Vallesteros, who lived in a San Francisco in 2010 before moving back to his hometown in the Central Valley, talked with us about the creative slump he experienced while living here and how he found inspiration to record the band’s album, Nausea, which he finalized with his band-mates in Seattle and released in June of last year.
Was San Francisco really that uninspiring for you?
It was just more what life told me during that time, more so than my surroundings. I used to like the city a lot. I would take the bus, listen to music and all that stuff. It was inspiring enough to take all that music to my parent’s house to finish some recordings. I was going through some stuff at that time and it made San Francisco not that great for a couple of years.
What did you do with your time here while you had writer’s block?
I hung out with the only friend I had that time, Michal (Palmer) from The Bilinda Butchers, who are opening up the show on Feb. 25 and are also from the Bay Area. We’d hang out, go on nature walks and talk about music. Aside from that, I didn’t do much other than stay in my head, which led me to not wanting to be there for too long.
Which neighborhood did you call home?
What are some of your favorite spots in the city?
It was an easy walk to the Mission—going to the bookstores and records shops there. I also really enjoyed the Tenderloin. There’s a lot of food there. At night, I’d walk to the Tenderloin from downtown. It was a nice walk for me.
It’s crazy how much time you’ll spend alone, then you’ll just walk outside around 6pm or 7pm and people are trying to get home from work or hitting up bars. You see different types of life during one brief walk downtown. I also like going to Sutro Baths, which is one of my favorite places to be in San Francisco. It’s a nice place to listen to music alone.
How did things change for you after you moved back home to the Central Valley town of Lathrop?
It helped me be a bit more social again. I have a lot of close friends that are still living in Stockton, which is nearby. I hung out with friends and worked on music projects. That inspired me to finish my project on my own.
It felt better visiting San Francisco than living there at that moment. It was nice to regroup and hang with my parents for a little bit. Soon after that, I went back to Seattle and started rehearsing for the record. Life is chill—working, recording and feeling some type of accomplishment. I’m not spending too much time in my head, so that’s good.
What led you to Seattle to finish the record?
Seattle has always been a city that I have visited. My father was born there and I used to go on trips there with parents. I met friends before my first record was done and my management is here now. I’m in Seattle frequently.
There’s a bit of a rivalry with SF, at least in the sports world. What do you like most about living there?
I’m a Giants fan. I’ll verify that. For the Seahawks, congratulations last year, but I wasn’t sure they were going to do it again at the Super Bowl. They put too much pressure on themselves. Also, it was a really bad call at the end, obviously.
Seattle is very open culturally, and an accepting city. Some cities would say that on paper, but this place is very truly an accepting place. The DIY scene here is very close knit, and it’s very inspiring with music and art. There’s always something new going on and the weather is just perfect for me. It’s always grey, or cold or raining. It’s my weather of choice.
You decided to write the songs for Nausea on piano instead of guitar. How did learning that instrument change the way you approach songwriting?
It was great because I was so used to guitar at that point. The songs were all starting to sounds pretty overdone and it was hard to come up with anything after playing only guitar for so long. When I sat at the piano, it was awkward for me. I’m not that great. I’ve never had lessons, so it put me in an insecure spot.
If I was playing something that just naturally came out, it was pure emotion rather than muscle memory. It was more of an accomplishment that I could hold more than four chords in sequence. It was inspiring in the sense of feeling awkward and adapting to it.
You also had a semi-addiction to social media at the time. Do you still find yourself on social media a lot?
I do. I think I definitely cut back my usage during the making of that that album. I completely let go of all my Instagram posts, Facebook and I just stopped posting.
Now I’m back in the real world and I have to keep up with people. I do it in doses. I find myself more on Twitter.
Are you intentionally kicking off the tour in San Francisco or did it just work out that way with tour routing?
We were setting up for a month tour. Noise Pop offered us the Great American show and that seemed to be the perfect beginning show. It’s the first show of the tour and its one of the bigger ones—and it’s at Great American Music Hall, which I hold very highly as a venue.
I’ve seen so many classic acts there, it’s crazy that I’ll be headlining. It’s almost crazy to say that myself.
Do you have any previous experiences with Noise Pop during your time in SF?
Yeah, I’ve done a couple DJ sets for Noise Pop. I knew a couple people working at Noise Pop, as well. My friend Chad Heimann of Salty Artist Management would email me about DJ sets and stuff. Craft Spells has also played another Noise Pop thing called Noisette—a food and music show that was an all day thing.
Will you have time to visit any of your old haunts or is it strictly business?
I think we do. We leave on the 23rd from Seattle, so that gives us a day and a half of hanging out. I hope that we can stay at my parents along the way and then head to San Francisco. Some of the guys from the band are from Seattle and they enjoy the thrift shopping in San Francisco.
This show will be very special for me. All my friends and family will be there and all of my San Francisco friends, as well. It’s going to be good. I’ll be a little nervous, but I’m sure when I get there I won’t be as nervous as I am now. I’m already thinking about it too much.
Craft Spells plays Noise Pop at the Great American Music Hall with Bilinda Butchers, Cotillon and Balms on Feb. 25. More info.