When we caught up with Craft Spells’ Justin Vallesteros, he was having a notably relaxing afternoon, lounging in bed with a cup of coffee at his parents’ house in Northern California. The lead singer divides his time between the Bay Area and Seattle and is currently prepping for his band’s North American tour, which kicks off later this week.
When he’s not chilling, Vallesteros is trailblazing the indie music scene. His songs marry dreamy ’80s-reminiscent tempos with saturated electronic interludes. Nausea, Craft Spells’ recently released follow-up to their 2011 breakthrough, Idle Labor, boasts delicate synth beats that blend fluidly with resonant, warm vocals. Melancholy chord structures are cradled in heady, minimalist guitar lines that channel a musical maturation, especially on tracks like “Breaking the Angle Against the Tide” and “Twirl.” While Idle Labor twisted lyrics about social anxiety into sugary dance numbers like “Party Talk,” Nausea presents a variety of instruments, including flute and clusters of lulled guitar riffs that point to a kind of existential awakening. With a distinct orchestral edge, Nausea provides a lush and raw exposition of coming to terms with solitude and realizing your place in the world.
So you guys just came back from Europe. How was it? It was amazing; it was my favorite tour so far. It was our second time going there. It was very beautiful. The response for the new album in Europe was really nice.
Why Nausea? It’s also the first track on the album. I’ve experienced kind of a detachment from reality due to spending a lot of time alone. When you spend so much time alone, it’s hard to come back out for air. It’s a reality that you create for yourself after recording for so long. Trying to get back into reality is kind of nauseous. When I’m on a stride and able to make an album like Nausea, that’s how I really felt at that time.
How is it being at your parents’ place while you’re writing? They leave me alone. [Laughs.] I mostly write past the 11 p.m. mark. That’s when I hit my stride, and they’re asleep by that time, so they don’t bother me much. And home-cooked meals are good. It’s funny — during this interview my mom just came home from work and was like “Justin!” and I was like, “Mom, I’m doing an interview.”
Music can be an emotional thing, and this album has a darker tinge to it than Idle Labor. How do you share that with audiences? Compositionally, I’ve made sad songs, but lyrically it’s introspective, and musically it’s like a landscape for a movie. It can get emotional, and playing it live is a whole different monster.
Is the writing process mostly you or collaborative? It’s all me actually. From the very beginning, I wrote and produced everything. Yeah, basically I like to retreat to my parents’ house when I record. Then when it’s time to tour, I meet up with the band, which is a lot of my friends.
What are you interests apart from making music? I love reading comic books and manga. I love listening to music. I play a lot of Street Fighter online. And hanging out with friends, my close friends and best friends. I enjoy night driving. It’s one of my favorite things to do. When it’s like 3 a.m. and no one’s on the road, it’s got a therapeutic feel to it.
Craft Spells play SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) on Thursday, February 26, at 8 p.m. with The Bilinda Butchers. Call (805) 962-7776 or visit sohosb.com.