Posted On 09 Aug 2018
The Values understand there is a singular magic about the combination of synthesizers and the human voice. That mix of cutting edge technology and deep vulnerability, of digital sounds and flesh and blood, of sleek and portable, portable yet opulent. It’s a city sound, sexy and rich and forward moving. There’s nothing like it — Suicide knew it in the grimy 70s. Yaz and Erasure knew it in the glossy 80s. LCD Soundsystem knows it in the 21st century. You can hear that on this, the Values’ first EP.
Some background: Mason Taub (the lady) and Evan Zwisler (the gent) have been playing music together as The Values since 2017. Theirs is a total collaboration in life and art. Zwisler grew up in China, an expat who returned to the U.S. for college. Taub was a New York theater kid who has played classical piano all her life. Together, they’ve worked with several different groups (Zwisler and Taub met the day before Evan’s first show in New York). Band members fell away, but the relationship between Zwisler and Taub remained their music’s core. As Taub puts it, “we spent a long time getting to this, which is the truest form of the band.”
Which is to say, to think of the Values as an ‘80s throwback is to miss the point. Technology plus the human voice will always be the sound of now. The technology may change but excellent song-craft is forever.
Learn more about The Values in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! What is on tap for the rest of your day?
We have a few shows coming up so we will be prepping for that to make sure our live show is nice and tight, then probably get some jerk chicken for dinner at this great place around the corner. We live in Flatbush so there’s a ton of great Caribbean food around.
All Access Music is currently compiling a list of our artists favorite songs this summer so what is YOUR song of the summer?
Mason: I’ve been listening to Ess See’s new track “Fast Cheap Easy” on repeat on my commute all summer!
Evan: ‘Happy Man’ by Jungle came out a couple months ago and I can’t stop listening to it. It’s got me so fucking pumped for their new album to come out!
How has 2018 been treating you all? What is one musical goal that you have had for this year?
Mason: We released our EP “Civil” in May, and since then we’ve already been planning our next one. We decided to try and go into the studio with a ton of material, and pick only the very best two or three songs to put all our energy/funds into.
Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be in this group together? Has anything surprised you about this ride so far?
Evan: We’d helped each other out on some of our own projects for a while after we started dating, but I was always nervous to work together full time because it could put a strain on our relationship. But after helping Mason work on some of her songs I knew she was one of the most talented people I’d ever met. She always has, and continues, to bring out the best in me.
Mason: My mom joked to me when I was a kid that I would fall in love with someone I made music with. I always thought that was a silly idea until Ev and I got together, because eventually it just became a part of who we were as a couple. It felt very natural to me.
How do you think your hometown has influenced the sound and how you all carry yourselves in this group?
Mason: Oh man. New York City is such a huge part of who I am even beyond the music that I write. I moved to the city when I was 12 and growing up here has exposed me to so many different sounds, artists, cultures, I could go on and on. I think that’s reflected in the sort of collage of genres you find in a lot of our songs, even though we bill ourselves as a synth-pop duo.
Evan: I grew up in Shanghai from when I was 2 until 18. I had been playing in bars all around the city since I was 14 by the time I left and I got a lot of experience playing sloppy punk songs to three or four people. I made a decision early on to always give 100% in music, and even though it sounds cheesy, I still carry that sentiment with me today.
Where did your band name first come from? How did you go about picking it? Was it a hard decision to make?
Evan: I had the name kicking around in my head for a while waiting for the right project to use it on. I just love how simple and straight forward it sounds. When Mason and I started making music I knew that this was the band I’d be working on for a long time so we decided to use it for us.
Let’s talk about your tracks, “Civil” and “Mass Destruction”? What was the inspiration for these songs?
Mason: “Civil” started as the single loop you hear in the beginning and end of the song, but we had it in this instrumental track with just way too many layers. As soon as we stripped it back down I thought of the first line when I was improvising over it, and I realized that line was about someone leaving someone else, so I decided to write what I would say to Evan if we ever broke up. There are lots of personal details in that song, but not too specific that they’re not relatable. “Mass Destruction” came out of a need I had to write about feminine sexuality. I basically wrote myself a sex positive, female empowerment anthem.
Why did you decide to cover Bruce Springsteen’s track “Dancing In The Dark”? Is this one of your favorite songs by him?
Mason: We both grew up listening to Springsteen, albeit in slightly different contexts since Evan was overseas. I wouldn’t say this is my number one favorite of his songs, but it was the one that struck us as most relevant to how so many Americans feel today – uncertain, maybe a little disillusioned, just trying to get through the day. The lyrics are so simple and potent, we wanted to make a recording that really highlighted that story.
When do you hope to release more new music and a full album of new songs? Are you currently working on it in the studio?
Mason: We’re hoping to have another EP out in the Fall. We tend to work in EPs because we find it helps us focus our material better and allows us to put more time and resources into each track. I’m sure down the road we will be inspired to write a cohesive full length, but until then we just want to put out the best possible product regardless of length.
Evan: We are waiting to release a full length album until we feel that there is a greater call for that from our fans. Every time we go into the studio we try to basically have a full album written and then we select the strongest two or three songs. Everything we put out has been whittled down to the very best product we can make. I’d love to record a full length album, but I think I’ll know in my bones when the time is right for that.
Where do you think you are all happiest- in the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere?
Mason: I love recording and I love performing, but both have an element of pressure to them that makes them enthralling and fulfilling, but doesn’t always make me just purely happy. I think the writing process does that more for me personally. I love working in our home studio just the two of us, trying out new things or taking apart something that hasn’t been working and putting it back together again.
Evan: I used to really get off on the adulation of a crowd. There was no better feeling that killing it to a room of 100 people and going home with a big smile and ringing ears, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve really gotten more into musical theory and music production. With our new songs we are really breaking down some preconceived notions I’ve had about what a song can and should be. Right now I’m really loving writing and recording in the studio.
Do you have any upcoming tour dates this summer that you would like to tell our readers about?
Mason: We’re playing in Asbury Park for the first time on August 22nd, so I’m pretty excited about that! But we’re really focused this month on our show at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn on August 25th with Pinc Louds, Stardust Creatures and Grayhunter because we love playing Knitting Factory!
How do you think being musicians and in this band gives you all the most joy in life today?
Mason: For a long time, since I was a little kid really, I wrote songs alone in my bedroom and only played them for my closest friends. Having a platform to share them now, whatever the size, feels really good.
Evan: Ever since I was a chubby, awkward 14 year old with my first bass guitar, I always wanted to make people feel strong emotions through my music. Knowing our music has helped someone through a hard time or seeing someone just going crazy at our live shows just makes me feel that I’m the luckiest person in the world.
We are currently living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious to know how your own music is reflecting this time period? If you don’t think it is, why is that? Would you say that other musicians are making music that has been influenced by this climate?
Mason: Art doesn’t exist in a vacuum, so I think it’s impossible for art not to be affected by politics, even if it’s subtle. We’re both pretty liberal New Yorkers, and have written songs about sex positivity and abortion and try to use our shows to support communities who need it. But we also want to couch those things in music that is danceable to you regardless of your politics.
Evan: Mason writes most of the lyrics and she does such an amazing job working positive feminist messages and images into our songs. Whether it’s our song ‘Zombie’ about an abortion or ‘Mass Destruction’ with is an ode to the power of femininity, we’re always trying to make sure our music is putting forth positivity and strength into the world. Also Mason is a fucking icon. She is one of the best role models I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting: she is a singer, producer, fashionista, genuine, kind, and takes no bull shit from anyone.
Who would you love to work with in the future? Who are some of your favorite artists right now? What do you think would be a dream collaboration for this group?
Mason: Our favorite band is LCD Soundsystem, hands down. So yeah, James Murphy if you’re reading this, feel free to slide into our DMs.
Evan: Yeah James Murphy is #1 by a mile. I think Sylvan Esso’s last album was a fucking triumph. Mason would love to do some singing with Lucius so they should hit us up too :P. St. Lucius is doing amazing work taking her music in a more electronic direction, while continuing to be a guitar god. I’d just love a lesson from her. Not an artist, but I would love to be sponsored by La Croix. I’d love to be their sexy little La Croix Boy.
If you guys were all going to be stranded on a deserted island, what musical item would you want to take with you and why?
Mason: This is a little crazy, but I want a beautiful old grand piano. Except I would cut the legs off like Beethoven and sit in the sand and play.
Evan: If this was a fun stranded island like Gilligan s Island I’d want to bring a Kalimba or something like that that was fun. If this is more of a Lord of the Flies island I’d want to to bring some big drums to really make things extra dramatic.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
Mason: That if you can’t get emotional on a dance floor, where can you?
Evan: Live your life like a Robyn song.
Where can our readers connect with you?
(All Photography Provided By Mixtape-Media.com)