Valet's Vibe Revolution
- Words: Fred Miketa
Honey Owens is a vibe entrepreneur. When she’s not redefining the psych-blues template as Valet, the Portland-based, California-bred artist channels divine noise with heavy psych outfit Dark Yoga. A self-proclaimed “psychic surfer,” she spent 10 years in the Ecstatic Peace band Jackie-O Motherfucker, eight years with Nudge (alongside Paul “Strategy” Dickow and Kranky Records promo man Brian Foote), and one year with the lesser-known project World. While weaving this cosmic interlocking circle of eclectic, often improvised jams, Owens also manages to co-run the record store/boutique Rad Summer and, up until a few years ago, was the booker and co-owner of popular Portland bar Dunes.
In January 2006, Owens finished and decided to self-release the first Valet full-length, Blood Is Clean (later reissued on Kranky). She turned to partner-in-vibe-crime Adam Forkner (a.k.a. White Rainbow), and together they reinvigorated their Yarnlazer imprint.
“Adam started the label in 2003 as a DIY limited-edition handmade clothing-and-music thing,” Owens offers via iChat, “but a month later, he went on tour with Devendra Banhart and then went on tour with me in Jackie-O, so by the time we got home the energy was lost.” Since being reborn, the label has released a number of interstellar albums from the likes of Rob Walmart, Galactic Core, and, of course, Valet and White Rainbow.
Owens’ sophomore record, Naked Acid (Kranky), finds the veteran experimenter wielding a less “jam-based” energy, and creating her first album of arranged songs. “I thought that I should maybe write a ‘songs’ record instead of falling back on jams, which come really naturally,” says Owens. “I got together with Mark Burden (Silentist) and started laying down tracks–he played drums, guitar, and bass. I like his dark side.” The result is a cacophony of strategically honed drones, reverb-saturated guitar rhythms, and Owens’ humbly transcendent underwater vocals (think Cat Power with a sack of peyote on a search for inner peace).
Owens’ vibe has doubtlessly been shaped by formative years spent in Berkeley, CA. She dropped out of high school to hang out at legendary indie venue 924 Gilman Street and took up residence at the San Francisco office of the Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll zine–basically, living the punk dream while keeping burn-out and sell-out status at bay. “I was hella punk,” Owens reveals. “I am a super-late bloomer, which is why I’m so old and doing music still.”
Now she’s immersed in a mature, family-oriented scene, collaborating and touring with the likes of fellow Kranky labelmate Atlas Sound (Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox), and finding herself smack in the middle of a fleet of projects she happily maintains, despite an absence of fiscal profits. “We sacrifice large quantities of money for large, sweet vibes,” she states, only to question: “When is my benefactor going to show up?”
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