Saturday, July 24, 2010

Like a Cowboy Boot, Like Valbanera

Screamo-punk has always been a very difficult genre for me to appreciate. Not because it's any less artistic or expressive than any other rock sub-genre, but because it's so intense you have to be in just the right mood to see through the chaos, to the raw talent that rests behind it. It's taken me years to see through that chaos, and finally I can see the real emotion behind the screamo sound. It took a very talented, very charismatic band to pull me through the haze of voltage and feedback to show me what was really behind it.
I saw Valbanera play at the end of June, and was immediately struck by the strong stage presence these guys possess. Opening for bands Have You Seen My Ghost, LOVELOUD and Fit For Rivals, Valbanera commanded the stage for every minute they were up there, not relinquishing a single second to boring mediocrity.
From right here in Marietta, Georgia, Valbanera, a five-piece comprising Gavin Caffrey (vocals, keys and bells), Peyton Foley (guitar and vocals), Brian Caffrey (guitar and coarse vocals), Tyler Seaman (bass and vocals), and Anthony Founds (drums), delivers a sound that is emo-punk on downers with a poetic edge.
"Like a Cowboy Boot" is a perfect example of this edgy punk, drawing on strained vocals next to coarse screams that run you in ironic circles, as they sit atop melodic chords that make humming a breeze. Part of a compilation of Swayze's Venue artists, "Like a Cowboy Boot" perfectly showcases Founds's drumming style, as he's laid back one moment and shoots from 0-60 in .8 seconds the next, leaving you wondering what just happened. Seaman's bass lines, too, are something that this track benefits from. It seemed to me for a very long time that screamo was very hard to understand and that the lyrics didn't work very well with the melody. "Like a Cowboy Boot" changed all that: it's soft-to-hard melody contrasts with the lyrics in the best way, bearing the raw emotion these guys clearly have to show in a shining limelight.
Track two on my setlist, "Calm Down, Andy Torrey!," is too a brilliant track. Valbanera's use of the xylophone (or perhaps bells contributed by Gavin Caffrey) makes this a truly unique track as Foley and Brian Caffrey go to town on their guitars, creating a tapestry of sound and color in my head that lulls me into a sonic oblivion. The way these guys can connect their guitars with Seaman's bass proves to be one of the best attributes of this song.
Lastly, I find myself listening to "I Create the Valley," a track that seems to depart from Valbanera's rough exterior in favor of a more haunting one. But once again, this is only in the beginning, as the vocals suddenly shoot up in rage and raw power. I can't exorcise from my head, though, the thought that this is such a unique track because of its use of an easy, haunting melody over of a more aggressive one. So much screamo is the result of fast guitars and hard-cut bass lines and drums, but here, the haunting melody of the song makes this one a definite must hear.
The thing that struck me most about Valbanera though, was their incredible stage presence. These guys could have been playing to 5 people or 5,000 people, and it would have made no difference. They ruled that stage for their entire set as if they were rocking the main stage at Warped Tour. Seeing Caffrey hold the mic over the shuffling crowd as his bandmates played on and on was priceless. These guys are rockstars already; they don't need any big labels or big tours. That night I saw more personality and raw power flowing off the stage than I did when I saw The All-American Rejects or Daughtry, just to name a couple of some of the top-earning rock acts.
Valbanera won't be ignored, and I would love to see these guys play Warped Tour. I think that they would be a brilliant shock to anyone and everyone there, and that is something that excites me to see them again. Keep your eyes peeled for these guys, because they are not going away.

Sounds Like: Gallows, Inhale Exhale, Oh, Sleeper

Key Tracks from Weak Veins, Parting Ships and the Swayze's Venue Compilation (respectively): "Calm Down, Andy Torrey!," "I Create the Valley," "Like a Cowboy Boot"

Check out Valbanera more at: and!/pages/Valbanera/247909163979?v=wall&ref=ts

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