Austin-based band Sasha and the Valentines has been busy lately: making limited edition cassette tapes, playing virtual shows for SXSW and their label’s one-year anniversary alike, and preparing for the release of their debut album So You Think You Found Love? on April 16th. Comprised of Sarah Addi on vocals and keys, Alex Whitelaw on guitar, JB Bergin on bass, Billy Hickey on drums, and Tim Zoidis on auxiliary percussion, the five-piece lulls us into a dreamlike state in “Witches”, the album’s first track, promising us “But hey, it’s only you and me now,” then promptly pours an icy glass of water on our heads, reminding us “We only last for long / until we disappear” in “Tears for Mars”. We are wholeheartedly entranced, guided by ethereal vocals, romantic lyrics, and soothing guitar riffs. Learn more about Sasha and the Valentines and their upcoming release below, stay up-to-date with them via Bandcamp, Twitter, and Instagram, mark your calendar for April 16th, and prepare to fall in love.
To start, your new album comes out on April 16th! What was the process of recording like this time around? Was it different from your previous EPs? What’s everyone’s favorite song on it?
Sarah: COVID and the quarantine definitely played a big part in the timing of this record. We had recorded two songs with Erik Wofford over at Cacophony Recorders before the pandemic, but weren’t sure if we were ready to record the whole album. Then when it all hit, we were left with nothing but time. So the timing felt right and we booked a week with Erik and it was a really great experience. It helped that we all lived together so it felt like a very intimate experience all around.
My favorite song I think is “Angel” (the second track on the album). It’s just one of my favorite songs that I’ve ever written melodically and lyrically. It came to me very naturally and has a lot of heart in it. However, after hearing it recorded I do really love how “Tears for Mars” came out and that song was also another proud writing moment, I really like the riffs I came up with for that one.
Alex: “Tears for Mars”- I have the most fun playing it
Billy: “I See the Light” – It makes my body feel like I’m having the most fun while playing it.
Tim: “Cry All the Time” – It’s a fun song
JB: “Tinder” – It has the most going on while being the most relaxed song on the album. I hope people get stuck on it but aren’t sure why until many, many listens in, when they hear that one thing they didn’t notice before. We added a lot of textures and sounds that are nowhere else on the album to that one song and I hope when people find those sounds, they feel like they discovered something. Like a shared secret!
Next, you had a slot in this year’s SXSW! What’s your virtual show set-up like? What’s a silver lining of playing online shows? Are there any particular challenges?
Sarah: We try to do each virtual show a little different in terms of how we set it up. For the most part Tim sets up, DIs and mics everything, Alex films and edits, and I mix the sound.
As for the SXSW virtual show, we had the pleasure of doing a session with Hotel Vegas’ “Hotel Free TV.” They made us sound and look so good. I look forward to people getting to hear us “live” again. But I guess the challenge with virtual shows is that it will never be like the real thing. As much as I can appreciate reaching people digitally, we’re always missing the energy of a live crowd.
You describe your music as “the curly-phone-cord, calling-your-crush-for-the-first-time kind of butterflies,” how does this nostalgia factor into the music you make? What do you hope your listeners take from your tunes? Who do you make music for?
Sarah: As nostalgic as those butterfly feelings are, they never really go away as we get older, we just hide them better. Everyone can relate to that feeling. It’s the best. Even when your heart gets broken, that early falling head over heels feeling is always worth putting yourself out there. So, in the music, I try to embody the double edged sword that is relationships. The feeling of inadequacy, jealousy, pain, betrayal that I write lyrically mixed with the feeling of butterflies, young love and pure devotion that come across in the sugary, pop-y riffs and melodies.
I hope my listeners hear me. I hope they hear my perspective and relate. I hope they feel okay and understood. I hope they forget and remember all at the same time but I also hope they can just passively enjoy the songs too.
I will always and forever make music for me first. Then I make music for everyone who decides to connect to it. I am always so humbled and appreciative to any person who supports us and enjoys our music.
Where does the name “Sasha and the Valentines” come from? What does it mean to you all?
Sarah: Anyone and everyone is Sasha and we’re all each other’s Valentines.
What’s the best show bill you’ve been a part of? Who did you play with? Where did you play? What was amazing about it?
Sarah: A show we set up at Mohawk in Austin a few months before COVID was such a dream line up. It was us, Mind Shrine, Manifest Destiny’s Child and Lainey Gonzales. We really love all of the people in these projects and the energy of that night was amazing.
I’ve also really appreciated every Cheer Up Charlies show we played. We played there often and it never got old. All our Houston bills at Satellite Bar also hold a very special place in our hearts. I also have a special memory of playing at the Che Cafe in San Diego. It was a halfway point on our west coast tour with Spirit Ghost and the crowd was just packed with a lot of young high school and early college-aged kids who just brought so much energy to that show. Those types of shows just remind you why you go through so much effort to tour and play out in the first place.
Lastly, a desert island question: if you could bring only one song to listen to, what would everyone’s song be?
Sarah: Damn, that’s so hard. Right now I’m obsessed with the song “If You Had My Love” by J-Lo. So that, or “What Once Was” by Her’s or “We All Fall in Love Sometimes” by Elton John or “Linger” by the Cranberries or “Ffunny Ffrends” by Unknown Mortal Orchestra or “I Need Your Love” by Tennis, or “The Tower” by Pure Bathing Culture… I can’t answer this one. Those are just a few of the many, many songs I get obsessed with. I’m one of those people that gets obsessed with a lot of random songs rather than listening to full albums all the time.
Alex: “Hot Burrito #1” – The Flying Burrito Brothers
Billy: “So Good at Being In Trouble” – Unknown Mortal Orchestra
JB: I have a CD of songs for a situation like this, the first song on that CD is “Flowers” by Andrew Ashong and Theo Parrish, so if I had to pick ONE it would be that one.
Tim: “Blue Monday” – New Order
Interview by Patricia Creamer