Once again, we had the opportunity to catch up with one of Missoula’s newest projects to hit the local music scene — Middle Sea. More specifically, we asked band leader, vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist, Valley Lopez, about their latest single and video release “Nobody Knows.” Keep reading to learn all about the hilarious new music video and make sure to catch Middle Sea’s FREE Album Release Party at the Top Hat on Friday, September 27, 2019.
What are the lyrics referring to?
In 2013, after living in Missoula for 5 years, I took off on a whim and moved to Philadelphia. My sister was living there too, but she was the only person I knew for hundreds of miles in every direction. I was desperate to meet new people, but I wasn’t sure how. Then a friend suggested I try online dating.
Simply put, online dating is bizarre. There are a thousand ways for it to go wrong. The person you are talking to could be talking to A LOT of other people at once. They could be having the same conversation with 3 people. They could disappear suddenly and completely. They could be psychopath. They could be anything.
There are a lot of apps and sites where you don’t even see people’s names. You can see their age, interests, hometown, favorite color, celebrity crush, etc… but no name. I was having these long, in-depth conversations and realizing I didn’t know the first thing we are supposed to learn about a person. Everything is behind a screen. If we don’t even know something as basic as a name, what DO we know about them?
How was this crafted? Lyrics first, instrumentals second? Vice versa? Mix mash?
The song started as a really simple instrumental idea. Just a droning, reverb drenched guitar with the chord progression over it. I thought it was a cool sound, but for a long time (literally years) I didn’t know what to do with it.
Separately, I’d been toying around with the lyrics but didn’t have a melody or much of a sense of direction. Sometimes when I’m stuck like that, I dive into all the musical ideas I’ve recorded to try and find a match for the music and the words. I ended up pulling up the old musical idea and things started to click. A melody appeared and the song started to take shape.
There was a point when the structure and all the basic instrumentation was there, but the song felt kind of empty. Like it was missing something crucial. Me, Jake Whitecar, and Jon Filkins (my producers) were trying all these different melodies but nothing was working. So I was like “how about we bring in a horn section?” We brought in Nathan Crawford, Lhanna Writesel, and Josh Hungate – the best crew in town. Within an hour, they provided the glue that finally put everything together.
The last time we talked you said the album was recorded in several different places, but where specifically was this song recorded?
This was the last song on the album to be completed. We had recorded all the instruments at Jon’s place – Red Ball Studios. Everything else on the album was done except for the vocals of this song and I didn’t know when I was gonna get to meet with my producers again. So I just recorded the vocals in a little room in my basement.
How does this song relate to the rest of the album? Or is it an outlier?
This feels like the most unabashed pop song on the album. As it was coming together in the studio, I remember saying to Jon and Jake that it seemed a bit bombastic and over the top. That can be scary road to go down – trying to make a “big” pop song. Especially when the rest of the album felt a bit darker. But they told me to lean into it. Like a lot of their advice, I rebelled at first, but realized later they were right.
Was there other bands that you admire that were an influence?
I can’t say I achieved this in any way, but I think I was shooting for Katy Perry mixed with Vampire Weekend. It might sound weird, but once we decided on a sound and direction, I was thinking a lot about artists I DIDN’T admire, but was secretly kind of jealous of. Big pop acts. I did still want to keep it grounded in the “indie” vein though.
Was there a particular reason you chose to release this song as a single?
After releasing the last single, “What We’ve Done,” I wanted to share a side of the album that was different. With “What We’ve Done,” I worried people would think the whole album would sound dark and a lot like alternative rock. I wanted to show my love for the piano, harmonies, big drums… all those typical pop elements.
What’s the story behind the video? Where was it shot? Who filmed it?
Going back to the last single again – I wanted to do something totally different. Whereas the “What We’ve Done” video was moody and introspective, I was looking to go in the other direction and make this video over-the-top and comical. I wanted it to be as far away as possible from taking itself seriously.
Me and my videographer Ben Jacobson (who also filmed the “What We’ve Done” video) sat down and started tossing around ideas on how to poke fun at not just online dating, but dating in general. I’ve been on some bad dates for sure, but I’ve had women tell me stories of dates that were so incredibly terrible, they almost felt stranger than fiction. So we decided to focus on a series of imaginary bad dates, shown from the perspective of a woman. We scouted out locations, all in Missoula, and spent a whirlwind few days filming all the scenes.
I am not tied into the acting scene in Missoula, but I was really lucky to find some wonderful people to get involved in the video. Johanna Chiampi was great as the lead, and working with Jeff Medley, Kevin Harrington, Logan Foret, and Coltor Dykman was a lot of fun.