We're really excited to announce Sasha and the Valentines as this week's Band To Watch. The Austin based band is composed of Sarah Addi (vocals and keys), Billy Hickey (drums), JB Bergin (bass), Alex Whitelaw (guitar), and Tim Zoidis (aux percussion). We recently talked to the band about their coming up in the Austin music scene, dunking on ABBA, and about their upcoming LP. Check it out below!
Also, be sure to keep an eye out for their debut LP So You Think You Found Love?, out April 16th via Oof Records.
1. What have you been listening to lately?
SA: I’ve been revisiting some albums lately like Beach House’s Teen Dream, Ms. Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and this album that my dad always played in the car growing up, Sahra by Khaled; it's like this really fun late 90s funk Arabic music featuring some French rap and all the songs are super nostalgic to me.
JB: the new Crumb songs, You’ll Never Get To Heaven, Supercar, Michael Cormier, Duval Timothy.
AW: Cut Worms, Stefano Torossi, Blur, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Julia Jacklin, Gorillaz.
BH: King Gizzy, Trey Gruber, Harley Alexander.
TZ: Joe Meek and a lot of psych rock from the Middle East.
2. Are they still doing construction on 35?
JB: Always! And toll construction on 183 has been a pointless nightmare. Let’s make every road cost money!
TZ: I’m doing construction on 35 all day every day.
3. What was the first album you remember falling in love with?
SA: I think my first real love with an album was Fleet Foxes’ first self titled album. They blew me away when I was younger, listening to that was how I learned to harmonize.
JB: Revealing stuff here: It’s a pretty even split between Regina Spektor’s Soviet Kitsch, Yellowcard’s Ocean Avenue, Guster’s Lost And Gone Forever, and Relient K’s Two Lefts Don’t Make A Right...but Three Do.
AW: Youth and Young Manhood by Kings of Leon was a super influential album to me. I just listened to it a lot and the original version of Talihina Sky (not the redone version they did that sounds like all their crappy overproduced shit) used to strike a very big chord for me.
BH: Back In Black by AC/DC.
TZ: A compilation cd my parents had in our Ford Windstar called “Funk Classics”.
4. Winnie-The-Pooh lives in Hundred Acre Wood which is in England. How come Winnie-The-Pooh doesn’t have an English accent, but Paddington does?
SA: I feel like Winnie-the-pooh has an accent all his own. Also Paddington’s too posh.
JB: According to CBC Kids, Winnie-The-Pooh is Canadian and was brought to England by a soldier/veterinarian! Goes to show that you should always trust the first Google Search link you open! No comment on Paddington (good style though!)
AW: Winnie the pooh isn’t real so I don’t give him a lot of thought. And I know Paddington is based on a real bear but I hate him. So.
BH: They’re bears, it should be enough that they’re speaking, we don’t need to get into the nitty gritty
TZ - Winnie definitely has an accent, I don’t know if it’s English or not. I thought Frasier was a British dude for a while, so I’m not the person to ask.
5. Y’all want to hire me as a background dancer when bands are able to tour again?
SA: Only if you knock into every instrument throughout the set.
JB: We’re always accepting home video applications!
TZ: I’m down.
6. Do you think you could beat ABBA at a game of basketball?
SA: Yeah I think so. However, I suck at basketball and Björn looks like he can jump really high.
JB: Okay, so it’s 5 on 4 (advantage us) and they have an average height of 5’9”. I’d trust everyone except me to be able to play basketball, and what I lack in skill I make up for in dedication and support. Short answer is yes!
AW: Yeah we would one hundred percent dominate ABBA in a game of basketball. It would be a blow out.
BH: Yes it wouldn’t be close, sorry ABBA you’re getting dunked on I don’t make the rules.
TZ: No question.
7. First concert you ever attended?
SA: BILLY JOEL AND ELTON JOHN
JB: Probably Ben Folds or Guster!
AW: Iron Maiden at the fahkin Xfinity Centah kehd
BH: The Fray with OKGO and Moe
TZ: Seether with Flyleaf
8. What is the last thing that you learned?
SA: I learned how to program my KORG volca beats the other day and I just learned that “According to CBC Kids, Winnie-The-Pooh is Canadian and was brought to England by a soldier/veterinarian!”
JB: I recently learned a definition of harm reduction as being “the union of healing and community-building”. I also learned about monotropism/polytropism, an autism theory centered around attentional differences without pathologizing those differences. Cool shit!
AW: I am learning how to accept change and be excited about it and not be afraid of it, which is something I’ve struggled with for a long time.
BH: I’m learning about the importance of aligning actions with identity
TZ: The tunnel collapse in Boston in 2006 was a result of the wrong epoxy being used to secure the ceiling panels
9.I thrifted a pair of 80s Levis, but I have no idea what shoes to wear with them. Any advice?
JB: Reeeeeeeeeally depends on what’s up top!
SA: Agreed. I also think it depends on the wash. My go-to would be some Sambas or a heeled boot
AW: I’m assuming they’re a light wash so I’d go with some white hightops. I highly recommend PF Flyers, way more comfortable than Vans and Converse.
BH: No advice no rules
TZ: High tops… Those neon Osiris ones are due for a comeback soon
10. Any local bands you think everyone should check out?
JB: Manifest Destiny’s Child, The Stacks, Brother Sports, Kendra Sells, Alexalone
SA: All the above mentioned, plus Half Dream and Glaze
AW: All of the above
BH: HOTMOM, Lonesome Rhodes, Ukeme
TZ: All of the above and Hey Cowboy!
How have y’all been?
SA: Good, steady, a little bored
AW: Super weird and chaotic but also good
JB: Generally fine, lotta blue skies over here!
TZ: Hangin on
Can you introduce yourselves for those who may not be familiar with you?
SA: I’m Sarah (she/her), singer, synthm/keys player and primary songwriter.
BH: I’m Billy (he/him) I play drüms
JB: I’m JB (they/them) I play bass and send emails and take photos
AW: Alex (he/him), the guitarist
TZ: Tim Zoidis (he/him), Aux Percussion
How did the band meet/form?
AW: Sarah, John, and Billy were in a band called Calico Blue. I have a project called Spirit Ghost. Tim was in a band called Petting Zoo that broke up and I took him as a guitarist for Spirit Ghost. Calico Blue parted ways after graduating but Sarah really wanted to keep doing music and I told her I’d help whenever she needed it because she’s very very talented, and I didn’t want her to stop. We ended up writing some stuff together but then she took off and wrote a bunch of stuff on her own, which was way better. We moved to Austin with Billy to pursue music and eventually John and Tim found their ways down as well. We just felt like we should all keep pursuing music together because we mesh really well and have a lot of similar points of view about music.
SA: Ya that's pretty much what happened
JB: Alex is lying about it all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What has it been like to be a part of the Austin music scene?
AW: people we’ve met along the way have been really supportive and I’ve enjoyed being able to play live as much as we used to.
JB: Austin is fun and vivid and sweaty and complicated and inviting and clique-y and I think any city that calls itself the live music capital of the world is going to be all those things and more. It’s been a good place to play good shows and a good place to meet good people.
SA: It’s been great to get the opportunity to play live as much as we have! We’re all better live musicians from being here.
BH: Busy, which is good, I wish I was a better people person though.
Is it way different than your previous scene back in Massachusetts?
JB: Yes! Very different, mostly in the sheer volume of shows being booked down here – the opportunities for playing shows feels very limitless. It felt really hard to play anywhere in Massachusetts if it wasn’t the same two to three house venues we always played (I’ll die for house shows, don’t get me wrong!) But booking a venue, playing at a tiny club, anything like that was always kind of an ordeal to book. That said, Massachusetts has 10 Dunkin Donuts per square mile, so, pick your battles!
AW: Yes. Everything John said.
It’s so cool to me that the band decided to move to Austin together. What is the dynamic within the band like?
SA: I think what changed moving down here was we all became really serious about pursuing music and giving our all to this project as kind of a go for it moment. What hasn’t changed is we’re still all just really good friends who like spending time together and playing shows together.
AW: Sarah is Joey, Phoebe, Rachel, and Chandler, everyone else is Monica and Ross.
JB: Billy and I are Zack and Cody, Tim is Arwin the janitor, Alex is the mom, Sarah is Ashley Tisdale.
BH: We’re all the Power Rangers all at once.
Talk to us a bit about your upcoming LP, So You Think You Found Love?
SA: So You Think You Found Love? is an album about love, relationships, hurt, insecurities and all that other stuff. When writing this album I pulled from my personal experiences as a person working through my romantic pasts and dealing with my inner demons and coming to terms with my queerness as a person who felt a lot of shame about it for a long time. In the same way that these themes can be serious and complex they can also be really kitschy and funny, cuz humans are so weird and funny with all our little emotions just like spilling out everywhere. So the album kind of represents all that. Serious, real emotion wrapped in fun not-taking-it-self-too serious-dream pop.
BH: It’s good!
JB: I’m the proudest I’ve ever been of the music I helped make!
Is the title a question for yourself or your listener?
BH: What do you think?!?!
Is there anything that you’d like for your listeners to feel or think while listening to the LP?
SA: I hope they feel all the feels.
JB: I hope it’s a driving album for people like it is for me. Something to put on when you’re on the road, a soundtrack for the visual changes that happen as the sun goes down behind you on the highway.
BH: Whatever it is that they feel inspired to think and feel.
When you were working on the album, did you have a clear vision of what you wanted the album to sound like or feel like?
JB: As a group I think we knew what we wanted going into the studio. Almost all of the songs had been played out and refined on stage for almost two years. Notable exceptions to that: Tears For Mars was written in March 2020, and Some Time was put together probably a week before we went to record.
AW: I think we just wanted it to sound big and professional, we didn’t want to keep making records DIY or whatever way was cheapest. Not that there's anything wrong with that at all. We just wanted to make a record we could feel really proud of and look back on and say “okay we shot our shot”.
Is there a track that you’re most excited for everyone to hear?
SA: Angel! It's my personal favorite song. It just hits me right in the feelings. It was my favorite to write.
JB: I’m excited for anyone who falls in love with the transition tracks/transitional moments.
AW: Tears for Mars, I’ve been excited since we recorded it, since it’s been released, and I’m excited for people to keep finding it, it just has a very special place for me.
BH: “I See The Light” is very fun to play live.
I think my favorite song off the LP is “Tinder” can you give us some background on that track?
SA: Tinder was actually the first song I wrote like 4 years ago when I really started writing full songs/demos. For that song I remember wanting to make a really sultry ballad and I named it Tinder in my phone recording right off the bat because it was right around the huge rise in dating apps. I wanted to romanticize the coldness of it.
What is the most important thing to you when it comes to writing a song?
SA: I’d say don’t force it. If you have to scrap a song or come back to it in a month, that's fine!
AW: I want all the parts to have a purpose. In my mind a song works when everyone collectively focuses on the vision of the song. I never write a guitar part saying “okay cool, and I show off here?!” To me all the parts working together towards the goal of making a good song is very important.
JB: Have fun! Seriously! Surprise yourself! Embrace constant reinvention! Make mistakes and make them loud!
Who do you consider your musical influences?
SA: Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally of Beach House, Alaina Moore of Tennis, Ruban Nielson of UMO, ABBA, Blondie, Angel Olsen, Elton John, Prince, Paul MacCartney, Stevie Wonder, Stevie Nicks, France Gall, and so many more. I pull a little bit out of so so many influences.
JB: Sarah, Billy, Tim, Alex, anyone who puts false drops before the real bass drops, Mal Devisa, Ian and Jane from Twen, the strange creature born of growing up with classical music and musical theater being played constantly in my house
AW: Jonathan Richman, Roger Miller, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Luke Lalonde, Julian Casablancas, Alex Scally, John Dwyer, Angel Olsen, Paul MacCartney, Damon Albarn, I’m going to end it here but it could go on for pages.
BH: Everything in life has a rhythm, also Steve Jordan.
What does “success” look like to you as far as music goes?
SA: Success for me would be creating something we are proud of and being able to be financially stable off of it. As much as this is a passion I think we all would like to be compensated for the years of dedication, creation and time. I would feel successful if I could pay rent with music and go on consistent good tours and still feel like it makes me happy. If it stopped making me happy I would stop. But for now it's all I want to do.
JB: Success is something I don’t want to think about until I’m old and look at my life in retrospect. I hope I continue feeling good about the things I’m making until I don’t make them anymore. I want to make music and build community and ask questions and foster curiosity about the answers I may or may not find to those questions. I want to keep approaching process with patience.
AW: I am happy working and I am happy making music, one day I’d like for the balance to be a little more evenly split, I think if that happens I will feel successful as a musician. Honestly, I am always happy that anybody listens to us or any project I’m in. No one has to, so when they do, that feels like success.
BH: I think success is living a purposeful life and using your unique gifts as a person to give back to your community, and musical success means avoiding becoming jaded.
What can we expect to hear/see from Sasha and The Valentines in the near future?
SA: Videos, merch and potentially vinyl and a really cool tour!
JB: More videos! We want to be in a video game soundtrack! Maybe a vinyl pressing? The future is bright and mysterious!
To wrap things up, do you have any questions for me?
SA: If you had the chance to go to space but it had to be for a whole year would you?