Introducing Interview: Dyan Valdés

Having been involved in the music industry for twenty years, Berlin-based Cuban-American artist Dyan Valdés has played in esteemed bands such as The Blood Arm and Die Sterne, and has now released her first solo material. Taken from her upcoming debut solo album, ‘Fade Away’ offers an immersive shimmering soundscape; propelled by layers of synth and driving beats alongside Valdés’ luscious vocals, it’s a poignant, twinkling message of hope at a time when things can feel hopeless.

We caught up with Dyan to find out more…

Hi Dyan Valdés, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hello! Thanks for having me. I’m a music industry lifer – I got together with my first band, indie rockers The Blood Arm when we were at university in 2002. After releasing five albums and two EPs, touring the world and moving to Berlin together, we went on hiatus in 2017. The singer and I formed the synth punk trio Mexican Radio in 2017, and released another two albums under that name. The band hosted a radio show on KCRW Berlin for 2 years, in which I interviewed artists such as Stereo Total, Sleaford Mods, Ian Svenonius, Allison Wolfe of Bratmobile, and many more. I’ve been playing with Hamburger Schule legends Die Sterne since 2012. ‘Fade Away’ is my debut single as a solo artist and Stand will be my first solo album.

How did you initially start creating music?
I never thought I would make my own solo music – I’ve always been a supporting player, co-writing the music and singing backing vocals. But, the pandemic changed things. At the beginning of the first lockdown, I was attacked by a strange man in broad daylight on the streets of Berlin. I recognised that my already precarious safety as a woman was even more threatened by pandemic circumstances. I arrived home, overwhelmed by my experience and by reports of increased domestic violence and the exploitation of female labour at the frontlines of the pandemic. I wrote and recorded the protest song ‘Stand’ that weekend – feeling that I needed to create something that would make me feel powerful again. This was the first time I had created a piece entirely on my own. After cancelled tours and rehearsals, I was alone in my home studio and could not fall back on my bandmates to provide a creative outlet. I stepped up and did it myself.

Throughout my music career, I have often been the only woman in the room. When I was attacked, I felt alienated and alone. I realised that on some level, I’ve felt the same way in the music industry for years – moving through spaces that are not designed to fit my body, protect my safety, or elevate my voice. What would our industry and our art look like if this model were flipped on its head? In order for the process of this album to line up with the sentiment, I employed women at every level of the project: production, artwork, video, photography, PR, styling, and marketing. 

We really love your recent single ‘Fade Away’ – can you tell us what it’s all about?
‘Fade Away’ is about looking around and saying to yourself “this isn’t good enough”, and dreaming that someday you’ll find yourself in a situation that is. I imagined this feeling of being locked in a house – either by someone else or by myself – and wanting the ceilings and walls to just disappear so that I could be free. The song is sad but hopeful – the “different day” hasn’t come yet, but I believe that it will. I dedicate the song to anyone who has ever felt trapped, marginalized or silenced. The song came to me extremely quickly – I wrote all of the lyrics, melodies and music and then recorded the basic tracks at home within about four hours from start to finish. I felt like the words and music just came through me from a place where they had already been written.

You’ve been compared to the likes of PJ Harvey and Bat For Lashes, but who would you say are your main musical influences?
Probably my life-long biggest influence is David Bowie, who was never afraid to take big swings and explore all kinds of different directions. I thought about him a lot when making this record, just in terms of pushing myself to take risks. PJ Harvey is also a big influence, as is Stevie Nicks, Kate Bush, Peaches, Courtney Love and Tori Amos (obviously – I’m a keyboard player!) I was also very influenced by books that I was reading while writing this record. I’ve been a proud feminist my whole life, but while working on the album I really did a deep-dive into a lot of feminist writing. That helped me sharpen the messages that I wanted to deliver: who benefits from the oppression of and violence against women? How is capitalist society complicit? How am I complicit? I did a lot of self-examination on this record, and I hope that comes across.

What can fans expect from your live shows?
Since I’ve been playing in bands for nearly 20 years, I wanted to do something different with my solo show. Instead of hiding behind my keyboard, I’m challenging myself to be a real pop diva and sing and dance throughout the show. I have two backing dancers with me, and one of my producers Maya Postepski (who releases music under the name Princess Century and plays drums with Peaches), will be playing drums on stage. It will be a high-energy rousing pop spectacle!

As we’re a new music focused site, are there any new/upcoming bands or artists you’d recommend we check out?
Sadly, I usually discover new bands by happening upon them live, which hasn’t been possible in the last year and a half. However, when I was hosting the radio show, I had the pleasure of discovering a lot of new and exciting bands: Sweeping Promises, Big Joanie, Special Interest, Automatic and Surfbort were a few of my favourite discoveries.

And how do you feel the music industry is for new bands at the moment – would you say it’s difficult to get noticed?
When I started, my band The Blood Arm was part of the last generation of bands that really had the “get signed, get an advance, get label support for touring and PR” trajectory. It’s very different now – in some ways, you have more direct access to fans, but because everyone else does too, you have to find a way to stand out. I think the difference is now I’m not trying to get “label attention”, but rather to reach out directly to the fans. If new artists can manage to make a direct connection with people who like their music, that can be very powerful.

Finally, what does the rest of 2021 have in store for you?
Now that live music is opening up again, I’m touring a lot with my German band Die Sterne and doing some recording with them as well. Following ‘Fade Away’, I’ve just released a second single, ‘Be My Revolution’. There will be a third single (‘Irregular’) in January and the album Stand will come out in February. We are also choreographing and developing the live show, so it will be a busy time! But, after such a lull in the industry, I’m excited to get back on stage and even more excited to share my solo music with the world.

Massive thanks to Dyan for answering our questions!

Stand, the debut solo album from Dyan Valdés, is set for release on 11th February 2022 via R.I.P Ben Lee Records.

Premiere: pink suits – ‘Fake Great Britain’

Having first formed back in 2017, Margate based queer punk-rock duo pink suits incorporate politically driven rage, dance and even theatre into their work, exploring issues of sexuality, mental health and a resistance of binary gender. Having just announced their debut album, ‘Political Child’, they have now shared a brand new riotous single.

Propelled by a frenzied, angst-driven power and scuzzy hooks, ‘Fake Great Britain’ hits you with its raw, punk-fuelled lyricism raging against austerity and the fake ‘great’ ideals of a post-Brexit UK. With a seething, ferocious passion, it’s a rallying cry against this government and the intolerance it promotes, its lies and the detrimental effects it’s had on all of our mental health. A totally necessary listen, it’s a perfect riotous catharsis; an immense formidable force calling us to arms in these terrifying times. A queer punk anthem inciting us to get up, make our voices heard and fight fascism with all our might. (It’s also catchy as f**K – an instant earworm that you need in your ears now).

‘Fake Great Britain’ is accompanied by a wonderfully vibrant, poignantly pink-themed video – a perfect depiction of the inclusive Feminist rebellion that pink suits urge us to unite in to bring about radical change.

Watch for the first time now:

Mixed and mastered by Aim4 Recording, Canterbury, ‘Fake Great Britain’ was filmed in Margate with Dogbrain Videos.

Mari Lane
@marimindles

Photo Credit: Kathryn A Betts

#ThrowbackThursday: GIHE w/ The Tuts 16.03.17

Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and Lockdown 2.0, we’re unable to make it in to the Hoxton Radio studio to broadcast our weekly live new music show from 7-9pm. Instead, we’re sharing previous show recordings as #ThrowbackThursday sessions, so you can still enjoy 2 hours of new music tunes & chats with some of our favourite artists each week.

Today, we’ve picked our March 2017 show with feminist pop-punk trio The Tuts (aka Nadia, Beverley and Harriet.) Tash, Mari & Kate spoke to them about power-cut troubles during their Glastonbury set, the struggles of being a DIY “three tone” band, their interactions with Kathleen Hanna from Bikini Kill, their love for Feeder and playing for Decolonise Fest’s fundraiser in 2017. They also performed two of their tracks live in the studio.

Listen back here:

Tracklist
Candi Staton – Young Hearts Run Free
Nina Jirachi – Pure Luck
Nipah – Forever
Malka – Fell For You
Little Wise ft. Sal Kimber – Favourite Song
Shopping – Wind Up
Luuna – Soap
Pip Blom – I Think I’m In Love
Vaarwell – You
DYVR – Half Awake
H1987 – I
Caswell – Animal
Molina – Salvation
The Baby Seals – Guuurl
The Selecter – Missing Words
**The Tuts Interview & Live Session**
Stormzy – Shut Up
Tilia – Black Monday
Innacut ft. Anqui – Feel Love
Petrol Girls – Touch Me Again
Bitch Falcon – Clutch
Xy&o – What’s Love Got To Do With It
Noga Erez – Toy
Adwaith – Hall
Barbara Lewis – Hello Stranger

Video Premiere: Playing House – ‘Not Good’

Openly identifying as queer, feminist and body positive, London band Playing House recently released their bold single ‘Not Good’, and have now shared a brand new accompanying video.

Filled with vibrant, synth-driven hooks and unique, soaring vocals, ‘Not Good’ is a surrealist look at the absurdity of the ambivalence to all things not good. Propelled by an empowering groove, it’s a colourful slice of art-pop with shades of the likes of La Roux or Hercules & Love Affair. Building to a swirling, rainbow-coloured pop anthem, it’ll get you up and dancing, ready for summer. Of the track, the band explain:

“It’s a song that could only be written in the surreal reality that we’re living in right now, in the middle of the destruction of the planet, consumerism, inequalities, sexism, increased anxiety and depression. The song takes a pop at ambivalence, watching everything go wrong and doing nothing. It’s also about how those abuses take place in relationships.”

The accompanying video for ‘Not Good’ casts the band in a scuzzy, wonderfully vivacious light. Directed by Brazilian visual artist Carolina Mizrahi (Vogue Italia, Vogue Brazil, Vogue Bambini) with DOP Gene Limbrick (Vogue Italia, Elle, Gucci), it was shot on analogue film by Kiefer Passey. Shot in real time across eight hours, with the band playing live on repeat with hand painted instruments that were slowly deconstructed throughout the day, it’s a colourfully chaotic visualisation of the song’s message; highlighting the ambivalence and disenfranchisement that surrounds us.

Watch the brand new video, for the first time, here:

Mari Lane
@marimindles

Photo Credit: Marieke Macklon