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True/False Conversations: 'You like that? Yes or no?' VALEBOL combines sounds from Panama and the Midwest

A photo of Daniel Villarreal and V.V. Lightbody.
Courtesy of VALEBOL
VALEBOL is performing Saturday night at Rose Music Hall.

This story is part of True/False Conversations, a series of in-depth interviews with the filmmakers of this year’s True/False Festival.  Find the rest of them here.

Musicians Daniel Villarreal and Vivian McConnell met in the Chicago music scene over a decade ago. By 2017, the two had started planning their debut as VALEBOL. Though the COVID-19 pandemic was an obstacle, this April, they’ll finally be releasing their debut album. Their True False performance will be one of their first of 2024.

KBIA’s Kate Ramseyer sat down with Daniel to discuss VALEBOL’s creative process and unique niche in the music world.

Kate: I’ve seen online that you guys have described your genre or like niche in music as express pop or breeze pop?

Daniel: It’s hard to label stuff we were thinking like something that is easy listening and quick and accessible, friendly and groovy, like what can we call that? You get a breeze you’re just kind of like oh that’s a nice breeze oh it’s something fresh. And also sometimes we call it like ‘fruit forward' — like fruits are colorful.

Kate: I think that’s also very fitting for you guys performing in Columbia for sure. I’ve also heard it’s a combination between Vivian’s midwest and your Panama, right?

Daniel: It’s just a blend of styles, different upbringings, different styles of music playing because Vivian is also versatile, she plays rock and she plays some singer-songwriter like folky type of vibe that’s the midwestern comes from. Me being from Panama having a little bit of the percussion and the groove and heavy on the drums and can be a Latin flavor sometimes, but it’s just kind of like, danceable and groovy you know?

Kate: I can really see that when you were talking about did you say fruit forward is that what you’ve also called it?

Daniel: Yeah. Fruit. We’re very excited to play the True False Fest, I mean this music is so fresh and so new, sonically we can cover a lot of ground because we’re just two people on stage and it’s going to be unique because this is one of the few times that we are playing it live.

Kate: Have you guys like played multiple instruments at once when you say that you’re – all these sounds are coming at once?

Daniel: Yeah, we play multiple instruments at once like Vivian played bass, synth bass, with her left hand a melody with her right hand at the same time she sings, and I play congas with my left hand and drums with my right hand, sometimes I join her in some vocals too we want to give people like a real experience of like almost like they’re seeing like a rock show you know?

Kate: VALEBOL came together in Chicago. Did you guys see that as well? People playing multiple instruments at once? Or like do you guys feel like that’s more unique to you guys and your music?

Daniel: It came out like the way that we were writing things, started we just adding sounds, like “Oh I think I can play congas and percussion at the same time I play drums,” then Vivian’s kind of like “Oh, well actually just like these two octopus that can like play two things at once. And it’s easier too to travel with two people. It’s easier to set up, and things like that, two people it’s easy like, “You like that? Yes or no?” And that’s it, we vote. "Okay cool, let’s move on."

Kate: Do you think that having two minds in the writing room is easier than having more than two?

Daniel: Yeah yeah I think it’s easier for composition purposes and writing music, having like one other person, and I feel like the best writing comes from simplicity and minimalistic than actually being like big and complicated. I hope the people you know come and see what’s happening overall in the festival and I’m looking forward to be down there.

VALEBOL can be found on their website valebol.com or on Instagram, @Valebol_duo.

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