Starting a band and watching it evolve can be one of the most powerful experiences in life. What makes it even more worthwhile is the memories and relationships you build during that time. A band is like a family, and Valor Tracks is no different. Their multi-year footing in the Midwest music scene has allowed them to conquer credibility with their fans and musicians. Though sometimes, good things must come to a end. We got to sit down with the band for one last exclusive and intimate interview on what their career as a band was all about.
Listen to their newest (and final) recorded song “Safe and Sound” right here! Learn the words for their last show, which is the One Dolla Holla at The Garage on August 15th! Tons of great local talent for just a buck.
Brought to you by FIVEONETHREE  !
Who is Valor Tracks?
Adam Gohl- Vocals // Ian McConkey- Drums // Tyler Filler- Guitar // Jeremy Hiniker- Guitar // Spencer Anderson- Bass
What brought you all together to form Valor Tracks?
Ian: Well basically I was in a band in high school. Tyler and Jeremy were in a different band at the time. So that’s how we got together at first.
Tyler: And our bands all hated each other.
Jeremy and Ian: Ehhh..
Tyler: Alright your bands hated MY band. (laughs)
Ian: Anyways! After my band broke up, I started up another project called Phage The Untouchable and we needed another guitarist so we asked Tyler to be in the band.
Tyler: Then eventually the other guys ended up quitting. Our vocalist had gone off into the military. So slowly the others joined.
Jeremy: I had been booking some shows and had wanted to join a band and had asked if they wanted a second guitarist. So I ended up playing a show the day before Adam joined the band.
Adam: So it was the five of us set up together as Phage The Untouchable.
Spencer: We decided to change the name to Valor Tracks because it was completely different musicians from what Phage had started as.
What was the first show like for you guys as a band?
Jeremy: It was at the What’s Up Lounge with Seconds To Live, All My Guns, Singled Out, and A Minor Setback. It was pretty fun!
Tyler: We got to play a whole new set so that was exciting. We had stopped playing Phage The Untouchable songs.
Spencer: Nope! We still played Redemption! (Group laughs)
You guys’ have had three recorded releases in your time. All three bring a different element of the band together. What were your goals, mindsets, and attitudes going into making those albums?
Jeremy: We did our recording with Steven H at Signature Tone Recordings in Richfield. We had one day to record those two songs. We got there around 2pm and didn’t leave till around 4am.
Tyler: We had written those songs way in advance. So we just set aside this day and did all the recording. We even did our recording for our gang vocals after doing drums, bass, guitars, and vocals. So just after the whole experience we were exhausted. But it was definitely one of our best recording experiences.
Adam: He made me sound just like Steven Tyler so that was pretty funny. I’d go in and he’d say “scream into the mic” so I would. He would play with it a bit and next thing I know I sound like Aerosmith haha.
-2012 Here All Along
Tyler: We had a completely different mindset going into recording this. We actually had set up recording time before we even finished writing.
Jeremy: We finished writing Here All Along, the title track, and On My Own Two Feet the week of going into the studio to record. The recording process was a bit longer, just recording pieces of it throughout the next 2-3 weeks. It was more a matter of working around everyone’s schedules.
Tyler: We were all still living in Mankato at the time, except for Jeremy. It would be like get a day off, drive an hour and a half, and then record as much as you possibly could. It was pretty stressful but it was fun too.
Adam: We really seemed to find our footing with this album.
Tyler: Yeah this is where we really transitioned from a metalcore band to a melodic hardcore band and started defining ourselves as that. Even though this may not have been the best recording, but it was super raw and it was probably the best received release.
Adam: Yeah each one of us wrote a piece that was super emotional and close to us. We loved it so much that we felt that everyone else would love it as much. Everything was all written individually and it just sort of all pieced together.
-2013 To Be Honest
Tyler: This is where we got emotional. We just wanted to just go more melodic. That was always the goal; to write something more melodic than the last song.
Ian: Yeah, we just wanted to push ourselves with this style. We had found it and wanted to write and perform it a bit more maturely.
Tyler: Very progressive. Very melodic. When we went up to record with Ben Drake it was just a simple process. It seemed to go by so quick and he’s awesome. He did it for free because he wanted to hear it so badly. He’s just a super awesome kid.
The song To Be Honest, itself, got a huge response from your fans. Many don’t know the background to it. Adam, can you elaborate on what that song was about?
Adam: I grew up not being a big fan of the environment. I grew up in an extremely dysfunctional family setting. Nobody really got a long and when we would move from one place to another it seemed like things kept falling apart. My cousins, my aunts and uncles, and my sisters are all extremely successful people. It’s hard to determine what success is when you’re playing in a melodic hardcore band, where you play for a crowd of twelve people that don’t even clap at the end of your set. It’s really hard to justify what you’re doing. I feel like there are a lot of people out there that are just looking for acceptance for who they are as a person and the choices they make. What I’m doing with my life is nothing like what the rest of my family and the people I’ve known my whole life are doing. So it’s a really interesting concept doing this instead of going to college. It’s hard to just justify what you’re doing when it seems like everyone is doing financially better or emotionally better. I just felt like everyone needed to hear this message in a more truthful/honest way other than metalcore lyrics and shit like that.
What was the biggest challenge that you guys have had to face as a band?
Tyler: One of our hardest things probably was gaining a following in the cities. We were a band for a year before we started gaining a following. When we lived in Mankato we played a lot more shows for a lot less people. When we moved to the cities we started meeting more people.
Adam: I think there was this one show where we all kind of looked at each other and were like, “This could be a thing!” and it was at the Forest Lake Teen Center. I don’t know, it was just kind of weird for me. I was wearing like really baggy basketball shorts and really thick socks. I was just sliding around. It was just super fun. We all looked real awkward with our stage presence. If you want to see the progression just look up that video from that show and compare it to where we are now! haha.
Tyler: At that show it was where we all were like we really need to put on a show. Adam: Oh for sure. We just went nuts. We all just felt something that day.
You guys were one of the original bands on the One Dollar Hollar Show, how was that experience?
Jeremy: Bobby Kalton really had the idea and had it all set up and he just approached us with the idea of playing it. He did most of the work setting that up. We dug it, it’s really a cool idea!
Tyler: Yeah I mean he asked us and a couple other bands, but he was the one who really set it all up. It was one of the biggest crowds we’ve gotten to play for. Bobby Kalton is really the man!
What other local bands have you found friendships in?
Adam: Oh man, there are a lot of them! I mean I’ll start out saying we’ve always got along really well with the guys in Molly’s Worst Enemy. You can tie Pierre into that as well. The guys in Correlations have been really good to me.
Tyler: Alistar Hennesay. Honestly they vibed with us so well from the first time we played with them on a 4/20 show in Hastings. We feed off of their emotion and I think they feed off of ours.
Jeremy: When we first started out, even as playing as Phage, the All My Guns dudes were there for us. Unfortunately they’ve all moved away over the years but they were really good friends.
Adam: With Iowa In Between, they’re just really good friends of ours.
Tyler: Sam Fassler has been a massive support for us as well as all the rest of the dudes in We Are The Blog.
Many people have asked about how you guys go about writing a song. How do you guys write your songs in Valor Tracks?
Jeremy: What we’ve found out to be the best and quickest way to write a song is usually Tyler comes up with a song’s worth of his parts. We then program it into guitar pro to think of a basic sort of drum styles that work at what part. Then we sort of mass send it out to everyone.
Tyler: Yeah. So everyone writes their own parts over it and honestly half the time we don’t even hear Adam’s fricken vocals til we play a show.
Spencer: We’ve just all found this to work out best for us. Especially when you have five different musicians that want to include their own input. It leaves none of us stifled.
What are your biggest musical influences?
Adam: Collectively as a band we could say letlive. From their presence to their attitude to just how they approach music. They showed us a way to get successful in an unnormal way with every freakin incredible performance at a time.
Tyler: I’ll just get this out of the way. Everyone knows that our band is heavily influenced by Counterparts. It’s very apparent. I love that band. It’s melodic and aggressive and that’s what we were going for. I don’t think we sound anything like Counterparts though. I guess it’s the same passion that you can hear.
Ian: I guess I’ve started listening to a lot of different music that I didn’t listen to growing up like Tool, Deftones, and just styles outside of hardcore/metal music. Just having a wider variety kind of influenced these new drum parts.
Jeremy: I guess when I write guitar parts I try to make it sound like nothing that’s really out there. I really like Icaraus The Owl because their guitar parts sound like nothing out there. Other than that I don’t really listen to a lot of heavy music. I like fruity sounding guitar stuff.
Spencer: I guess one of my favorite bands is August Burns Red and they influence me from a spiritual stand point. Another big one is Protest The Hero’s bassist. I don’t play anything like him but he plays cool parts and I try to write parts that sound cool.
Adam: I love mid to late 2000’s post hardcore music. I listen to a lot of Burden Of The Day and Chasing Victory. August Burns Red is a big band for me as well.
What were some defining moments in your musical career as Valor Tracks?
Ian: When we were still Phage, playing with Hawthorne Heights was big deal. I mean I always use to listen to them. Other than that when we got offered the letlive. show that was one of my favorite moments.
Tyler: One of the most special moments for me was us playing our EP release show at the What’s Up Lounge for Here All Along where Adam played the floor the entire time. The thing that stuck out to me was when we had our first pile on with people knowing our lyrics. It like brought me to tears because they knew the words and gave a shit about our band enough to learn the words.
Adam: My favorite show or the show where I felt like everything was seeming to come together for everyone in the music scene was last years first show at the Choir House. It was We Are The Blog, Allister Hennesay and us. It was like 120 kids packed in there. It made me feel like we were actually becoming an established band.
Jeremy: I liked our CD release show because there were just a ton of people there and the whole thing was recorded and I just go back and watch those a lot. I don’t know I just really liked that show a lot.
Spencer: Specifically was the Forest Lake show. It was a lot of fun just because we were getting our footing and it was pretty great.
Throughout the years, what is the best bit of advice you can offer to musicians/bands that look up to you?
Tyler: Yeah. Don’t break up. Haha. I mean that helps you get a little further.
Ian: Just keep going with it. Don’t let your band breaking up stop you from it. Work on things that you want to work on.
Spencer: I have just two things to add. First thing would be, obviously, just write music you wanna hear. Do what you want to. Don’t neccesarily be like I really like this band and only write music that sounds like that band. Write music you’d like to hear. Secondly, don’t take yourself so seriously. When you’re playing these local shows, it’s not the end all/be all. It’s fun.
Adam: I just think talking and networking with people is super important. You’ll know these people as long as you’re in the scene because you’ll keep running into these people. When you’re in a band that breaks up, because odds are you WILL be in a band that breaks up and about 95% of bands do break up, if you want to be in another band, be in another band. Start another band. You’ll find other people.
Jeremy: There’s this other thing that I hear that kind of bugs me when I’m in a crowd. When I hear “We’re doing this for you guys! We’re doing it for the fans” If you are ever doing music for anyone other than yourself, you shouldn’t be doing music at all because you’re wrong. If you’re not doing it 100% of the time for yourself, doesn’t matter if you’re touring or at home, than you shouldn’t be doing it. Just being like, “hey I want to play this show because a lot of people will be there!” or even if there’s not going to be a lot of people there, play the show if you want to play the show. Also just focus on writing your best music. Don’t care about how your Facebook looks, how many likes you have, do you all have black pants, do you all have vans. Care all about your music. If you don’t fully care all about the music, your band isn’t going to amount to anything.
Adam: Yeah I can openly say for all of us we got into this because we wanted to just play as many shows as we could. We wanted to write music that sounded different and play shows that were a bit different. I don’t think there’s ever been a time where we’ve been like, “I don’t want to play a show”, or, “Man I’m not excited about this show.”
How is the band moving forward with music and in what ways, you ask?
Spencer and Jeremy will be focusing on school and the music aspects through that. Jeremy spends most of his time at school, studying and practicing guitar. He’s working towards playing more of a formal aspect than more of a band aspect. Spencer, Ian, Jeremy working on a new project that will be reaching new areas that they haven’t gotten to experience with Valor Tracks. Ian is also starting up a new project up in Mankato with Zach Wilhelm from Brothers Loyalty and with Zach Sprolse, former drummer from Weathered, and Alex Olson. It’s more in the experimental stages. Tyler and Adam take part in secret playtime with a new band. Adam is also working on his new rap/dubstep project and clothing line.