Keys And Vices is an indie rock band that is built on powerful vocals, intimate songwriting, and dynamic melodies. Drawing from sporadic influences such as Foo Fighters to Alabama Shakes, and Jeff Buckley to Elton John, the songs tour through diverse musical genres.
Please list all of your band members and their roles in the band.
Jennifer Valdez - Singer, Guitarist, Keyboard/Piano, Producer, Manager
Kristopher Ayala - Drummer
Kevin McCarty - Bassist
For starters, what bands were you guys a part of prior to Keys and Vices? How long has the band been around?
Jennifer Valdez: “All three of us were members of the same band called, ‘March Into Paris’. We had 2 other members and we were together for 6 years before calling it quits back in 2013. Ultimately, with this new project as ‘Keys And Vices’, I brought back Kris and Kevin because they believed in my music and wanted to create something new together. While this upcoming album release is mostly the music I wrote when ‘Keys And Vices’ was just me, bringing Kris and Kevin into this project opened all 3 of us to a new sound collaboration for the next album. This new band has been around since 2017 (officially).”
What’s the origin of that name and have you changed the band’s name before?
Jennifer Valdez: “I was writing a lot of music during a difficult time in my life, and after a few years apart from my previous band, I felt it was time to start something new with the music I’d been putting so much time into. I thought about what this project is conveying. Keys being music, and all the vices that prevent creating what you love. Your passion, music, or whatever that may be, should above all outweigh the compulsion to drown in vices. Immediately I knew, ‘Keys And Vices’ was the name, and it hasn’t changed since.”
Who writes your songs? What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs and do you think these topics will change over time?
Jennifer Valdez: “For this album, all but a few of the songs were written and recorded by me. Kris and Kevin joined the project in the last year and they wrote those last few together with me. Kris heard my acoustic version of ‘Running Away’ and offered to play drums for me, and then we ended up spending hours playing music together after not seeing each other for 5 years. Kevin and I reconnected later that year and he joined us with the last few songs. The 3 of us reconnecting was the best thing that could have happened because while we fight like brothers and sister, we write like passionate musical lovers. Wow that sounds really gross, we really are family but it’s definitely a love/hate relationship, which probably makes the writing that much better. Currently, we’re writing a lot of new music together so the next album will have a very different overall feel to it. The main theme of the songs on this album is overcoming the past, dealing with trauma, and creating closure to a very long chapter in life. I do see these topics changing because with the addition of Kris and Kevin for the next full album, the 3 of us writing music together is a beautiful, complicated, and exciting musical chemistry.”
What bands are currently inspiring the music that you’re making?
Jennifer Valdez: “You may not hear it through the music but I have a wide variety of influences. Foo Fighters, Elton John, Alabama Shakes, Jeff Buckley, City and Colour, Sam Cooke, Queen, Glenn Miller, the list goes on!”
Kevin McCarty: “The Killers, Minus the Bear, Bon Iver and Bad Religion for bands. Chris Squire is a main bass influence for me.”
Was there a particular band/artist or concert that inspired you to start a band?
Jennifer Valdez: “I wouldn’t say there was a specific band or concert that inspired me to start a band. Being in a band is very difficult because everyone has different personalities, opinions, egos and musical influences, but if you can find the right people, a band is powerful. Having band members can break through writer's block and with another set of creative ears you can hear a song differently. I’m lucky enough to have a drummer and bass player that have thrown their egos out the door and want to be apart of this music without feeling the need to control the direction. They just want to play great music, will go in any direction my songwriting heart leads, and as Kevin says, ‘we are musical soulmates for life’.”
Kevin McCarty: “Seeing Bad Religion live or the first time I heard Pennywise. Our old band March Into Paris solidified the idea in my head.
What do you do to prepare for a show? Any flexing, exercises, ect …
Jennifer Valdez: “I’ve had the same pre-show ritual for 10 years! A little background: I’m a fan of the Rocky movies, and I’ve always felt like an underdog myself. Offstage I’m not super confident, I’m a 5’0 girl, lots of energy but not the “red dress at the bar” type. Most of the time before a rock show I get the look of ‘what are you gonna sound like?’. A few times in my early performance years, when I was loading our equipment in from the side of clubs the bouncer would stop me and say ‘girlfriends through the front’ (of course my bandmate brothers would immediately give that guy a hard time). Like Rocky, the moment I get on stage (the ring) I’m a different person. I have all the confidence in the world because I know this is my home and where I can win! So before a show, I go somewhere where I can be alone, I do some light shadow boxing to get my energy up (hey, I took some boxing classes, I know how it works), and then I finish by putting my fist up in the air like Rocky and say outloud to myself, ‘It ain’t over till it’s over’.”
Kevin McCarty: “Not really! Maybe mingle and feel the crowd and huddle with the group before the show to get locked in with each other.”
What has been the biggest highlight of the band’s career so far?
Jennifer Valdez: “We are just starting to ramp up with our upcoming album release, but our song, ‘Out of My Head’, has been on our hometown Sacramento, CA radio station going on 7 weeks. It’s one of the longest running songs on 98 Rocks’ Local Licks show that plays Sacramento musicians weekly, and the songs will stay on the air every week when listeners text in and vote ‘Like’. This last week, the host, Andy Hawk, continued to talk about our band being one of the longest running on the show and it’s because every week we have a lot of texts coming in and from different numbers/listeners. It may not seem like the biggest accomplishment, but as a new band it’s been amazing to know how many people are loving our music and the voting speaks for itself!”
Kevin McCarty: “For me, it was the moment Jenn and I reunited at a Joy Formidable concert in which she asked me to be a part of this!”
If you could tour with any bands, past or present, who would they be and why?
Jennifer Valdez: “This is a VERY tough question. If we’re talking present, it would be Foo Fighters. I’m a huge fan of their music and more specifically a great admirer of Dave Grohl’s work ethic, songwriting, showmanship, and musicianship. From the past, Queen. It’s amazing how they now have a new generation of followers after the movie ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, but I’m going to play the, ‘I loved them first’, card! I would have loved to tour with them in their day and opened their show (after throwing up all my nerves backstage of course).”
Kevin McCarty: “The Killers, The Joy Formidable and Company of Thieves, because I feel we would be a great fit and it will give all who attend one hell of a show.”
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Jennifer Valdez: “I know there are some amazing musicians and albums out there to listen to with our very precious time in this life. I hope listeners will be generous enough to lend their ears to our music and feel a connection, because some music can be that intimate, and I think that’s been accomplished in this album.”