INTERVIEW: Justin Vallesteros of Craft Spells

Justin Vallesteros began Craft Spells as a bedroom pop project, so it’s only fitting that for the band’s sophomore release, he’s returned to those reclusive roots. With the 2009 release of some enigmatic demos that would go on to make up the bulk of highly-anticipated debut Idle Labor in 2011, Vallesteros built buzz amongst bloggers, signed to Captured Tracks, and assembled a touring band. Craft Spells also released an EP, Gallery, in 2012, seemingly predicting that such prolific output would continue. The band toured while moving its home base up and down the West Coast, but Vallesteros found himself distracted and uninspired by surroundings in Seattle and San Francisco. He moved back in with his parents, spent his days writing and skateboarding, and completed Nausea, a deeply introspective album more orchestral, ambitious and accessible than anything Craft Spells has released to date. In the midst of a brief tour that included a stop at Brooklyn’s Northside Festival, Vallesteros answered some questions about the new directions he’s taking with his project.
Justin Vallesteros
AudioFemme:  It seems like your aesthetic has changed slightly since Idle Labor; do you feel like that’s true? In what ways has the band evolved over the last four years?

Justin Vallesteros: ​Yes, it’s been four years. A lot has happened to me personally and the new record is a good representation of what I went through. The aesthetic changed cause I change, we all change. It wasn’t a conscious decision, I’m just a different person. Evolving like a Pokemon. 

AF: Did you feel a lot of pressure in making a second record in terms of how critics would inevitably compare it to the first?

​JV: I knew a lot of the fans of Idle Labor would tilt their head to it, it was definitely a side bust. I’m gonna make what I want though, so there was no stopping what I was writing. I can’t be that guy who makes pastel-like music all my life. I’m a real person with feelings. Maybe the next release will be the happiest shit I’ve written, or the saddest, who knows?

AF: It’s been two years since you’ve toured with the band. Anything you’re nervous about or excited to get back to?

JV: Excited to take people out of their night life, putting their phones away and bringing them into our world for an hour. It was cool playing to packed show at the Warsaw in Brooklyn and looking up midway and didn’t see one phone and everyone in silence. That rules. 

AF: The new record has some great orchestral flourishes and also some really pretty quieter moments, particularly in the juxtaposition of the last two tracks. How did arranging it all come together?

​JV: It’s good to take the album through different worlds and landscapes as it goes. It’s better than writing a whole album of single guitar line jangle pop. 

AF: You’re releasing the demos alongside the album in a special edition. What’s your reason for that?

JV: ​If you like J Dilla or Nujabes, you will love these demo versions of Nausea. It’s gonna sound awesome on cassette too.

Stream single “Breaking The Angle Against The Tide” below, order the LP on Captured Tracks, or, if you’re on the West Coast, you can catch Craft Spells on tour in July at the dates below: 

7/16 – Santa Cruz, CA – Catalyst Atrium
7/17 –  San Francisco, CA – The Chapel
7/18 –  San Diego, CA – The Hideout
7/19 – Santa Ana, CA – Constellation Room
7/20 – Los Angeles, CA – Part Time Punks at the Echo

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