Phone Home (yes, it’s an ET reference) is composed of New York brothers John and Michael Vallarelli. With John, 25, on drums, and Michael, 31, on synths and piano, the two compose dreamy instrumental post-rock evoking the likes of Mogwai, Tortoise, and Explosions in the Sky. The brothers recently released the hauntingly beautiful track, “Bean,” from their upcoming fourth EP. Michael was kind enough to talk to me about all things Phone Home, which he affectionately describes as: “the thoughts and energy of brothers who feel a lot of things and express those feelings through music.” Emotional shawtys in this bitch! See our conversation below.
Labeling Men: What's it like working with your brother creatively?
Michael Vallarelli: Depends on the day? Just kidding. It's great because I can be completely open with him, and really let loose. Sometimes I am annoying, and he forgives me usually, which I don't think most people would do.
Labeling Men: Tell us about your creative process.
Michael Vallarelli: John and I get together at Astoria Soundworks and pretty much write everything together. I'll play something on my Alesis and Yamaha keyboards, and John will always know the tempo or sort of pulse I'm thinking. Sometimes it clicks, and sometimes it doesn't. When it clicks, we usually have a new song.
Labeling Men: Key influences?
Michael Vallarelli: Brian Eno, Arvo Part, Keith Jarrett, Elvis Costello, Modest Mouse, New Order, Mogwai, anything Zach Hill.
Labeling Men: Dream collaboration?
Michael Vallarelli: We really want Grimes to sing on one of our songs, but ultimate dream would be Glenn Danzig.
Labeling Men: What inspires you most?
Michael Vallarelli: The idea that life is short.
Labeling Men: Favorite venue to play? To attend?
Michael Vallarelli: These days definitely Palisades – hey, we're playing there on April 22! It's run by really sweet people who are passionate about what they do. I love seeing shows at the Music Hall of Williamsburg and/or Bowery Ballroom.
Labeling Men: Favorite recent music?
Michael Vallarelli: For me the new Panda Bear, Drake and Sam Prekop records are all fantastic. John is really into Alvvays and Single Mothers right now. Also we are both in love with the new Grimes single REALiTI.
Labeling Men: I love the new Grimes!
Michael Vallarelli: Haha, it rules.
Labeling Men: First concert?
Michael Vallarelli: My first concert was Paula Abdul and Color Me Badd at Jones Beach. Thanks Mom and Dad!
Labeling Men: I love "Bean" -- can you tell me about making that song?
Michael Vallarelli: I came up with the concept of “Bean” right before I got married to my wife, Pamela. I wanted to create something that evoked this sense of warmth in the midst of normal outside anxiety and fear. Maybe it's fear of mortality, or money or anything else that makes me people uneasy. The song is basically inspired by the idea that no matter the bullshit that is going on outside, there is this constant thing right in front of you that makes it all better. It leads to a journey of some kind in the second part, but I really can't get into that. It's totally private. Musically speaking, I liked the idea that the keyboards kind of sound like they are light and dark at the same time, but still harmonious. It's really our version of a love song.
Labeling Men: What do you like to do when you aren't making music?
Michael Vallarelli: We both have day jobs. I work for a French silverware company, and my brother currently works for my dad's HVAC business.
Labeling Men: Vices?
Michael Vallarelli: I drink a lot of coffee and bite my nails. I love whiskey and wine. No drugs. Sorry kids.
Labeling Men: Favorite restaurant?
Michael Vallarelli: Lucali. If you like pizza, go there and have your mind blown. The first time I ate there, I talked about it for two weeks straight.
Labeling Men: Pet Peeve?
Michael Vallarelli: I really hate when people don't say thank you.
Labeling Men: Dream vacation?
Michael Vallarelli: Thailand
Labeling Men: Weirdest show experience?
Michael Vallarelli: We played a show at this venue in Delaware a few years back, and there were about 4 people there. As we were playing, these drunk dudes got on stage and starting rapping over our music, so our show turned into a sort of collaboration. I think we started just playing completely improvised music. It was super weird, but also totally fun and we'll never forget it.
Interview by Anna Dorn
Photo courtesy of freshindependence.com