Interview: Sky Valley Mistress
''All-of our heroes have recorded at Rancho so we spent a lot of long nights making sure every song was as strong as it could be so that we were ready to stand alongside giants. Being in the middle of the desert and being in that place definitely-gave each track a vibe we couldn’t have captured anywhere else though.''
Lancashire’s low-down riffy rockers Sky Valley Mistress are the latest signings to the New Heavy Sounds label (Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Vodun, Grave Lines, plus others). They come armed with the imminent release of their impressive and lavishingly packaged debut long-player Faithless Ritual, boasting extra kudos as it was recorded at California’s Rancho De La Luna studio alongside co-producer, studio owner, Mojave Lord, and Gimme Radio DJ, David Catching. To find out how all of this came to fruition, Echoes And Dust sent some questions over to the SVM headquarters and the band’s drummer Max kindly informs us of their history so far. Expect tales of Eagles of Death Metal alter-ego Halloween costumes, hanging outside local rehab centres, and an I-pod gift- bearing Robert Plant……..confused? Then read on for it all to (kinda) make sense.
(((o))): Can you tell us a bit about the band’s history? How did you all meet and form the band etc?
Sky Valley Mistress: Yeah, so me and Kay had already known each other since forever when Sky Valley Mistress originally started as a 3 piece. We all knew we needed a bassist so we looked everywhere for the guy. We put ads in the newspaper, did auditions, went to open mic nights etc and we couldn’t find anyone we thought would cut it. So, we started talking about the kinda guy we wanted in the band, who doesn’t just turn up but who plays for blood y’know? That’s when we started hanging outside the local rehab centre. If someone was on their way in and was wearing a leather jacket, they were gonna be ours. It took a little while but blessed by his holiness Saint Vicious we saw Russell “Russell” Russell on his way in. We weren’t sure how the conversation would go but turns out it’s pretty-easy convincing someone in that position to skip rehab and join a rock and roll band.
Then a couple years later when our old guitarist decided his time serving on the axe was done we got a call from “Starsky”. At first I didn’t know that he wanted to join the band because he just sounded pissed off with us but long story short, he’d had the same idea as us and we’d basically stole Russell before he got a chance to talk to him. Now we’re all one big dysfunctional family of fuck ups and we couldn’t be happier.
(((o))): What would you say are your key influences, and what gets played in the van?
SVM: There’s obviously all the classic stuff like The Stooges, Sabbath, Zeppelin, The Stooges, Bowie, Hendrix, MC5 but here’s a playlist of the fresh stuff we’re playing on the bus:’
(((o))): You’re about to release your debut album on a particular favourite record label of mine: New Heavy Sounds. How did you get to sign for them?
SVM: They had known about us since the early days and they had come to a few shows in secret and waited until the perfect moment to take us on. We all thought that was really-cool because that meant they clearly knew who we were, what we were about and how we do things and they were into it. That and the fact they came to a show in suits with a briefcase with a contract that had dollar signs all over it.
I don’t think many indies would put a debut record out that comes with a free board game and all the other paraphernalia we’ve got going on so we’re all massively grateful for what they’re doing for us.
(((o))): Were you aware of the labels history and their past and present roster of bands?
SVM: One band we hadn’t actually-heard on their label was Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard. The name alone practically told us everything we needed to know about the type of bands they worked with and the type of people the guys at NHS are and we weren’t wrong, they’re all cool as fuck.
(((o))): The bespoke debut album – Faithless Rituals – was co-produced by David Catching and recorded at his Rancho De La Luna studio in California. How did you get his attention?
SVM: It was a few years ago when he was still in the Eagles of Death Metal when we met. We went to a show on Halloween and all came dressed as their nicknames/alter egos like Boots Electric, J. Devil, Queen B and King Shit of Fuck Mountain. I’ll let your imagination run with what we looked like. Anyway, we got backstage after the show and the band loved the costumes and we all started hanging out. When we spoke to Dave about our band he’d already heard of us and he said we should do our next record at his place in the desert. He’s such a kind, sweet genuine guy but none of us believed him. One year later we were knocking on the door of Rancho de la Luna at 3am after a delayed flight and our humble host Dave was still there smiling ready to greet us.
(((o))): The album kicks off with a spoken word monologue by David Catching. Whose idea was this?
SVM: That speech has been kicking around for ages but we never thought we would use it because let’s be honest, it wouldn’t sound half as cool in a northern accent. Way before Rancho came about we joked about Dave being the perfect person to do it. He’s the last person to speak at the end of the Queens of the Stone Age record, Songs for the Deaf, so we said it would be as if we were the fresh blood of a new era if he opened ours. I don’t think anyone thought for a second that would actually-happen but sitting in the control room hearing Dave say it for the first time is an experience none of us are going to forget quickly.
(((o))): From the sound of the record and in the video for the song ‘Skull & Pistons’, I get the impression it was a fun record, or as fun as they can be to make. Am I right in thinking that?
SVM: The whole thing was surreal. The high desert just works on a completely different frequency to the rest of the planet, you really can’t explain it you just have to experience it. Nothing seems real out there in the middle of nowhere. The view we got to look at from outside the studio made the whole thing feel like you were on the Truman show or something. That and the canned laughter you heard any time anyone said anything funny…
(((o))): Were all the songs written before you headed out to California?
SVM: All-of our heroes have recorded at Rancho so we spent a lot of long nights making sure every song was as strong as it could be so that we were ready to stand alongside giants. Being in the middle of the desert and being in that place definitely gave each track a vibe we couldn’t have captured anywhere else though.
(((o))): Currently, one of my favourite tracks is the nearly eleven minutes long ‘Blue Desert’. How did this song take shape?
SVM: I was in bed one night and the ghost of Robert Plant came to me in a dream and gave me an iPod which was pretty fuckin’ weird because Robert Plant isn’t dead and I dunno, I didn’t realise people still used iPods and like why he didn’t give me a CD or something? Anyway, long story short the headphone input was bust, so I had to wait 5 agonisingly long days for a docking station to get delivered and that’s when I finally got to hear the first demo of ‘Blue Desert’ that he wanted to become our song.
(((o))): Can you tell us about the album title and cover?
SVM: The cover is a shrine made of 16 pieces which are all the physical representations of the 16 tarot cards named using lyrics from the song ‘Blue Desert.’ The tarots cards come inside the record and are part of the game you can play in the gatefold sleeve whilst listening. That’s what a record should be a faithless ritual. Something that someone can completely immerse themselves in again and again. We want you to feel a part of something but your spirit bound to nothing.
(((o))): I know this sounds a bit of a daft question, but are you going to try and head out further afield on the road in-order to promote Faithless Rituals?
SVM: Damn straight. Touring and playing live is the thing that this band does so every opportunity we get to play somewhere we haven’t before, we’ll be taking with both hands and shaking hard.
Faithless Ritual is released 20th March 2020 on the New Heavy Sounds label. To pre-order the vinyl and CD see link https://cargorecordsdirect.co.uk/products/sky-valley-mistress-faithless-rituals and to pre-order the digital https://smarturl.it/SVMFaithlessRituals
Sky Valley Mistress play The Fulford Arms in York on 18th March 2020.