Friday, July 02, 2010

Spotlight Artist: Phone Home

Phone Home is an unsigned duo trying to create an atmosphere using what they have. I recently learned about them on twitter, and keyboardist Michael Vallarelli agreed to answer questions for this feature...

Phone Home
Photo credit: Mike Cinelli.
John and Michael Vallarelli. John on drums, Michael on keyboards.

So you guys are brothers?
Brothers? John is my son. Just kidding. We are indeed brothers. I am 26 and John is 20.

Any sibling rivalries?
No sibling rivalries that i know of. We both always seemed to love the same things. I think we tend to inspire each other without even realizing it. We also are very lucky to have such supportive parents who always believed in the crazy and not so crazy things we have done with our lives. They come to most of our shows. Always have. Now that I think about it, I do wish I was as tall as John.
Where did you grow up?
We grew up in Eastchester, NY which is in Westchester county, about 30 minutes north of Manhattan on the Metro North. It's a small-ish town, middle class and pretty down to earth. It's apparently the birth place of the Bill Of Rights, whatever that means.

How long have you been performing?
About 7 months. 3 months in NYC.

Past lives (i.e., previous bands, your early years, etc.):
John started playing drums at 8 and he is mostly self taught. He played in his elementary, middle and high school band. His first band was a punk band called Future Society. Later on he formed a band called Drain with his pals from around college etc. I first tried playing trombone in elementary school and failed miserably. I then moved on to bass, and joined a band in middle school called The Skeptonics. Played CBGB's at 13, and wore a mock tuxedo while doing so. After The Skeptonics fizzled I moved on to more punk oriented bands including Lucky 13, and even got to play CBGB's again. While playing in a band called Motion Picture Cutouts, I starting fiddling around on the keyboard. After we stopped playing together, I started to record piano music in my room...probably too much of it.

Favorite venue to play:
The Trash Bar
256 Grand St.
(bet. Driggs Ave. & Roebling St.)
Brooklyn, NY

Musical influences:
This is always a tough question because it seems to change every minute based on our moods (which fluctuate more than you know). Everything from good old punk rock to jazz, classical, hip-hop, pop. John and I have similar music influences. We grew up listening to a lot of punk rock, mostly pop-ish punk like Green Day, NOFX, Blink 182 and stuff like that. On our way to a recent show we put on Insomniac by Green Day and it was very nostalgic (haha). We used to go and see the Mighty Mighty Bosstones almost every other month it seemed. Some of our favorites now are bands like Modest Mouse, The National, The Bad Plus, Mogwai. John likes stuff like American Football, Refused, Sunny Day Real Estate, and Death Cab For Cutie. As far as drumming goes, John cites Death Cab For Cutie's Jason McGerr and Jeremiah Green or Modest Mouse as having a significant influence on his playing.

Elvis Costello was and is still a major influence on me as a musician. When I first started listening to him, a whole world of other sounds was introduced to me. Witnessing someone tackle different genres with urgency and skill is something special. From listening to him I started listening to classical and jazz. I got into a lot of keyboard oriented music eventually after playing in Motion Picture Cutouts. I started devouring music by Keith Jarrett, Arvo Part, Philip Glass, and Brian Eno. Right now I'm listening to a lot of dub specifically that of Prince Jammy, Augustus Pablo and Lee Scratch Perry. I've also been really into a bunch of new bands like Suckers and Japandroids. My brother also loves the Japandroids. Something about a two piece, I guess. Those guys create such an atmosphere, and are definitely an inspiration to John and I. There is just so much out there, and we're both always stumped/overwhelmed with this question.

Another major musical influence on me that I almost forgot to list is The Clash. I find them to be the blueprint for a lot of what John and I have ever done musically. Joe Strummer especially is just a huge reason as to why I'm doing music at all. Also, I've been listening to Pantha Du Prince recently quite a bit. New electronic artist out of Germany.

Tell us a story or anecdote about performing live in NYC.
Playing in New York is really fun yet always a bit nerve-wracking and unpredictable. There are so many venues, and honestly the more you play the more you start to realize that picking and choosing is healthy. It's nice to play with bands that are similar in style, but it's also really fun to play with those who just play completely different. About 3 weeks ago we played right after this hip hop group called Jae'are. They were awesome and just had great energy. If you're reading this Jae-are, we'd love to play with you again. I think for us it's all about being as open-minded about playing as possible. Every show is an opportunity to share your music, meet people and to also hear new music outside of your boundries. I think so far Brooklyn as been better than Manhattan in terms of the enthusiasm of everyone. It's just buzzing over there.

Any advice to someone just starting out?
Be sincere and just go for it. Practice a lot, and play any show that is offered to you. Try to communicate your band members openly. Try not to let anyone discourage you along the way, especially bloggers.

What would you like to plug?
Our next two shows:
Saturday, July 3 at Public Assembly
Benefit Show for Brooklyn Public Libraries
With DJ Vida, Jay Hansen, Dalanshar
Phone Home
$10 donation
back room at:
Public Assembly
70 N. 6th St.
Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY
718 782-5188

and July 28 at The Trash Bar.
The Trash Bar
256 Grand St. (bet. Driggs Ave. & Roebling St.)
Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY
We also have plans to record an EP this month.

facebook: Phone-Home
Myspace: phonehomenewyork
twitter: @PhoneHomeBand

Where can we buy your music?
You can get it for free on myspace currently! Soon we will have something to purchase.

I only found out about your band last week via twitter. How did you find out about MurphGuide?
I learned about MurphGuide from twitter. I really like the non-pretentious delivery of the information on the site. Its more: hey this is whats going on, like it or not. You are spreading the word in a very genuine way.

Wow, thanks. I appreciate the compliment.
Can you recommend any other local acts we should feature on MurphGuide?

My friend Will is in a band called Old Table. You can hear his stuff at Also our friend Richard has a project called Dalanshar which can be heard at We're playing with him at Public Assembly on Saturday.

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