Andrew Bower grew up in Brisbane, Australia, and while he was surrounded by music at home, he didn't start playing guitar until he was in college. "The late 80s post-punk scene drew me in," he recalls. He picked up a guitar and started a band with his bass playing brother Sean. "We learned how to play in our first band. When the last band we were in fell apart, we started working a couple of songs... [More]... in my home studio. When I moved overseas, The Valery Trails project came to a halt. It was going to be a three month trip, but turned into an indefinite absence."
Andrew's job for a multinational energy company took him to Papua New Guinea, Angola, California, and Houston, Texas where he now lives. While Andrew traveled the world, Sean continued his musical career, landing a gig with Brisbane's Grand Atlantic, one of Australia's most popular underground pop bands.
Andrew worked his day job, but never stopped writing or playing guitar. "The idea for The Valery Trails has been in my mind for a long time," he says. "After a few false starts and attempts to collaborate during brief visits back to Brisbane, we finally produced an album in 2011. Thanks to digital recording and the Internet, I could experiment in my home studio in Texas, then send the tracks to Sean and Dan in Australia." Andrew and Sean had known drummer Dan McNaulty (We All Want To) for years. When plans to record The Valery Trails finally came to fruition, he was the only drummer they considered.
Andrew sent Sean and Dan the songs he'd been working on. When he visited Brisbane in 2011, the trio spent three intense days in a studio polishing the tunes. They laid down drum and bass tracks and added guitar overdubs and percussion. After recording his lead vocals, Andrew sent the sessions to Dunedin, New Zealand where Dale Cotton (HDU, Dimmer, Die!Die!Die!, Grand Atlantic, The Bats) mixed and mastered them.
The music of The Valery Trails tips its hat to the experimentation of Aussie bands like The Go-Betweens and Died Pretty, but with a pop touch that's all their own. McNaulty's steady pulse, Sean's propulsive bass, and Andrew's simple repeated arpeggios pull you into the undertow on "Perfume River." Andrew's whispered, melancholic vocal compliments the music's forlorn mood. "This Town" is a rocker with a strong guitar hook and a poignant vocal that captures the sense of dislocation one gets on returning home after a long absence. "It describes going back to a place that doesn't really feel like home any more," Andrew states.
There's a hint of country music in the jangling rhythm of "I See a Light," a more positive song of homecoming accented by a brief, celestial guitar solo. The cryptic title track, "Ghosts and Gravity," is drenched in shuddering guitar overtones, with Sean's disquieting bass giving the track an uncomfortable thrum. "This one was inspired by a discussion with my then four-year old and one of his friends about these two weighty topics," Andrew explains. "It talks about how experiences from your past influence the choices you make today."
Andrew's serene vocals float through the mix like the voice of a romantic ghost, fading in and out of the pulsing, oceanic guitar textures giving the music the dizzy, delirious aura of a fever dream. The songs are angular, ambient, tuneful and disturbing, inhabiting a sonic landscape that's at once familiar and distinctive.
"I wanted the album to be a group record, not a solo album, where I brought in session musicians," Andrew says. "Working with the geographical issues, and scheduling around Sean and Dan's primary musical commitments delayed things, but it was worth taking the extra time to work with them."!