Valora Frontwoman Syd Duran Talks Debut Album, Influences + More
Valora are gearing up for the release of their debut album ‘I Waited for You,’ which is also the name of the first single off of the disc.
The band toured with 10 Years and played the 48 Hours Festival in 2011, in addition to releasing their own five chapter graphic novel created by Ahmet Zappa. The comic is based on a protagonist named Valora and the group has also created videos to go along with the graphic novel chapters.
When we talked to frontwoman Syd Duran recently, she chatted about her enthusiasm for Valora's debut album, helping out with vocals on the Breaking Benjamin hit ‘Blow Me Away,’ her admiration for Evanescence's Amy Lee, being in a band with her little sister Taelor and much more.
Tell me a little about the single ‘I Waited for You’ lyrically and musically.
Over time, it’s changed a little bit; my view on this song and the way I interpret it. I co-wrote it with these two guys who are my music mentors, at the time, I was about 18 years old and you know just put yourself into it and make it about whatever you’re going through right now so that was easy because I had just graduated high school. I was finding myself and realizing that I need to make some major changes in order to really accomplish my goal which is to do music for a living and be successful at it.
So, don’t wait for other people to hand you what you’ve been wanting, you need to go out and do it for yourself so that was initially the meaning behind ‘I Waited for You’ because I had to tell myself you’ve been waiting for your opportunity, you need to go out there and find it yourself.
Now, it’s been three years since I graduated high school, since the song’s been written and ... it’s time to put it out there so ‘I’ve Waited for You’ just kind of says it on its own, I waited a long time, so that’s why it was chosen as the single and also the title of our record that’s coming out early this year.
The video for ‘I Waited for You’ is beautifully shot, how was the experience shooting that for you?
It was amazing, I saw the finished product for the animated videos that we did, that was really great too and I’m totally thankful for that opportunity to have a graphic novel and animated videos. I even told Ahmet Zappa who did it, ‘I’m gonna be honest with you man, I cried when they told me my first couple videos are gonna be animated,” because I’m thinking I’ve been waiting for this a long time and I’ve dreamed about my first music video for years so to feel like you can’t even be in it, like they’re hiding me from fans or whatever, that was kind of hard for me at first but now I appreciate it more than I ever could.
Lance Drake (director) really did a great job of allowing me to be represented the way that I wanted to, that’s really me on the screen. People may think she’s acting or dressing up or whatever but really because I lived with that song for so long, I didn’t feel like I had to act any of it, it was really heartfelt for me.
Are there any contenders for the next single?
I think we’re gonna give this one a good run first because it took so long to get it out, we want to give it its time out there. I have some next singles going around in my head, I’ll just save those until it’s time.
Can you describe how you felt during the recording process and what influenced the album as a whole?
I was writing for over a year for this record so when we finally got the chosen 11 tracks together it was like wow this is really the best that I have to offer out of 100 or so songs. They all have this common thread, I think there’s tragedy in almost all of the songs but then there’s this glimpse of hope. There are some songs on there that sound very happy and almost peppy but when you listen to the lyrics it has a dark concept. In the studio when I was recording all of this I feel like a lot of it was naturally me flowing through the song. I would really feel the lyrics. I don’t like to sing anything that I’m not actually thinking about in my head.
Sometimes when you have a song that you’ve written or that you know for a really long time you just kind of sing along to it but when recording these songs it was really living it so sometimes I would come out of there so depressed or in a very feisty mood, depends on what song I’m recording. That’s how it was for me. I really like to get into the lyrics and make sure that the voice that comes across on the recorded version is very convincing and believable.
You contributed backing vocals to the Breaking Benjamin hit ‘Blow Me Away.’ How did that come about?
I didn’t get the opportunity to meet them during the whole process. I was offered this opportunity by the band and the record label and we’re labelmates so we’re on the same team here. I was just completely shocked that they wanted me to do it; there’s a lot of great female vocalists out there but I felt like that opportunity was a gift for me. I had a really great time recording it, I definitely gave me tough skin but I also really appreciated the fans of Breaking Benjamin who are completely supportive of it. It was interesting for me because they’re getting me out there for people to know who Valora is and this might be the first thing they hear.
Speaking of great female vocalists, I heard you are an admirer of Amy Lee; what do you think of Evanescence’s new album?
I think it’s great, I wouldn’t expect anything less from them. There are very few artists that you can expect greatness from and I feel that Amy Lee as a singer, as an individual, I feel like you can always expect greatness from her. I was not surprised that I love it.
What were some of your musical influences growing up?
Growing up I really loved the Pretenders, my first recording session was in some really sketchy little studio in North Hollywood and I remember listening to a ton of Pretenders music before that because I wanted go in and offer something that was crazy and quirky in the way Chrissie (Hynde) sings in a lot of her songs, she also has a really beautiful, pretty side to her voice. I love her, she doesn’t have to always have to sound so pretty, she doesn’t have to prove she can sing, the meanness is what you can hear and that’s what I love about her.
How would you describe your experience of being a frontwoman in a male dominated industry like hard rock?
Well, after being on tour with 10 years, because that was our first rock tour and that was my first experience really out there with a lot of guys around all the time, normally it’s just my bandmates who I feel are like brothers and best friends. It’s not really intimidating or scary environment, or even the 48 Hours Festival, dudes everywhere [laughs]. It was different for me because I have to think like a man sometimes when I’m out there and I don’t even know if I’m doing it right because I am a woman. [Laughs] I think it’s made me stronger and helped me to know that there’s a time to do things for yourself as an individual woman and there’s times to let someone be a gentleman for you but it’s different being in the rock world because everybody wants to see in comparison to a male frontman so I think it’s allowed me to be as tough as I want to be onstage. I just give it my all, 110 percent, no holding back anymore.
You have your sister Taelor as company; how is it being in a band with your little sis?
It wasn’t always something she wanted to do. I think ahead all the time, I try to see the bigger picture and map things out for the next five years of my life [laughs] she’s more of a living in the moment kind of person, which is great to, you need that because sometimes I’m way too cautious about things. After high school for her that’s when she was like, go to college or be in Valora [laughs], then she was like, “Okay fine I’ll be in your band.” She wasn’t really digging the idea, part of it is because she’s always seen it for me as a career and something I worked really hard for, she sees my blood, sweat and tears, so she’s just like “I don’t know it seems kind of hard.”
She’s a singer too but I think she used to do it as a hobby, but when she got into it, it was like no turning back, she loves it. I can actually see a change in her attitude; she’s really in it now. I mean she’s lucky. My first experiences in trying to make it in music or trying to really become the role of a recording artist, it was rough. I was recording in the craziest, dangerous parts of town and really had experience with the dirty part of it. When she came in it was like so we’re going on tour next week, or we’re doing the 48 Hours festival, you’re going to be in a magazine. [Laughs] I’m happy for her because she was reluctant but now she’s like this is great.
If you weren’t a musician, what other occupation would you explore?
You know I always say I don’t think I have any other skill, I’m trying to learn how to cook a few things. I think I would starve if I didn’t have a great cook as a mom; my sister actually cooks really well, so I couldn’t do that. I remember when I was younger thinking that you could be a singer and a homicide detective. I thought maybe I could do that but then because I was really into CSI, just watching them thinking that would be a great job, then I realized maybe I don’t want to be a homicide detective maybe just an actress on a show like CSI.
What is one thing you must bring on tour with you that you would be miserable without. No Electronics?
No electronics? [Laughs] Well that really narrows it down, I guess I’m not as high maintenance as people think because I can’t really think of that much that I would be miserable without. I’m gonna say my sister, because she is a member of Valora and I need her; she’s also my best friend and companion. I would actually be miserable away from her.