’s how I met Jack and Angie from Kiosk.

Is there anything that you learnt from being a part of the DIY punk community with Kiosk that you’ve taken into what you do now with Catcall?

Yeah just pretty much the key thing is to always be myself and to always be really true to what I am and where I’ve come from and that I can do anything and make anything happen. No matter what, you can try to make something happen if you find a way. That was the most inspiring thing about being in a punk band, you didn’t have to have the greatest technical ability, I’ve never learnt an instrument and I probably can’t sing but that doesn’t matter, you just sing in a band. Also the sense of community is really nice as well, just having other artists you can do things with. Whatever I end up doing I know there will always be this community there.

How did the transition from playing in Kiosk to playing in Catcall come?

At the end of 2006 after we did the tour Kiosk just generally reached a point where all of were looking outward into other things. I had an intense life changing experience around mid-2006 after we got back from America, my dad passed away really suddenly. At the end of that year I was doing a lot of grieving and soul searching. I started listening to a lot of different music that year, a lot of pop and a lot of Nelly Furtado and all the new Chromatics stuff, Glass Candy and M.I.A. I was listening to a lot of mainstream pop. I got myself a really simple recording setup and started writing in early 2007, doing little lo-fi demos in my room and putting them up on MySpace. I didn’t know what I was going to do with it or how it was going to go. I just wanted to do different music than Kiosk, music that wasn’t guitar-based, music that was electronic. It ended up doing what I desired to — to incite collaborations. I started collaborating with people that produced electronic music. The whole point of the early stuff that I was making was … OK, I can write a vocal melody and I can create something out of a loop and then I can progress to more advanced stuff. From there it built and built and built.

Is there any other source your work comes from other than personal experience?

I think mainly pretty much everything comes from personal experience because I believe that I can only write about what I know. I like to have a story and the soul and experience in the songs. I enjoy listening to a song and feeling like an artist has gone through something and is reflecting on something.

What’s your favourite track on forthcoming album The Warmest Places?

That’s so hard. My current favourite is a track called ‘That Girl’. It’s getting mixed at the moment. It’s a song that I wrote that is a homage to Patti Smith, Cat Power and all these amazing female artists — it’s kind of a love song to them. I can’t wait to get that one out there! There’s so much that no one has heard yet, there’s so much stuff that I haven’t even played live. It’s so exciting!

What themes have you found coming up on The Warmest Places?

A lot of them are themes to do with the death of my dad, songs of kind of yearning for someone. There’s songs for me that are celebrating independence, celebrating being alone and enjoying that. Then there are tracks where I’m reflecting on heartbreak or relationships that have gone wrong. There’s a whole spectrum of things. Basically the last six or seven years of my life, every experience I’ve ever had is probably on this record [laughs].

I always find that debut albums from artists can be some of their most exciting work because they have so much building up and building up and happening before that first record, everything goes into it and it is usually made without expectations attached to it. It’s made really organically.

It is the most exciting part because there is no expectation — well maybe a little expectation but there really isn’t because I’ve never really put out an album before. I think it’s quite liberating for me. I’m scared of the second album! [laughs]

When you’re making music do you find you’re influenced by what you’re listening to at the time?

Oh yeah definitely. There was a period where I lyrically got really inspired by Fleetwood Mac. There’s some tracks where it was clear that I had listened to Bananarama, The Go-Go’s and all that 80s girl pop, and early Madonna. Unconsciously though, I’m never ever consciously trying to create any sound I just go with what I’m feeling with the music or beat that I’m working with. It does seep in though. The record is a collection of all of my influences definitely, pretty clearly.

Is there any part of the songwriting process that you find challenging?

I think that lyrics are the hardest part no question. Writing the melody is no problem but lyric-writing is really, really difficult. Good lyrics are so hard. You have your ideas but then you think, am I saying that in the best way? It’s very, very difficult. I would read a lot of lyrics like Roxy Music lyrics. One of the producers I worked with would give me homework like “go read Roxy Music lyrics and see where they’re coming from” when I was stuck on something. That will always be the biggest challenge for me.

(continues overleaf)

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