Being in a band can be a tough gig. Especially so when one of the members is in a very popular band. Known better as the original band project of Pete Adams of Baroness, since 2002 Valkyrie has put out two solid releases along with some over the years and the occasional regional tour, or festival in their home state of Virginia. Still, this quality outfit should be bigger by now, and is a must listen for fans of Red Fang and High On Fire, proto-metal, doom, and throwback heavy metal lovers. Ghost Cult scribe Dan Swinhoe caught up with guitarist/vocalist Jake Adams, Pete’s brother, to give us an update about the progress of this group, the status of their next album, and the current state of the band.
How do the dynamics of the band work? Is it your band and your rules, or more of a democracy?
It’s definitely democratic. The reason we are playing with these guys is because we know they have a lot to offer as far as ideas and sheer talent to each song that we write. That being said, usually me or my brother (Pete) come up with the bulk of the riffs and song ideas and Alan (Fary, bass) and Warren (Hawkins, drums) will definitely bring a lot to add to that. Most of the basic riffs I write, and Pete often adds harmonies and brings in ideas to get me “out of the box.” The dynamics of song writing work well, as long as Pete and I know what we are doing on guitars – so we spend a lot of time outside of whole-band practices getting our leads and harmonies together.
What’s it like being in a band with family? Easier or harder to work with?
It is definitely easier because we don’t have to think so hard about everything, things just flow naturally because we have such a history playing and being together. There are times where we tend to push each others’ buttons and it makes for some awkward van rides because Warren and Alan don’t want to pick sides. But Pete and I are quick to work through things usually.
When people siblings in the same band, there’s often talk of some sort of psychic chemistry that makes them a better unit- what’s your take on this?
I would definitely agree – often we hear something at the same time and both start taking the song in a certain direction.. it definitely makes things a lot smoother.
How do you and your brother’s playing/songwriting styles differ?
Well, what I tend to play as far as solos tends to be more thought out, but less spontaneous. Pete’s soloing is like capturing lightning in a bottle – he never plays the same solo twice, he tends to “feel” things out more than myself.
Do you feel you fit into any sort of scene at all? There’s been a bit of a resurgence of classic-style rock in the last few years- Witchcraft, The Sword, Graveyard etc- do you think people are looking back to the early days of rock/metal more?
Oh yeah, definitely – there is definitely a resurgence in heavy metal and older rock for sure. We are definitely part of that, but I can’t think of too many bands doing what we are doing. First off, we don’t employ any occult themes or satanic shtick, which tends to define a lot of bands in the hard rock scene, also we lean more to late seventies hard rock than the earlier blues based stuff. Also the vibe of our music tends to be more positive than a lot of bands in the doom scene – throw in clean vocals, harmonized leads, and you start to narrow down the list of bands doing what we are doing. I wouldn’t say we don’t fit it, but our sound tends to stand apart from most of the bands we play with.
Which bands are you a fan of nowadays?
I wish I could say I was a fan of more new bands, not much is really doing it for me these days. There are some friends’ bands worth mentioning : Inter Arma, Earthling, who are doing great things. I stick to the classics like Priest, Sabbath, Maiden, Wishbone Ash, Camel, Skynyrd, old Scorpions, old Whitesnake, Rainbow, stuff like that. We all listen to different stuff, for instance Alan listens to a lot more death metal and thrashy stuff than I do regularly.
What’s happened to the band since the release of Man With Two Visions?
Well, a lot. My wife and I have had two kids, we have a new bass player ( Alan). Pete joined Baroness and has been touring a ton, and I have started a career in teaching. We have been slowly but surely working on the third record, which is finally getting close to finished.
You’re a teacher now, do the students know about Valkyrie? Do they like it?
Yeah, I usually tell them about it- you always get a select few that actually go check it out online and a always have a few that are pretty into it. But as you can imagine, not too many 13 year-olds are going to gravitate to traditional doomy hard rock .
How did Pete joining Baroness affect the band?
Well, Pete’s schedule tends to be very busy with Baroness so often times it gets hard to plan for gigs. But Pete’s skills have improved a lot since he plays so often with Baroness and he has brought a new perspective to Valkyrie as far as songwriting is concerned, some new ideas that playing with Baroness has given him.
The first time I heard about the band was the Man of Two Visions re-release on Meteor City, and aside from the quality music the Baroness connection was one of the things that piqued my interest- Do you think the association has been good for the band?
I think so, wherever Baroness goes, Pete can continue to be an ambassador for Valkyrie – and some people have definitely found out about Valkyrie from Baroness.
Likewise- is it tiring at all having that association?
Not really, real fans and genuine music critics “get it,” and can see the relationship between the bands. I have no problem being associated with them, their approach is totally unique, they are one of the most entertaining and talented live acts around. I’m proud of what they have done, because we grew up playing music together, so their success makes me happy. No worries.
Baroness & Valkyrie are very different bands, but do you ever hear anything in Pete’s playing on the Blue record or Yellow/Green that reminds you of Valkyrie? Have you actually heard the record?
Oh yeah, I am quite familiar with all their stuff. Yes, definitely, you can hear Pete’s playing on the records he was a part of. He has a distinct tone he achieves with the fretting hand that stands out from time to time. Listen to the solo on ‘Horse Called Golgotha’ and you will see what I mean.
Can you talk me through your experience of the crash Pete had while on tour with Baroness?
I was in Honduras, I think it was the day before school was set to start at the private school where I was teaching. I stopped by my apartment for lunch and I happened to look on Facebook, where I saw something about a bus crash. My heart sank and quickly called home for more info. Luckily by that point my brother had called my dad and let him know that he was ok. I was still really concerned for everyone else of course – it is miracle that they came out as well as they did considering the scope of the crash.
How the split with Earthling come about?
Earthling is from the same place ( Harrisonburg, Va) that Valkyrie has considered its “hometown” for a while. They are good friends of ours; a while back the main songwriter/vocalist for Earthling, Alan, joined us on bass. So we are closely connected. It was a logical thing to do, since they were our “brothers in metal” in Harrisonburg – plus they are amazing! We are pleased with the results, it sounds great, and the original 1000 that were pressed are pretty much gone and Tension Head is toying with the idea of a reissue.
What stage are you at with the new album? Can you provide any details? [Album title/track names/release date/anything?]
We know what tracks will be on the album, we are just demo-ing the material right now and tweaking it all out, refining it. Probably 8 tracks. No other info yet.
How are you going to release the new album? Self-release/ via a label | online/vinyl etc…
We haven’t decided yet, but we will probably keep it low-key as far as labels- we aren’t going to be touring constantly anytime soon so we don’t really need a big label to support us right now. Something smaller, where we can maintain a larger share of the proceeds would suit us better. Meteorcity Records still has our cds and records for sale; Tension Head Records has the recent Mountain Stomp 7”.