Based in New York City, power pop collective Valley Lodge is one of those bands you know even if you don’t think you know them. The group‘s tune “Go” serves as the theme to HBO’s late night satirical news program, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. Catchy as that song is, it might soon be out-caught by “Come Back to Bed”, from the quartet’s new LP, Fog Machine, which arrives on 19 October via Tee Pee Records and may be pre-ordered here.
Discussing the song, the group’s Dave Hill, a noted comedian whose credits include Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, Inside Amy Schumer and Comedy Central’s @midnight, said, “I don’t actually set out to write songs that fit perfectly into every fight scene in the Patrick Swayze vehicle Road House, but with ‘Come Back to Bed’ it just sort of worked out that way,” says Hill. “That said, our producer, Tom Beaujour, told me that even though the song has a lot of swagger, you could still wear a really nice outfit while listening to it. I have no idea what that means, but it seems like a compliment. My only regret with this song is we didn’t have the sounds of screaming chimps in the breakdown section after the bass solo like I’d originally hoped. But chimps can be really hard to work with, so it’s probably for the best.”
The group, which is rounded out by guitarist/vocalist Phil Costello (Tragedy, Witch Taint), bassist Eddie Eyeball (2 Skinnee J’s) and drummer Rob Pfeiffer (Sense Field), has fall dates in NYC and Ohio through the fall (listed below).
Hill recently spoke with PopMatters to elaborate on the new LP and, more specifically, the deeper reaches of “Come Back to Bed’s” origins and future.
Tell me a little bit about how “Come Back to Bed” first came together.
I came up with the main riff for this song a few years ago. It’s the kind of riff that makes you sprout a thick mustache if you play it too many times in a row and I wasn’t sure if it would fit in with the rest of our songs at first. But it’s such a fun riff to play, and I knew the other guys would agree.
And the way everyone plays and sings in the band, whatever we do is going to sound like Valley Lodge by the time we’re done with it anyway, kind of like accidentally dropping something into a deep fryer at McDonald’s or something; it’s probably going to taste kind of like fries no matter what it was before you dropped it in there. That said, I really think Grand Funk Railroad or Mountain could have taken this one in a lovely direction had they come up with it first.
I really love that main riff/hook part. I’ve been referring to it as the KISS ’74 part. There is a distinct ’70s influence.
We are big fans of ’70s rock, the kind of stuff that sounds best if you listen to it in cutoff jean shorts while smoking an off-brand cigarette with soaking wet hair. At the time when I wrote this riff, I had been going down a wormhole on YouTube of listening to obscure ’70s hard rock bands who maybe only released a seven-inch or two and then disappeared. So it was influenced by all that stuff combined with more of the power pop stuff that Valley Lodge tends to do. I kind of imagine this is the song a band full of dudes in slightly-too-small denim jackets play at a high school battle of the bands in some ’70s movie where all the high school students are clearly way too old to still be in high school.
Also, the band wins the battle of the bands but is disqualified after a giant bag of weed falls out of the bass drum when they are loading the van after the show. The principal gets pissed and rips the trophy right out of their hands and gives it to the runner-up band, who play Tavares covers mostly, but the guys in the denim jackets still go celebrate in a cemetery later with their friend Craig anyway.
And, of course, there’s that blistering guitar solo that makes the listener want to turn it up louder.
The guitar solo on this song is one of the more arena-rock worthy solos on the record. It’s pretty much improvised, but I still managed to sneak a lick in there that I learned from an instructional video by Paul Gilbert, one of the greatest shredders of all-time, so I was pretty excited about that. And then once we had that guitar solo, it felt like we might as well just go for it with a bass solo and a drum solo too.
Our drummer Rob played two full drum tracks for this song sort of as an ode to bands smart enough to have two drummers, like .38 Special. The breakdown of the song is inspired by the James Gang’s breakdown in “Funk 49,” which also makes excellent use of the cowbell. We were talking today about maybe doing a video for this song, and we figured we could add even more percussion and maybe get my dog to bark a few times in there too if she doesn’t have anything else going on that day.
Without hitting too hard on the ’70s thing, there’s an element in this song’s construction that’s consistent with that time. There are a variety of parts, and by the end, we feel like we’ve taken a pretty remarkable journey. Like in Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein” or (I’m digging in deep here) Sugarloaf’s “Don’t Call Us We’ll Call You”.
Yeah, this one structurally definitely fits into that especially because it uses the riff as the hook rather than the vocal. There’s no real verse or chorus on this song. There’s just the vocal section and then back to the big riff for the most part other than a quick bridge before the guitar solo. I don’t know if we’ll ever be asked to play with Foghat or Molly Hatchet or anything, but if it ever happens, I imagine we’ll just play this song over and over again until someone turns the P.A. off on us. Then we’ll probably get nachos or something. I’m not sure.
This, of course, is taken from the album Fog Machine, which has plenty of hooks and smart songwriting across the entire collection. Is the writing an ongoing process or is there a distinct moment where you say, “We gotta get ready to make a record”?
Yeah, it’s kind of an ongoing thing though I think my brain kind of turns on and off in terms of songwriting depending on what else I have going on in life. My “day job” is as a comedian, so I tend to squeeze in my rocking when I’m not busy with that stuff. But once I get in the groove of writing songs, they’ll start coming to me pretty fast.
There’s such a rich body of sounds on the album. I’m curious if you gave heavy consideration to the sequencing because it plays, in many ways, like something from the classic LP era: Nothing’s too same-y when placed side by side, yet it appears to be of a piece.
Yeah, we tried to think in terms of the sequencing and having a variety of sounds on the album. We’re all older dudes as far as band dudes go, so we grew up in an era when albums were something you’d put on and play from start to finish rather than just listen to a song and a half and skip to something else on your phone. So we like to think in those terms because all the bands we grew up with tended to do that.
And we’re really just fans of music just trying to entertain ourselves more than anything else, so, for the most part, we’re just trying to make a record that we would want to listen to while driving around, doing the dishes, or getting hammered in the basement or whatever is going on that day.
This might sound kind of ridiculous, but I’ve always kind of thought of Valley Lodge as a fictional band that would exist in my record collection in some alternate universe, the band that combines all the stuff I love into one band. We might not always succeed in that, but it’s fun trying. Sometimes I’ll go back and listen to something and think “Oh, I know what we were going for on that song, but, ugh, it didn’t work out too well!”
I should add that the whole record sounds amazing loud. Why is that?
I think good rock records should always sound good loud. And as far as this particular one goes, Tom Beaujour, who co-produced, mixed, recorded and engineered Fog Machine is largely responsible. He has an amazing collection of guitars and amps, way too many in fact, and knows how to get the most out of them. And Alan Douches did a great job with the mastering. I should add that our drummer Rob Pfeiffer is a monster, so it kind of forces everyone to try and keep up with that, which also really helps. As long as he’s in the band, we can’t help but be loud, which is annoying to soundmen, but fun for us.
I didn’t want to bring this up because the interview should really be about music and the album. That said: the word is that this band is heavily into ascots. Confirm or deny?
I can’t speak for the other guys, but I lead a fairly ascot-intensive life as far as being a guy from Cleveland goes. In fact, I do enough ascot-wearing for four men. I like the look of an ascot, but it’s also good because it’s kind of like social ankle weights- if you wear an ascot you instantly look like a bit of a dick, so it forces you to at least try to be extra nice to people to balance things out.
October 12 New York, NY Shakedown Cruise! @ Skyport Marina (w/ Windbreaker)
November 6 New York, NY Mercury Lounge (‘Fog Machine’ album release show! w/ Jounce)
November 8 Columbus, OH Ace of Cups (w/ Falling Stars and Happy Chichester)
November 9 Cleveland OH Beachland Tavern (w/ Falling Stars and Happy Chichester)
November 10 Akron, OH TBD
November 30 Brooklyn, NY Hank’s Saloon (w/ Ribeye Brothers and Falling Stars)