Our first foray into Sacramento, in California, sees us unearth the delicious sound of Keys and Vices, who describe their music as “dynamic, vulnerable, and powerful.”
The trio of vocalist Jennifer Valdez and childhood friends Kris Ayala and Kevin McCarty all played in a very different band together several years ago. Jennifer then began Keys and Vices as a solo project before bringing Kris and Kevin back into the fold.
As she explains: “Kris saw I was posting clips of the new music I was writing and got back in touch with me after the long break from our previous band. We brought in Kevin shortly after, and it ended up feeling like we never skipped a beat. The three of us have a musical connection that allows us to write music to where we don’t have to explain what we’re hearing in our heads, we already know where it’s going before it gets there!”
The realisation of this is eight-track debut album Chronic Nostalgia, which was released last month, on which Jennifer tells us: “The reception to the music has been beyond what we expected. We’re getting so much positive feedback and love from everyone that has listened to the album.
For anyone who hasn’t listened yet, they’re missing out! They can expect to hear music that’s honest, straight up rock at times, vulnerable, dynamic. I could go on with these descriptions but I’m hoping the listeners will tell us what they hear and feel after listening.”
The album opens up in fine style with excellent singalong opener Out Of My Head, which starts with a light guitar lick that flows into a verse of Jennifer’s engaging light vocals. That gives way to a big catchy chorus of repeats of “Get out, Out of my head right now, I’ll never let you in.”
Just as impressive is the brilliant How Do I, which begins with light guitars that continue under Jennifer’s crooning vocals. High-pitched, winding repeats of “How do I” see the tempo increase and builds towards powerful vocals over distorted guitars.
The vocals continue to increase in intensity and become ever-more impressive through powerful repeats of “How do I,” then big cries of “You pull my strings so I can feel it, I turn my face so I don’t lose it, You push the truth and make me see it,” all of which are answered by big guitar smashes. The pace drops right down again, before being blown open by more huge vocals to end. It’s seriously impressive, and I challenge you not to scream along with Jennifer’s superb vocals. Check it out below:
Their ability to write super-catchy music is also portrayed on the delicious Twila and the edgier Like An Anchor, which opens up with Jennifer’s vocals under stabs of instrumental support then builds up to an engaging chorus.
And to fully understand just how awesome Jennifer’s voice is, check out the powerful closing track Ghost Love below:
Further expanding on the album, Jennifer adds: “It’s music that’s real. There’s a story to tell, powerful vocals, music that rocks in some songs and then intimately drops. There’s something for everyone on this album.”
Their diverse style is born out of musical influences ranging from Foo Fighters, Queen, Smashing Pumpkins and Aerosmith through to Pat Benatar and Elton John.
And on their musical inspiration, Jennifer explains: “Think of an artist in the visual sense, sitting down with a pen and paper. They have this beautiful blank canvas that’s begging for ink to draw tails of adventure or scribble stains of betrayal. Art in all its forms have a story to tell. Songwriting is the same, it’s telling a story in a way that is at times open to interpretation, or can be completely upfront and transparent. What influences my personal writing style is taking moments from my life; past, present or dreams of the future and telling that story in through lyrics.”
There’s plenty more to come from Keys and Vices, especially considering Jennifer wrote most of the songs on Chronic Nostalgia before Kris and Kevin got involved. As Jennifer explains: “The new music we’re releasing later this year has all of us on the tracks so it has a slightly different sound. We’re very excited to continue showing the world what we can do!”
This is the first Sacramento band we’ve spoken to and, on their local scene, Jennifer said: “We’re honoured to pop your Sacramento cherry! While there’s a lot of repeat sound, I’d still say the music scene is very eclectic. If you sift through enough of the surface level music, you’ll find a lot of real artists that are extremely talented and have a unique sound.”
The band’s debut album has a deliciously diverse feel to it, with the unerring ability to seamlessly go from mellow melodic moments into full-on rock mode.
Jennifer adds: “We want people to know that we genuinely appreciate listeners taking the time to listen to our songs. There’s a limitless amount of music available to everyone these days, and that means it’s difficult to find us. If you’ve been directed to our music or stumbled upon it yourself, and you hit that play button for longer than 30 seconds into our song – then you’re officially our hero! You’re the butter to our bread, the knees to our bees, and most importantly a supporter of new/independent music. THANK YOU!”