INsiders Guide: Sam Valdez, Sophia Danai – ‘Real Eyes’ EP, Bijou Bijou and The Astronots
Sam Valdez is a Los Angeles based singer-songwriter, whose music is built upon the fusion of shoegaze and vintage Americana indie folk. Embodying the best of both genres, Valdez has created dreamy, yet haunting atmospheric soundscapes that resonate with her listeners. Valdez grew up at the edge of the Nevada desert, in Las Vegas and credits the desert as a major influence in her writing and composing. The vastness and solitude of desert life is apparent throughout her writing, with cinematic resonance and euphoric arrangements.
After performing in numerous bands, she found the essence of her solo sound and decided to run with it, indulging in her own creative process and ultimately developing a sound that is true to her own. As a classically trained violinist, Valdez has a sense of musical maturity within her songs, adding technicalities that bring her to the forefront of her genre. Leading single ‘Turn’ narrates the feeling of not being respected by others and learning how to start representing yourself and your values. Sometimes it’s best to just leave things behind, rather than trying to band-aid every situation. Featuring resonating guitar, ethereal vocals and glistening shoegaze inflections, ‘Turn’ exudes charm with a hint of grittiness. Valdez’s debut EP Mirage received critical acclaim from prestigious media outlets including Consequence of Sound, Paste Magazine, Black Book, Indie Shuffle, as well as heavy rotation on NPR tastemaker KCRW among others. She has also performed at high profile venues throughout Los Angeles and is set to embark on an European tour.
“Real Lies” is a seven-song collection of soulful electro-pop tracks from Sophia Danai exploring the journey into self and relationships, learning how to protect your energy and see yourself and others clearly. “I think the process of growing as a person and artist is continuously uncovering our truth; to ‘realize’ and decode the lies we tell ourselves to become closer to who we are,” she explains. “The more we face ourselves in those uncomfortable moments—our anger, fear and loneliness—the more we learn about what is true for us.”
Danai recorded the album at Echoplant Studios in Port Coquitlam, B.C. with award-winning producer Ryan Worsley (Dear Rouge, Said The Whale, Mathew V) and her band, Michael Meroniuk (guitarist) and Jan Orsag (Keys, Ableton Live). The four have gelled in a way Danai has never experienced before. “This time around, it feels like a creative oasis” she says. “We all have great respect for each other, and not only did I feel understood as an artist, but I felt supported and strengthened.”
Danai’s single Daughter marks the 4th single release from her upcoming EP Real Lies. Daughter is about the cycles of abuse we witness and experience. The song is meant to invoke reflection, and have you ask yourself, what am I contributing to the next generation? What wounds have I healed or do I need to heal in myself so I can pass on the lessons as oppose to the hurt. The verses explore these questions from three different perspectives, and the song’s message is that all people deserve to be treated with respect; The ability and power to create this relationship is within each of us, and a direct result of the relationship we have with ourselves.
Already an award winning songwriter, Danai has continued to grow as a musician, and so has her live show. She connects with her audience on a personal level, and with the help of Orsag’s electronic influences, the energy has become palpable. Real Lies delves into pop with its upbeat and dance-able grooves, while keeping dark and soulful melodies. Danai is thankful for her journey—bad times and all. “This experience was a reflection of coming out the other side of everything I went through,” she shares. “I want to be as authentic as possible with my story, in the hope that it could help my listeners feel seen.”
South African alt-pop artist, Bijou Bijou, released a new single, “Thing For You”. A chill track with all the feelings of summer, “Thing For You” takes listeners to the shores of the beach, bars along the road–and secret crushes.
In “Thing For You”, Bijou Bijou sheds light on her insecurity regarding her paralyzing shyness toward anyone she may find attractive, which anyone could relate to. “I got a thing for you,” she sings– a “secret [she’d] like to share”, keeping it to herself until she decides to shoot her shot. The simplistic lyrics lend the spotlight to the beautiful production and hypnotizing vocals by Bijou Bijou, in sum making a perfect kick-back track for spring.
Bijou Bijou, a.k.a. Kirsten Skopelitis, was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, but she’s ready to take on the world. When she’s not creating new music, Bijou Bijou can be found exploring the beach and the city, or practicing and teaching yoga. The start to her musical journey is quite unique, as she decided to start manifesting her dreams into reality after an interesting discussion and revelation with a fortune teller.
Bijou Bijou the artist was born when she and a friend were discussing music and stage names (perhaps over some wine). Her friend suggested the name Bijou for its meaning of “small and elegant” or “intricate jewel”. Using her signature dream/indie-pop flair, Bijou Bijou creates music reminiscent of artists like Beach House, LAUV, and Lana Del Rey. The artist’s twist on dream pop mixed with island vibes results in a track guaranteed to get stuck on repeat in your head, in the best way. “Thing For You” was written and performed by Bijou Bijou and produced by Wesley van der Westhuizen. It was recorded at Wesley West Music in Linden, Gauteng, South Africa. The track follows the massively successful release of the single “California Calls” in 2018. That track currently sits at over 147K plays and has been featured on prominent playlists such as Spotify’s New Music Friday.
The Astronots are an American rock’n’roll outfit, spearheaded by its founding members, Niko Giaimo Vocals/Guitar) and Allee Futterer (Vocals/Bass). The two are established musicians in their own right. Futterer has had years of cutting her musical teeth, backing some of the biggest names in the Los Angeles music scene, while Giaimo was an integral member of the scoring team behind productions such as Dexter and Dishonored II. The two come together on The Astronots, combining elements of their quintessential Los Angeles upbringing, classic rock, and west-coast cool. Now completed by guitarist Eddie Campbell, the group continues to wow audiences across the nation.
Inspired by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Alabama Shakes and Kings of Leon, the trio have crafted an EP oozing with gritty guitars, explosive percussion and raw energy. The highly anticipated Cotati is brought to life through its organic instrumentation and authentic lyricism. “We really wanted to capture something honest. The songs cover a variety of issues.. school/public mass shootings, anxiety, drinking, love, pain, passion, cheating.. I think we managed to create individual genuine stories in each song. I think the theme would be honest perspective on many of life’s challenges”, they reveal.
Leading single ‘Settle Down’ narrates the feeling of anxiety and being trapped inside yourself. Featuring resonating guitars, throbbing bass lines and eerie layered vocals the track truly packs a punch. ‘El Dorado’ further showcases the band’s signature sound of rawkus rock’n’roll with vibrating soundscapes and raspy vocals. The Astronots palpable garage sound has lent itself to placements on film and TV, as well as curated playlists and blogs. The Astronots song, ‘Black Milk’ from their 2017 E.P Strange Terrain was featured on the CBS hit television show Life in Pieces. While their song ‘Begging for More’ was placed in Andrew Garfield’s 2018 feature film, Under The Silver Lake. The Astronots propel into 2019 with the highly anticipated release of Cotati.