If there’s one thing that Philly is absolutely fabulous for (besides cheesesteaks and Super Bowl rings, of course), it’s that its local entertainment scene is truly like no other.
Whether you’re a performance artist slaying in the FringeArts festival, a DJ serving up deep house at one of the many, many nightclubs around or a drag queen serving the runways of the Gayborhood, all walks of entertainment thrive on the City of Brotherly Love dance floor.
Another performance genre that is certainly soaring in Philly (although some of you kids might not know how big it truly is), is that of the “basement” genre. Or, we can think of it as a small intimate musical gathering in the basement of your Mom’s house, designed for bands with a darker, edgier sound who’re built for more intimate crowds for their talents to be seen and their voices to be heard…and that they most certainly are.
Thanks to venues like The Barbary and “house party” hot-spots like The Waiting Room and Hubris House, the basement genre is more alive than ever before, which is why Brooklyn based duo The Values are finding no trouble fitting into it all.
With their eccentric mix of pop, indie and thunderous beats, The Values—Mason Taub (vocals) and Evan Zwisler(synths & the rest of it)–have not only made a name for themselves on their native NYC local entertainment scene, but right here in Philly while creating an ever-growing fan base that follows their every move. With Ms. Taub’s dark, defining vocals on top of Zwisler’s pulsating production, these two certainly know how to serve up the heat while keeping it all light and groovy.
Speaking of keeping things light and groovy, Mason and Evan stopped by Philly Mixtape for a spot of music tea, where they broke mugs about their humble beginnings, recording sessions and everything else in between….including their love for The Boss. Take a sip and enjoy!
And for much, much more tea with The Values, check this out.
Hey, guys! Thanks for stopping by the Philly Mixtape music tea table!! First up, spill for everyone about how The Values came to light…..Mason:When I met Evan in 2014, he was already working on the first iteration of The Values with some friends of his from college. He actually invited me to their first show that was happening the next day. We started dating and eventually I joined the band, and since then we’ve gone through lots of changes, learned a lot, and seem to have found our best sound yet as a duo. Evan: Every iteration of the band before this really didn’t feel right. I feel that when it’s just the two of us we have the freedom to really make and perform the music that’s in our heads. I’ve never been more excited to write new music.
Okay, let’s break some mugs about your unique sound. I’m feeling a lot of genres with it……a little EDM, a little new wave, and perhaps a touch of goth vibes? How would you kids best describe it? M:We usually put ourselves under the umbrella of synthpop, but there are lots of influences that we each bring to the table. My vocals certainly don’t sound like a lot of synthpop bands out there, and we slip in some rock and post-punk stuff in a few of the songs with Evan’s guitar. E:Sexy synth sounds that make you want to move your booty. Mason also writes amazing lyrics that are so vivid. It’s one of the reasons I love her so much.
Which musical artists inspire you both? M:I feel like the best way to answer this is with some of the music we listen to on the road: there’s a lot of Prince and Bruce Springsteen, LCD Soundsystem and Donna Summer. I also definitely find myself inspired by female pop artists like Janelle Monae, Grimes and Robyn. E:Recently it’s been a lot of Prince, I think he’s so bad ass. I think the sound design in Maggie Robert’s hit song ‘Alaska’ is really good and I think Lorde is just killing it, ‘Green Light’ is one of our favorites. Bruce Springsteen was the person who taught me what it means to be American and his music has helped get us home when we’re driving back from a road gig after one am. Other members of our One AM Club include: Sly Stone, Holy Ghost!, LCD Soundsystem, and Slyvan Esso.
You guys have also played quite a bit in Philly. Which venues have been your favorite places to rock out at so far? M:We’ve actually played a lot of Philly house shows, which is an incredible scene. We love Tralfamadore! In terms of above-ground venues, The Barbary also treated us really well. Shoutout to their bouncer Bear, who helped keep an eye on our mini pitbull and tour pup, Honey while we played! E:We love the house party scene in South Philly. In the coming months we’re going to play Tralfamadore, The Waiting Room, and Hubris House to name a few. There’s something about playing a basement packed with thirty or so other people all shoulder to shoulder that’s just electric.
What do you both think is the one thing that you think any new artist should keep in
mind when they first hit the scene? M:Things will change, whether that’s your lineup, your musical interests, whatever, and to be ready to handle that with as much grace as possible. E:Don’t be a dick. Most people are pretty nice so in addition to that I’d say that there are a ton of amazing bands in Philly so try to do something unique that you’re passionate about. People are super accepting and supportive in Philly so if it’s your dream to perform operatic baroque pop music performed acoustically with only your voice and a ukelele, go for it!!! People would rather watch you struggle to make something amazing, unique, and personal than have you do the same thing they’ve seen 100 times.
Spill a little about your recording sessions. What’s the general mood like? What do you do if there are any disagreements? That is, if there are any….M:We try to make recording fun for us, which isn’t too tricky because we’re both kind of music nerds. Some of the first recording sessions we ever did we had a bunch of friends over hanging out in the control room. Evan and I are pretty good at keeping the vibe upbeat and respecting each other’s ideas and trying things out when we’re recording or mixing. It’s just not productive for us to be at odds when there’s so much to do. E:The mood [is] good! We both love being in the studio so it was pretty great. I gotta give major props to Oliver Ignatius and Holy Fang recording. He really helped us get great synth sounds from his amazing collection of synths. We used an Oberheim Matrix 6 for a lot of the pad sounds on ‘Mass Destruction’ and it sounds fucking sick. Oliver knew exactly where to As far as disagreements go, there was only really one time I got upset. We were starting to record our cover of ‘Dancing in the Dark’ and Mason and Oliver decided to basically to scrap our demo and go for a much moodier take on the song. I felt kind of blindsided and was totally thrown off balance. I didn’t yell or scream like a psycho, but I wasn’t thrilled to change our demo which was working, but thank god we did. Pretty quickly into working on the new version I realized that what we’d been doing was pretty bland. We really wanted to drive home the ennui and frustration the lyrics conveyed. I trusted Mason and Oliver, I think they’re far better musicians than I am, and while there was friction I think the song was galvanized into something much stronger.
One last sip……..the one album that each of you simply cannot live without would be…..
M:This is a really tough question for me! Maybe….LCD Soundsystem’s Sound of Silver.
E:Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen. Great Album, great album artwork (love me some of that Brucey Booty)
Get down with their hot-to-headphones cover of “Dancing in the Dark” right here!