Valora's Syd Duran Brings Rock to Comics, Wants To Be Your Friend
From KISS and Alice Cooper to Coheed and Cambria, the annals of rock & roll history are peppered with artists who've brought their craft to the comic-book page. The latest to join their ranks is California hard rock act Valora, whose debut album I Waited for You drops this spring. Through a partnership with Ahmet Zappa's company Monsterfoot Productions, the songs and stories of I Waited for You (title track below) are getting a five-part graphic novel treatment. The book follows a character named after the band as she does her best to find love in the cosmos… hey, isn't that what we're all trying to do? Valora frontwoman Sydney Duran (call her Syd) was gracious enough to spend an afternoon chatting with us at The MindHut, and as we fought through a haze of technical difficulties (Skype is awesome, right guys?), we got the skinny on her record, her comic, her favorite music and why you should seriously become a Valora fan if you aren't already.
MindHut: Can we ask what the comic's about without you giving too much away?
Syd: Basically it's a love story. The record is about love in all different kinds of forms, but usually not the good kind where you love someone, and they love you back and you live happily ever after; things aren't really like that, and I didn't want to write a novel like that. It's more where love is cursed or everybody's against it or the lovers are fighting for their lives. There are two characters that are always in each chapter; they have different names, which I thought was weird at first, because her name is Valora—why wouldn't she be Valora in every chapter? But it's kinda cool because you don't right away see that it's Valora, but you'll see her characterists between chapters, just in different settings and time periods, different worlds. Even if the lovers die, they come back, because love never dies. That's kind of the theme.
MH: When you say "different worlds," how different do they get? Are we literally going to other planets and other times?
Syd: Yeah, we start off in ancient Egypt and end on another planet in the future.
MH: This comic's produced by Ahmet Zappa's company. How did you become involved with him?
Syd: I'm pretty sure that he was really interested in doing a project like this, and he found a band that he really thought fit. He really loved the whole record, which made me seriously happy and excited. So we decided to start this journey together. And actually he really introduced me to comic books. I knew the major ones, the ones that they make movies about, but I wasn't really ever into it. He took me to Meltdown Comics on Sunset in LA and I could've spent probably a week in there. They actually had to drag me out, like "Okay, we're closing now." It was so fun, it was like this new world I'd never been introduced to. I was in there looking at everything.
MH: Presumably you didn’t write the songs on I Waited for You to tell one story; that story just kind of came out of the record later, right, or are the songs specifically written in a narrative structure?
Syd: No, not at all. For this record I wrote over 100 songs that had to do with what I was going through at the time or things I had been through in the past, so it was pouring a lot of myself into it, but I had no idea that it would ever be really telling a story. Sometimes people ask me if there's a theme to this album, and there absolutely is, but I had no idea there would be while writing the songs for it. So once you listen to it, then yeah, you can totally see the story, but I didn't know that it would be that way.
MH: Do you think going forward this might change the way you write? You said this is a five-chapter graphic novel. Are all five chapters based on this one album?
Syd: Yes, they are. If I continue with the comic I might have it in my mind while writing the next album, write about what adventures Valora could have, but for now it's finished.
MH: And will the comic come out the same time as the record?
Syd: We've done a slow release of three of the chapters, and if you go on the Valora channel on YouTube there are four animated videos for four different songs. We haven't really made it a huge deal yet because I wanted to lead with the music rather than what I look at as visual aids right now, although they'll become much more than that after the record comes out. But for now it's just kind of an extra thing we have out there for hardcore Valora fans, people that want to know everything that we have to offer.
MH: You probably get this question all the time and it may be really boring for you, but I personally am interested—what are your musical influences? I heard some Patti Smith, some Pat Benatar on your songs; you've got an edge in your voice that's really cool.
Syd: I love Patti Smith; another one is (the Pretenders') Chrissie Hynde. I think they have a lot of character in their voice and I really admire that. People like Chrissie Hynde aren't afraid to sound a little edgy; it's not a pretty voice, there's a little bit of grit to it. As far as overall influences, my huge idol is Jack White. I just love everything he does. Again he has a lot of grit and character to his voice. He's my top one for sure.
MH: Where can your fans catch you? Can you talk about your tour?
Syd: We have a tour planned for the end of April to the end of May, and it'll be a really great thing for us, but we're working on the routing right now. You'll be able to catch us in a lot of different places...
MH: Is there anything else you want our readers/your listeners to know about your project?
Syd: Just that right now I really want to get to know the fans, the people that are interested in Valora for who we are as people. I'm totally active on all the social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter; I run them myself. Usually if you want to talk to me I'll respond right away. I know as our music career grows it won't be so easy to talk to fans, but right now that's all I do; I love talking to them. So anybody that wants to get to know me, talk to me. Start a new friendship with me. I wish I could've talked to Gwen Stefani while she was coming up. There are people I wish I could've had the opportunity to get to know a little bit before they became famous.
Do you like Valora's sound?