Saturday, June 15, 2024
HomeEntertainmentAyleen Valentine’s elevated garage chic sound transforms the Moroccan Lounge stage

Ayleen Valentine’s elevated garage chic sound transforms the Moroccan Lounge stage

- advertisement -

Through the hazy, blue lighting of the Moroccan Lounge, alternative indie singer-songwriter Ayleen Valentine emerged from darkness wearing a gas mask to obscure her face for her first official headline show on May 16. Emulating the cover of her debut album “little rainbows after death,” released on May 3, Valentine unveiled herself to reveal glittery eyes and over-the-ear headphones to match her backing band: guitarist Maki Adams, drummer Taylor McNamara and bassist David Lehr. 

Under the dreamy lights, Valentine filled the room with her angelic vocals as they took on an echo effect, her voice bouncing off the walls of the venue, making the intimate room feel small in comparison to her presence. Her sound is a mix of indie bedroom pop with an electronic garage flair, but the beauty of Valentine’s music is that it can’t accurately be placed in a single category. 

“You know those people who suck all the oxygen and life out of you?” Valentine asked the crowd as her first song drew to a close. “This one’s ‘oxygen thief.’”

When Valentine was younger, she felt inspired by personalities like Hannah Montana, sparking her own interest in becoming a performer and musician. She learned piano and guitar on her own and eventually set her heart on attending an art school in her city to pursue her passions. 

“I told my mom, ‘Please, please, please, I really want to audition to go here,’” Valentine said in an interview with New University. “I did a lot of jazz and classical stuff. And then, in my junior year of high school, was when I started getting into original music and writing and producing stuff. So that’s when I seriously started the whole artistry thing.”

While the Moroccan Lounge show was Valentine’s first headliner, her command of the stage is likely due to her experience performing on tour the year prior. While her nerves remained, she was surprised to find the crowd to be so responsive.

“It just felt very real. I don’t know. It was a bunch of people I didn’t know. And the room felt really packed and supportive,” Valentine said. “I’ve never played a show like that, where everyone just, like, claps so hard after each song, and it was really, really, like, I don’t know, I felt loved.”

After a few songs, Valentine sat down on stage to get cozy with the audience. 

“A little TMI, but I promised myself as an artist I wouldn’t sugarcoat what I feel, and this is exactly what came out of that,” she said before launching into “wanted to **** myself today.” 

“It’s very scary. So many songs on the album are just, like, very TMI, like ‘oxygen thief’ talks about, like, rape and abuse from men, and ‘wanted to kill myself’ is literally super blatantly about, like, suicide,” Valentine said. “It’s just all very vulnerable. But that was my goal. I really wanted to make people kind of [think], ‘What the f**k?’ when they listened to it, because I feel like that’s the type of stuff that I personally enjoy a lot. Like when artists are super ballsy. And just say the things that they feel, honestly. So that was definitely intentional.” 

Valentine has received a lot of attention on social media for her shockingly honest lyrics and personal take on her own genre. In an Instagram reel where she describes her sound as “girl metal,” she received both backlash and support from commenters as the video racked up 1.1 million views. 

“A lot of people compare that specific song to Deftones. So I was like, ‘Oh, haha, girl metal, like, girl nu metal.’ I did not think that would go viral; I was just doing my daily shitpost of my songs, you know,” she laughed good-naturedly. “So then people started getting mad about me calling myself metal. The metal community is apparently very gatekept, so I’ve learned my lesson.” 

When she first started promoting her music on Instagram, Valentine felt intimidated by the toxic environment social media can manifest, often wondering why she had to act as an influencer to be successful as an artist. 

“Eventually I just accepted that this is what it is, and it’s either you kind of do it in your own way and promote yourself, or you just die in obscurity,” she said. “I enjoy seeing new people come in and find my music. I’ve grown to like it more now.”

While Valentine has found a way to enjoy social media, she doesn’t let algorithms and expectations control her performance. Toward the end of her set, she told the crowd she wanted to talk about something serious to “reflect on what’s happening in Palestine.” 

“Regardless of your religion, the fact is that there are children dying, and I don’t think there should be a debate about that,” she said, taking a moment of silence before her song “heaven,” which she ended with a declarative, “Free f**king Palestine.” 

Valentine considers day-to-day life entwined with self-expression and the creation of art. It is not something she chooses to do but rather something she couldn’t live without. 

“Even if somebody took away my computer and took away all my guitars, [or] if there was an apocalypse or something, [music is] just something I always will feel the need to do,” she said. “I think it’s cool to talk about things that happen in the world through music… specifically [about] feminism and the things women go through [are] very, very important to me. So instead of, like, being an activist in other ways, I think, like, music is my way of expressing those things that I am passionate about.” 

Valentine ended the show with an affirmation, imploring the audience to chant along with her to close out such a dreamy night: “Don’t be sad; it’s okay; life is beautiful.”  

Lillian Dunn is a 2024 Managing Editor. She can be reached at lbdunn@uci.edu

Edited by Kamilla Jafarova and Jaheem Conley