In the years between Valencia's 2005 debut, This Could Be A Possibility [I Surrender Records], and their forthcoming release, We All Need A Reason To Believe, the much beloved pop-punk quintet - singer Shane Henderson, drummer Max Soria, bassist George Ciukurescu and guitarists JD Perry and Brendan Walter - have kept the kind of positive attitude that you don't find in most rock bands today.
"So much of the music out there now is negative," says Valencia frontman Henderson with a heavy sigh. "It's all about someone complaining about their life. But that's why we wrote this record. We wanted to write about how you should be happy and how you shouldn't let what happens in your life upset you."
To truly understand the gravity of that statement, you have to go back to early 2003, at which point the members of Valencia had just started playing out in the Philadelphia underground punk scene. Much like their musical heroes before them, the band's career began with playing sweat-soaked shows in basements and vet's halls, while trying to balance the regular routine of early morning college courses and afternoons spent at dead end jobs.
"In the beginning, there was just a lot going on," remembers Walter. "There was a point where me, George and JD were all taking finals during the day, then we would go back and forth between the studio, then we would have to break away for a show. It was a lot of work and, at that point, we were doing it all ourselves."
By the time Valencia completed their first album, This Could Be A Possibility, in the fall of 2005, their hard work had paid off. Released on I Surrender Records (a modest indie label run by one of their boyhood idols, former Midtown drummer Rob Hitt), the album had quickly earned praise in magazines like Spin and Alternative Press, while the band's live shows graduated from dank vet halls to packed dates with hugely popular artists like Fall Out Boy.
All and all, it was a promising time for the band. But while on tour that May, Henderson (then 21) received some jarring news. Back in Newtown, PA, his girlfriend was injured in a freak accident and had been rushed to the hospital. The show that night was canceled and the members of Valencia immediately turned their van around and headed home. Sadly, they were too late. When they arrived home, Henderson's girlfriend had already been pronounced dead.
The tragic death that spring sent shockwaves through the Valencia camp, but they persevered and eventually began work on an album of new material. By the winter of 2007, the band had found themselves camped out in Los Angeles, where they teamed up with producer Ariel Rechtshaid [Plain White T's, We Are Scientists, Say Anything] to record their sophomore release.
The end result is We All Need A Reason To Believe, an eclectic affair that explores what happens when five young men are suddenly forced to deal with some very adult issues. Still replete with pop-punk hooks, but also with a far more mature statement, it is on tracks like "All At Once" that Valencia still churn out the kind of inch-thick hooks that made This Could Be A Possibility a cult hit. However, when Henderson lets out the songs final verse, a full-on orchestra backs him and his band mates. Elsewhere, on poignant sing-alongs like "Listen Up" and "Where Did You Go?," the songs take on surprising musical depth, while the band get some help on vocals from The Starting Line's Kenny Vasoli and Rachel Minton from Zolof The Rock 'N' Roll Destroyer.
One of the album's most compelling moments can be heard on "The Good Life," a rollicking alt-country track that was inspired by the sudden death of Henderson's girlfriend. "That whole experience deeply affected my life," says Henderson. "We wanted to write a record that looked on the brighter side, and have songs on the album that portrayed hope and optimism."
Ultimately, that's what Valencia have done. Where other groups spend the years between adolescence and adulthood bemoaning their last breakup, the members of Valencia have made an album with the kind of unrelenting optimism that you can't help but admire.
Valencia is an alternative rock/punk band from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.