The indie rock band Keys And Vices is based in Sacramento, California. They recently released their new album ‘Chronic Nostalgia’. The songs come together to create a sonic storybook featuring stories of personal experiences of various forms of heartbreak. They have merged the different musical backgrounds of Jennifer Valdez (vocals/guitar), Kevin McCarty (bass), and Kristopher Ayala (drums) to create a sound that is built on powerful vocals, intimate songwriting, and dynamic melodies.
These questions were answered by Jennifer Valdez.
Q: Your album ‘Chronic Nostalgia’ was released on March 15th. What is the story behind that title?
A: Chronic, being defined as a problem that’s long-lasting, and difficult to eradicate. Nostalgia, being a sentimental longing to go back to a period in your life that you were most happy. The words are opposite and conflicting but embodies the songs on this album.
Q: What was your writing process for this album? Did you go about it differently than any writing you have done in the past?
A: Yes, writing for this album was different than those of the past. In my previous band, we wrote all the music together, and when I wrote the lyrics I tried to keep them less personal and more open to interpretation. Keys And Vices was going to be my solo project so I wrote most of the songs and music myself before I invited Kevin and Kris into the project. I got stuck on the last few songs and realized how much I missed the comradery and the collaboration with other musicians. I’m very proud of this album because I didn’t compromise the lyrical content. I wrote exactly what I felt, and about what I went through. I used to fear being so transparent in my songs because I worried what people would think of me (for those that listen to the lyrics themselves), but at some point you say “fuck it” and you go all in.. which I did!
Q: You released a lyric video for your song “How Do I”, which is on ‘Chronic Nostalgia’. Why did you choose that song?
A: We chose “How Do I”, because it’s one of the few songs on the album we recorded as the 3 of us, so we wanted to showcase it for the 1st video. We’ll be releasing more lyric videos from the album (along with full music videos) so stay tuned!
Q: Are there any lyrics on the album that stand out the most to you? What are they, and why?
A: Wow that’s a really tough question! I have to say all the lyrics on these songs are very personal so it’s difficult to pick the ones that stand out the most to me. I would say the lyrics from the song “Box of Keys”. This was a song I wrote a few years ago prior to bringing on Kevin and Kris. This song is very personal, it’s about my own vices in my life and how they affected my confidence around others. The lyrics in the beginning verse of the song, “There’s a place that I’ve found where I can’t turn around and see the damage I’ve done. It’s all my head like the road bleeding red, the truth can swallow the fun. But you still believe there’s a light left in me, you’re the fool, the joke is on you. You still believe there’s a way to be free from this box of keys.” I love using the metaphor of a box full of “keys” to symbolize each of my insecurities and my vices that I keep to myself and hide away where no one can see them.
Q: The album cover art feels very personal yet whimsical. How did you decide on that image? Is there meaning behind each of the items? If so, will you explain?
A: First of all, thank you for noticing the detail! Secondly, I have to give all the credit to the artist who drew the cover art. Lauren Wolf, is a local artist in Sacramento, CA. I saw her artwork and knew immediately I wanted to work with her. I sent her the music and gave her complete creative freedom and with a few back and forth minor feedback, the end result made me feel like she climbed inside my brain and drew what I couldn’t describe. She was able to translate my emotions out of the music and lyrics into this piece of art that I’m beyond proud to have as the cover of the album.
Q: Since the album is a sonic storybook, will you tell me about some of the inspirations behind the songs? Is there a thread that links them all together?
A: The order of the album flows the best musically, but it’s not necessarily 100% in order of the story. The resounding theme is pain and heartbreak, but there are different types of pain and heartbreak. “Running Away” is a song that concludes with not giving up on love even after all the pain it put me through. “Twila” is a song about heartbreak from losing my Grandmother to Alzheimer’s disease and tells the story of what me and my family went through as we saw her fading away. “Ghost Love” is the most vulnerable out of them all and completes the album. To someone who has never loved someone with a blind trust, and then had their world turned upside down by that same person, then this song probably comes off as a straightforward breakup song, but it’s so much more than that. It’s the ending of a decade long love that had years of storybook adventures and experiences. It’s the closing of a major chapter in my life that shaped the person I have become and literally changed my life. The album served its purpose and let me express the things I needed to, and now I’ve moved on to writing a new story, and it’s a very different story I’m excited to tell.
Q: What made you decide to take such a vulnerable path while writing these songs and sharing your personal stories?
A: The internet right now is full of images and videos that depict perfection through social media. You can edit every picture, you can cut and paste all the clips to create the most enticing story, but most isn’t real and certainly not vulnerable. A lot of music I hear lately has the same theme, shallow and fake content. People are afraid to be themselves because what if no one “likes” it? I gave up on trying to be perfect and trying to please everyone, and decided to write something that feels 100% real to me.
Q: Is there a specific message that you hope listeners gain from ‘Chronic Nostalgia’?
A: There’s not a specific message for listeners to gain from the album, other than relatability. Everyone has gone through strife in their lives at some point, and if anything I hope when they listen to the songs, they feel a connection and find a piece of themselves in parts if not all of the album.
Q: Speaking of listeners, do you have any shows coming up? How would you describe your live set?
A: We do have shows coming up! We had our official album release show last month and the response to the live show was beyond what we’d hoped for! We have worked really hard on our live set because it’s just the 3 of us – drums, bass and guitar (musically), so we have to really fill the sound more than a bigger band with more instruments. We don’t use backing tracks at our live shows, so while the songs may not duplicate the layering from the album – our performance brings a ton of energy to the stage. Kevin on bass is savage on stage! One time he accidentally hit me in the back of my head with his bass because he was so into his playing that he forgot to open his eyes. You’ll find Kris on the drums doing drumstick tricks between beats and find wood pieces breaking off and flying in the air from playing so hard. Me, you’ll find singing like my life depended on it, and playing guitar with every feeling left in my fingers (literally, because I have severe carpal tunnel so my hands actually go numb mid-way through and I can’t feel the guitar strings)!
Q: Is there anything else going on with Keys And Vices that you can share with me at this time?
A: We have a new single we’ll be releasing later this year! That’s right, more new music! I know we’re a new band to the scene, but we’ve all done this before and we’re not wasting time getting songs out into the world. Thank you for taking the time to listen to our music!
Photo Credit: Jennifer Valdez