Craft Spells Graduate from the Bedroom to the Stage



You’ll probably be dancing to Craft Spells’ “After the Moment” when you meet your summer fling. Last week, Captured Tracks released Idle Labor, and it’s the perfect soundtrack for the transition into summer.  The album ranges from inescapable pop to melancholic ballads—all tied together with Justin Vallesteros’ Morrissey-via-Lekman crooning. What began as a Stockton, CA bedroom project is making its New York debut tonight at the Williamsburg Hall of Music.

Interview woke Justin up this morning to talk about putting the live band together, tonight’s special guest, recording Idle Labor, and what the band will be listening to on this, their first tour.

JUSTIN VALLESTEROS: Hey Michael, what’s up?

MICHAEL POLLOCK: Not much, Justin. How are you doing?

VALLESTEROS: Kind of just woke up and walked outside.

POLLOCK: Oh, sorry about that.

VALLESTEROS: No, I feel bad—I thought we were going to have a lot of down time last night and this morning, but our flight was delayed, and we all slept in.

POLLOCK: You have to rest up for tonight. What other live shows have you played?

VALLESTEROS: This is our second show. The second time we have played together. It’s weird. I’ve done some shows in the past, like ten or twelve. Those were just with a laptop, but tonight is with a full band. We had the CD release show in Seattle on the 3rd. Now, a couple days later, we are going to be playing the Music Hall of Williamsburg. It’s weird.

POLLOCK: Sounds really exciting, but really nerve-racking.

VALLESTEROS: Yeah, the special guest tonight is freaking me out.

POLLOCK: Can you tell me who that is?

VALLESTEROS: I don’t know if I’m allowed to say, but I’m pretty sure it’s out there on the Internet. It’s pretty obvious if you look at Brooklyn Vegan.

POLLOCK: So what is the setup like? Who do you have playing what?

VALLESTEROS: I have Jack Smith on bass, Peter Michel on drums, and Javier Suarez on guitar. Everybody does harmonies. People are expecting us to have synths, but we wanted a really rock setup. We wanted to “go ham” in a rock band sort of way—without any synths—for the first tour.

POLLOCK: Is the live show is trying to go for something different than the recordings?

VALLESTEROS: Yeah, it’s going to be way different. I actually like it more than the recordings. I wish I would have recorded it like this. Actually, no—I take that back.

POLLOCK: So when you were originally working on the songs and writing the music, were you thinking about how they would be performed?

VALLESTEROS: No, that wasn’t even in my mind. The whole band thing didn’t come to me ’til maybe three months ago, four months ago. And I was done with the record by then.

POLLOCK: What has the transition to full live band been like?

VALLESTEROS: I’m really confident with this band. Each member is a great musician. They play their instruments so well, and I’m really blessed to have them. Plus, they all sing harmonies. It is so weird to find a whole band, especially our age, to be so confident in singing harmonies.

POLLOCK: The singles that came out before the album have a lot more synth than the rest of the album. Were they written separately?

VALLESTEROS: I was just getting back into my post-punk phase again. I was listening to the Only Ones again, and I was listening to The Nerves. I was just like, “This album really needs some rock songs.” So I put in some rock songs. I think the synths did their part, but definitely the rock songs really evened it out, for me. I felt really accomplished after I made those songs, and I liked the record a lot more. The record would have gotten lost with too much synth. We would have been listed as a synth band, but I wanted the record to have everything in that genre without being stereotyped.

POLLOCK: Did that influence your decision to not include any synth or keyboards in the live show?

VALLESTEROS: Yeah, definitely.

POLLOCK: I’m sure songs like “After the Moment” are going to be really interesting.

VALLESTEROS: The songs hold up. I was a little worried at first, but they are still a lot of fun.

POLLOCK: That’s awesome. So this is your first time touring also?

VALLESTEROS: Yeah, this is our first tour.

POLLOCK: It’s a long one.

VALLESTEROS: Yeah, like three weeks on the East Coast and then a week and half on the West.

POLLOCK: Have you been to New York before?

VALLESTEROS: No, this is my first time on the East Coast, ever. I’ve never left the country either, and we are hitting Canada. I’m pretty stoked for the Canada show, which is on 4/20. And mostly stoked for the San Francisco show, where I’m originally from. There are going to be a lot of my friends there and it’s going to be on Cinco de Mayo. I get to see my family. It’s going to be fun. I just moved to Seattle two months ago. I’m originally from Stockton, but I moved to San Francisco when I was 18. I definitely have some past there.

POLLOCK: You have any playlists for the road?

VALLESTEROS: No playlists from me, but our drummer has a bunch of Sleep playlists. I’m not sure when those are going to come in handy. Oh, and a Family Values Tour tape, like with Korn and Limp Bizkit. I’m really trying to get him to play that.