When people think of stoner metal or rock, they usually imagine lighthearted tunes about smoking cannabis, a group of friends hitting the bong around a campfire or packing a smoke-filled club. But for Australia-based Valhalla Lights, there is occasionally a very serious undercurrent to the music the group makes. The band’s first vocalist, Phoebe Black, sadly committed suicide in 2013. The band now consists of vocalist Ange Saul, guitarist George Christie, bassist Brent “Badger” Crysell and drummer Deon Driver. We spoke to Valhalla Lights about its challenges, its sound and cannabis legalization.
How did you get started making music?
We’ve all come from musical backgrounds. Music is a wonderful outlet, so to be able to sit down with your mates and create something out of nothing is pretty magic, and something we all naturally gravitated towards from a young age.
How would you describe your sound?
Volcanic rock! We come from Byron Bay, which is a small surfing community on the east coast of Australia and the center of an extinct volcano. It’s an area that is known for its natural, fresh air, stunning beaches, rich volcanic soil and dramatic landscape that has been gouged out by hot molten lava. We get inspiration from our surroundings and we definitely play explosive, hard-edged, melodic rock, so volcanic rock seems to fit us pretty well.
“Cannabis, weed, getting high—has always had a symbiotic relationship with creativity. They bounce off each other. We’ve written quite a few albums in our collective careers, each with their own subjective beginnings, endings and creative processes.”
Who are some of your biggest influences?
We grew up listening to music from the ’90s. We all have different influences, bands like Queens of the Stone Age, Clutch, Kyuss and Soundgarden. The list is huge between the four of us.
How do you feel about your music scene locally and nationally?
The music scene in Australia is alive and well! There are some amazing bands around and great venues to play at. Our closest capital city, Brisbane, has a great music scene with plenty of live bands every weekend.
Do you have any news about touring or recording you want to announce? What are your plans for the future?
We are working on booking some shows for the U.S. Make sure you follow us on social media to be sure that you hear about them when we announce!
How has cannabis affected your life and/ or your creative process?
Cannabis, weed, getting high—has always had a symbiotic relationship with creativity. They bounce off each other. We’ve written quite a few albums in our collective careers, each with their own subjective beginnings, endings and creative processes. Weed played a small part in that for sure.
Now, I’m not saying we all sit around and write albums with bucket bongs in tow, not at all. What I’m saying is that from the ‘60s and the blossoming of the “free love,” “flower power,” ‘give peace a chance’ revolution and experimentation of that era and beyond, weed can and does possess a primary, procreative force that gives birth to an astounding level of creativity. Pick anyone of your favorite bands and I guarantee there’s an album, artist or classic record out there existing where weed was its seminal catalyst. From the Beatles to Pink Floyd to Willie Nelson, weed was definitely an inherent and unequivocal factor.
How do you feel about legalization so far? What could be done better or differently?
I could talk all day about this. I find the whole matter counter-intuitive and unbelievably ridiculous. So much money and manpower spent on policing, criminalizing and stigmatizing such an incredible plant, whilst in the meantime, on planet ‘intelligent,’ people are waking up to its innumerable benefits, from helping cure cancer, autoimmune dysfunction, epilepsy, to anxiety and depression.
Human evolution has always been a painfully slow process. The mainstream is still just caught up in some kind of strange cloud of cognitive dissonance. And as we see this evolution, legality and decriminalization in places like Australia, Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, we’re now experiencing an unprecedented awareness never seen before. With this awareness comes an increase in its proliferation, with government-subsidized cannabis farms and privatized companies turning cannabis into a commodity. The tide is turning, but oh, so slowly.
What is your favorite strain or cannabis product?
Well, organic bush is always the best option for the occasional blunt. As to what strain, I’m not that experienced to have preferences. I just know to stay away from that crazy and horrible hydro.
How can cannabis make a difference for people?
Cannabis can and does make an insurmountable difference to people. From the groundbreaking research of the cannabinoid system and the THC and CBD oil health aspect, its medicinal properties are undeniable; it’s only the ‘sleeping’ ignorant, who can’t see this.
Then there’s hemp and its agricultural, textile, industrial benefits and work potential also. It’s huge; it’s getting bigger; It really is endless.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
We hope people enjoy our new album, My Gracious Highway. It is the album that all of us have put our blood, sweat and tears into, and this album is the one that will put a smile on our faces if we died tomorrow.
Band Name: Valhalla Lights
Genre: Metal, stoner rock
Location: Byron Bay, Australia
Most Recent Album: My Gracious Highway