For a band on the rise, fan interaction should be considered a necessity. In fact, any band—regardless of genre—should consider ways to engage and create a strong relationship with their fans. With help from social media and the Internet, it’s not necessarily a difficult feat. However, Valencia has stood out with their fun and interesting ways of reaching out to listeners since the release of their debut album, 2006’s This Could Be A Possibility.
Lead singer Shane Henderson, guitarists JD Perry and Brendan Walter, and bassist George Ciukurescu have been working their way up the pop-punk ranks since their formation in 2003, with drummer Dan Pawlovich joining them in 2010. In their short career, the Pennsylvania five-piece has toured with musical peers in the pop-punk scene, including The Audition, Boys Like Girls and We The Kings. The band has also performed with several top acts in the genre, playing alongside New Found Glory at Australia’s Soundwave festival and opening up for Blink-182 for a month of their reunion tour. And every step of the way, Valencia updated their fans with photo journals, blog postings and videos to include them in their journey.
Fresh off the On Your Side Tour with Rocket To The Moon, Anarbor, Runner Runner and Go Radio, in support of their newest album back on I Surrender Records, Dancing With A Ghost, Pawlovich, Walter and Ciukurescu took time out of their rehearsal schedule to discuss their love for Bamboozle, Valencia’s new musical direction, their slot on the Zumiez Couch Tour, and their dubious skateboarding technique. You guys just finished the On Your Side Tour last month with Rocket To The Moon, Anarbor, Runner Runner and Go Radio. Overall, how did the tour go and how did all of the bands mesh together?
George Ciukurescu: The tour was awesome. For me, being on the road, that was the most fun that I can remember.
Brendan Walter: We actually got along with all the bands better than we expected. We don’t usually get along with every band on a tour, but this was kind of more than that—more of a bromance, if you will.
You concluded the tour in East Rutherford at Bamboozle 2011 with an insane turn out. How did you guys feel having such an enthusiastic response from the crowd, especially to your newer stuff?
BW: We’ve been playing Bamboozle basically every year since the tour started, and this was definitely the biggest crowd we’ve had within any of those years, and we’ve had some pretty insane experiences. It’s just a great feeling to see people singing along and getting so excited about our new stuff. Usually it’s like you have that one song you keep playing and that’s the one that everyone freaks out about. But we’ve been getting amazing response from the newer stuff, which is awesome.
Dan Pawlovich: It’s always exciting when it’s impossible for Shane to not get off that set, that moat in front of the stage, and go all the way out to the audience and have a bunch of hands around him grabbing for the microphone. That’s just a really exciting thing to see from the stage.
GC: The coolest thing about Bamboozle is how the people that come to see us are usually so used to seeing us play the same stuff with the big barricade and everything, but even in that instance, they’re still able to make it feel more like a regular show. That’s always something that we always sort of thrive off of. Seeing people doing back flips in the air and singing along is probably one of the best experiences you can imagine. Overall, the energy was just insane this year.
Throughout the tour Brendan did a photo journal and recap. How did it feel to have him and his camera lurking around all the time? And Brendan, how did it feel to document the whole journey?
BW: I’m kind of always the weirdo with the camera, and people are always secretly saying, “Why is he here taking a picture?” I just really enjoy documenting things, even for my own personal memories. But to be able to put it into a blog, make up stories, and attach pictures was really cool. I hope I didn’t offend anybody with all of the made-up extravaganzas that I didn’t even go on.
DP: Brendan actually does photoblogs for himself—the only difference was this time people actually wanted it. But he would’ve done it on his own anyways.
It’s really great that you give fans insight into your everyday lives, since a lot of people don’t get the chance to get that “backstage look.” Do you think it’s important for bands to reach out to fans in that way?
BW: Yeah, we’re the kind of band that doesn’t like that “rock star” barrier. We like to be as open with our fans as we can. At the end of the day, we’re writing these lyrics with people to identify with. People who are feeling the same things we are. They’re singing along with us at shows, so why are they any different than us? We’re not special—we just want them to have a good time and feel something from our music. We just like to show people who we are and what we’re about.
GC: I think our band is something that’s always been based off of the personal connection with our fans. I remember six or seven years ago, right before we decided to go tour full-time, Brendan and I were at Panera Bread, stealing their wi-fi and just writing back to literally every person we happened to find on MySpace and our website just to keep a connection with them and try to maintain it for as long as possible. On top of having people stay in touch with our band that long, when you start to have something close to friendship with people who have started as fans, that’s something that has made the experience a pretty unique one.
It’s actually probably one of the smartest things a band can do, because fans remember that kind of connection and communication.
BW: Yeah, it works itself out because if we have our fans’ backs, they’ll have ours.
DP: In the end, we make music because we want to express what’s going on with our lives. But we also want others to know that everything happens for a reason and everything’s going to be all right, given the circumstances. I think maintaining a personal connection with everybody helps let them know that we actually are real people and what we have to say is something real and something to relate to. It’s like us, and everybody involved, and everyone listening to us is one big family. One of the main things that has been a hot topic of interest is the series “Band Vs. Food.” Are you all fans of the series? George, do you have any plans to make more episodes in the future?
GC: The only difference between “Man V. Food” and “Band Vs. Food” is that the host is a lot more charismatic than I am, and he’s actually successful in eating the challenges; I have lost every one.
BW: But the fourth episode is the funniest one ever. It is one of the most exciting and earth-shattering episodes yet.
At the end of May, the band is venturing out on the Zumiez Couch Tour. What are you guys most looking forward to about the free dates and playing with Forever The Sickest Kids and I See Stars?
GC: Honestly, the unlimited shopping spree we’re allotted for each mall. No, but really, just playing a free show is such a cool idea. We’ve done free shows in the past but I just love outdoor, free festivals. Since I love going to them myself, I felt it was going to be a cool, fun crowd and good vibe with a huge turn out. Plus, it’s a free show, come on!
Were you guys really into the skateboarding scene growing up?
DP: When I was 10 years old I tried to do a trick on a quarter pipe and I broke my tooth in half and I was done. But I think Tony Hawk is awesome and really inspirational.
BW: I did an ollie once—that was it. I couldn’t get it again.
GC: I thought I could skateboard when I was younger but I’m not very good. But I think the biggest attraction [to this tour] was just the opportunity to be able to play it for free. As many people can come as they want. I mean, it’s free, what else is there to say?
After the Zumiez Couch Tour finishes in July, what’s the next step for Valencia? Will touring be a priority, or will you start planning a follow-up to Dancing With A Ghost?
GC: We’re also going to continue to tour the rest of the summer—we’ll be doing a co-headlining tour with Anarbor.
BW: Yeah, but all the time in between will be spent working on new music, as usual. We’re actually at a practice space in Pennsylvania right now working on some demos. Right now we have about 10 instrumental tracks down, so we’re just waiting to get some vocals done.
Do you have any insight on what direction you guys want to go in, as far as musical and lyrical influence goes?
BW: It’s hard to say right now—we’re just starting the writing phase so we’re still all over the place. But so far we’re trying to go for the whole fast, fun, summery kind of vibe. It’s definitely a lot faster than the last record. But the new Green Day and New Found Glory is what I’ve been listening to, personally, so that has sort of been coming out stylistically for me.
DP: We get this question a lot for new records, but it’s really hard to predict ahead of time what the overall feeling or the idea of the record is going to be. But I can say this time around we’ll definitely be moving on from the last record and focusing on inevitable changes and the positivity that will come from that. Just positivity in general—moving on and being a good person. Plus, as my teacher always told me, write the story first and the title later.
Check out Valencia at the Livingston Mall in Livingston, NJ, on the Zumiez Couch Tour, Sunday, June 26. The all-day event begins at noon, with Valencia hitting the stage at 4 p.m. Their newest album, Dancing With A Ghost, is out now.