Between the desert of British Columbia’s interior and Vancouver Island lies an expanse that has shaped a mindset not dissimilar from what’s commonly associated with southern California. The seemingly laid back lifestyles they share often mask a desperate search for meaning in the superficial, and hope amid cynicism.
Sam Weber’s new album, Valentina Nevada, embodies these themes, employing the Laurel Canyon sounds of Jackson Browne, the Eagles, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell as the foundation for a collection of songs that form a travelogue of the journey Weber and his band have been on for the past two years, both literally and metaphysically. The album’s guiding spirit is its muse, Valentina, and as Weber explains, “All the songs are about the struggle, but Valentina is the only one that gets past it. When choosing a name for this record, I wanted to put Valentina forward, because she’s ahead of me in a lot of ways.”
After releasing his full-length debut album Shadows In The Road in 2014—which Grayowl Point described as “Packed with emotion… there’s scarcely a note out of place”—Weber and his loyal compadres Marshall Wildman, Hugh Mackie, and Esme John, chose to make Valentina Nevada without any outside opinion or influence. That choice allowed them to distill everything they’d experienced together into the new songs: The places they’ve been; the places they have not; the places they’ve played; the places where they’ve broken down; the places they dream about. The album is not a factual interpretation of long, dust-laden southern roads, but an honest impression of those places and the people who inhabit them.
“We’re in a very formative period,” the 23-year-old Weber says. “For a band like us, it would be irresponsible to give the keys to a producer who can’t quite see what we’re going for yet. Without a clear vibe for a producer to build off, it would be chaos, not to mention untrue to who we are.”
Instead, Weber and company have received their education on the road, having played a combined 155 shows in 2014 and 2015, including appearances at Canadian Music Week, Breakout West, Tall Tree Music Festival, Rifflandia Festival, and SunFest in Duncan B.C. The band’s mandate is to play anywhere and everywhere, which has brought Weber a following that spans generations, made up of folks from both large cities and towns off the usual touring grid. For Weber, music is about inclusion and direct communication. “Genres and labeling in music tends to confuse the true intention,” he says. “I don’t want that kind of language to be a barrier between a listener and their natural musical reflexes.”
These are concepts Sam Weber has thought about a lot. Raised in the oceanside community of North Saanich, B.C., his geographic isolation forced his mind inward, which, for better or worse, heavily impacted his outlook as a songwriter. Weber’s writing reflects a romanticization of places where the energy is more tangible than he has experienced thus far in his quiet island life. Valentina Nevada is in some respects an anthology that blends personal biographies with speculative interpretations of people and places imagined from afar.
Sam Weber and his band will reach all of those people and places eventually; their refined musical intuition has accorded them a stunning ability to tune their performances to whatever stage they find themselves on. But along with Weber’s live show, it is the slow-burning beauty of Valentina Nevada that will carry the day, and ultimately solidify his place among the new generation of great Canadian songwriters.