Music Makes You Think | Interview with Joey Valence & Brae About How They Are Succeeding Without the Music Industry
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Oct 08 2022

Interview with Joey Valence & Brae About How They Are Succeeding Without the Music Industry

Joey Valence & Brae started releasing music on social media earlier this year. Over the course of a few months, their songs received millions of views and listens across every major streaming app. They’re performing to large crowds at festivals both in the U.S. and overseas. According to the rap duo, A&R (artists and repertoire) representatives are calling and trying to figure out how they’re doing it without them.



For this interview, 22-year-olds Joey Bertolino (Joey Valence) and Braedan Lugue (Brae) are Zooming from their respective parents’ homes in Pennsylvania. They’ve just returned from their first European tour and are preparing to do shows in Las Vegas and Chicago. Lugue joins the call like an old friend. He’s sitting in his bedroom, wearing a t-shirt and suspenders. Valence is in his own bedroom. He dons a pink, floppy beanie. His favorite microphone, a Shure SM7B, sits next to him on a stand he received from The Ellen Show a few months ago.



Valence reflects on what’s been a short time span, “We’ve had this super abnormal start to our career because we blew up, streaming-wise. We’ve never had to work from the ground up, opening for people.”



Lugue interjects, “It’s crazy that these kids are coming to shows to see us headline!”



Traveling at an accelerating pace is met with social media expectations to release more music quickly.



Valence shrugs unconcerned, “All we need is a laptop and a microphone.”



JVB Press Photo 1



Valence has been producing his own music from his bedroom since he was 10 years old. He started with FL Studio (a digital audio workstation), a laptop, and a microphone. Today, Valence is still using these same tools that when combined with social media, can accomplish everything recording studios, labels, publicists, and music video directors have done to promote bands in the past. Despite the convenience, skill and patience are still required.

For each new track, Valence listens to audio clips for hours. Some sounds inspire interpolations. But mostly, he uses royalty-free, fully produced audio samples from websites or old sample CDs. Once the music is mixed, he brings it to Lugue for the taste test.

Valence explains, “Braeden [Lugue] is the filter between my dog shit brain and the actual product. Because if I play something and he gets hyped about it, I know it’s good.”

For the next five minutes, Valence loops the beat and records Lugue rapping lyrics from his notebook. Valence later adds his own lyrics which oftentimes refer to musical influences, video games and consumer packaged goods brands from childhood. They give themselves 48 hours from the first beat to the final master. Nothing is overproduced and because of this, fans can tell that what they’re getting is the unfiltered sound of two best friends having fun.

Lugue reveals, “If you listen to our vocal cuts, usually, someone in the background is laughing.”

Like the music, their videos are made quickly; often in one-take, using cell phones or the camera on a Nintendo DS.
“The visual aspect is just as — if not more — important as the music. Our videos are just another example of our antics,” Valence says and then leans into the laptop’s camera to highlight an important point. “Our friendship is what fans see as aspirational.”


JVB (Photo provided by artist)

JVB (Photo provided by artist)



“We like to make our shows like a giant house party,” Lugue contributes. “It’s so dope when we meet fans after the show. They say, ‘I just want to hang out with you guys! You guys feel like my best friends!’ And we are just like them.”

While Valence and Lugue have accomplished a lot on their own, they proudly share credit with a small team that’s helping them to navigate their musical journey, including a manager who they describe as a third member of the group.
When asked what advice people are giving them, Valence reports, “Just ‘Keep doing what you’re doing.’ And ‘Don’t be stupid,’ is really the advice we get.”

Lugue agrees, “Yeah, we’re told not to be anyone we’re not. And we always show how thankful we are at shows. We couldn’t be more thankful. Just to see everyone’s faces light up when we’re up there. We wouldn’t be here without every single kid that found us through Instagram or TikTok. It’s the most beautiful thing in the world.”

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Julie Simmons

Julie Simmons is an American music journalist and creator of Music Makes You Think. She's written for numerous national publications, including: Chicago Tribune, UTNE Reader, Paste, Harp, Reverb, DRUM! and Tom-Tom magazine. Throughout her music writing career, she's interviewed hundreds of musicians and industry leaders including Josh Dun (twenty one pilots), Peter Gabriel, Suzanne Vega, Neyla Pekarek (f. The Lumineers), M Ward (She & Him), and Jeff Bridges (Academy Award Winning actor / singer). Simmons was named an Industry Icon by Hit Like a Girl for interviewing female drummers. Her music career started at the University of Notre Dame, where she organized and hosted concerts for Tracy Chapman, The Indigo Girls, Gin Blossoms, Blues Travelers, They Might Be Giants and others. Also at Notre Dame, Simmons took graduate level writing courses and was invited to stand in for Pulitzer Prize Winner, Edward Albee, at the university's 26th annual Sophomore Literary Festival. She also spent weekends deejaying global music at WSND-FM and weekdays conducting research to understand the difference between musicians' and nonmusicians' cognitive reliance on timbre. The study was published in the University of California Berkeley's "Music Perception Journal." After graduation and in the midst of a successful advertising career, Simmons began moonlighting as a music journalist. After undergoing an 11-hour surgery for a full spinal fusion, she launched Music Makes You Think (MMYT) and took up the drums. To date, the MMYT's Facebook group has posted more than 2,000 non-recurring questions about music and has turned the daily questions into a conversation card game. Recently, she was invited to be a guest on the music podcast, Campfire Songs.

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