Origins is a recurring new music feature in which an artist charts the influence of their latest hit single.
Shoegaze isn’t the kind of genre that lends itself to place; its inherent cloudiness evokes a troubled mind, not a landscape. But Sam Valdez’s upbringing on the outskirts of the Nevada desert feels impacted onto her music, which shimmers like a mirage against swirling sand squalls and lonely cacti. And that prickly cactus is more than just a plant to Valdez. It’s a symbol, whether that be of self-defense or self-inflicted pain. Sometimes we are cactus, and sometimes we’re strapped to it.
What’s more, despite its presence up and down the western hemisphere, the cactus is also a decidedly American symbol, which suits Valdez’s aesthetic. She cites Americana as an influence, and you can hear it in the light twang underscoring her music, as well as the rich yearning of her vocals. Now, however, she lives in Los Angeles, and the muted twinkle of Sunset Boulevard is also felt.
It’s certainly present in “Its Alright”, the latest single from Valez, which Consequence of Sound is premiering today. Washes of reverb hang like looming storm clouds over the song, which rides along a persistent strain of percussion that give weight and a touch of desperation to Valdez’s lyrics. “Love grew so fast just to die so young/ So you left me sleeping in my party clothes,” she sings, and the implication is that perhaps she still hasn’t woken up. Valdez even says she wrote the song “in a dream-like state of mind.” Listen to it below.
Valdez promises more music soon, but in the meantime take a look below at the far-ranging influences that have served to inform her sound. For Valdez, nighttime strolls and melancholy artwork are every bit as important as her forebears.
Angel Olsen — Strange Cacti:
Angel Olsen’s voice is so large and kaleidoscopic. I love the old school feel to her, it transports you to another time. When she sings you can hear the mourning in her voice, which creates a really emotional sound scape. When I listen to her and this particular album, it reminds me to be genuine to my emotions while singing.
The War On Drugs — Lost in the Dream:
This album is so impactful, I had it on repeat for months. They talk about loss and solitude in such a beautiful and real way that really resonates with me. This band is very special, and they have this constant lush and dreamy sound that really inspired me.
Hollywood at Night:
I take a lot of long walks at like 3am on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood. I know it’s not safe, but I love how desolate the streets become. I wrote the intro vocal/guitar melody and the chorus while I was out walking one night.
Henn Kim’s Art:
At the time of writing this song, my sister had just gifted me some artwork by Henn Kim. The picture was of a woman slumped over hugging a cactus. She said it reminded her of me, probably because we are from Nevada and I’m always writing depressing songs. Either way, I ended up becoming obsessed with the artwork and surrounding myself with it.
I had been dating someone who wrote a lot of poetry and gave me a book of collected Sylvia Plath poems. One of my favorites being “The Surgeon at 2am”. She writes about death and many other hard to talk about subjects in a very original way. I can’t pinpoint exactly what she influenced in me, but I read and re-read her poems a lot in those months. It created an atmosphere for me creatively.