Joey Valence & Brae: “Every show we play is like a giant house party”

Following an unforgettable summer of mega-shows and their newly-released debut album PUNK TACTICS, Joey Valence & Brae are already an alternative force to be reckoned with. And the key to their success? Simply just having fun…

Joey Valence & Brae: “Every show we play is like a giant house party”
Rishi Shah
Connor Phillips

“Right here is the perfect example of the difference between mine and Brae’s personality”, declares Joey Valence. He’s describing the works of art that are their bedrooms, two showpieces of colour and chaos visible in the background as they speak to Kerrang! via Zoom.

In Joey’s corner, his bright yellow Pokémon duvet cover takes centre stage, with various collector’s items dispersed around his bedside shelf. Brae (born Braeden Lugue), on the other hand, has a wall display of his shoe collection, each one carefully and symmetrically arranged in a majestic formation. “They’re all floating right now,” he gestures, discussing how his superpowers can summon one down whenever he feels so inclined. It’s flawlessly clean, while Joey is surprised he’s even managed to make his bed this morning. “Usually it’s fucking destroyed…” he admits.

When these two opposing forces meet, Joey Valence & Brae have so far proven to be unstoppable. The Pennsylvania-based duo have just released their debut album PUNK TACTICS, a culmination of their high-octane, tongue-in-cheek approach to hip-hop. Bone-crushing basslines in the likes of STARTAFIGHT and TANAKA 2 recall the likes of Run The Jewels and Denzel Curry (whose Outbreak Fest set is held in high esteem by the duo), whilst the album closes with an ode to hardcore punk via the bonkers closing double act of STREET PIZZA and CLUB SANDWICH.

Whilst JV&B are rooted in ’90s hip-hop, there’s an infectious edge to their dual vocal flow that is beginning to captivate alternative audiences around the globe, earning them festival slots this summer at Download and Reading & Leeds. But their most notable admirer? Fred Durst. Hand-picked by Limp Bizkit to open their Halifax and London dates last month, Joey Valence & Brae had 30,000 people moshing to PUNK TACTICS at Gunnersbury Park.

“Opening for Limp Bizkit was a dream come true,” grins Joey, who was just as stoked to be playing along drum’n’bass godfathers Pendulum. “That’s the music I listen to: Skrillex, Pendulum, Knife Party. I just love that energy.” Crossing paths with Fred for the first time, the duo left Gunnersbury Park with the door wide open for future collaboration. “He said, ‘We’ve gotta make a song together!’ It’s so funny, we’re just like little kids – we’re so starstruck.”

While Bizkit-esque record scratches and eccentric lyrics are scattered all over the surface of PUNK TACTICS, there’s also a key sense of the cultural spaces in which Joey Valence & Brae operate. Obsessed with video games and movies, Obi Wan Kenobi, Bruce Wayne, Power Rangers and Dragon Ball references all appear in the lyrics – the former being the pick of the bunch halfway through the album’s title-track: ‘Who’s got the high ground now, Obi Wan?’ “I’m a huge nerd,” beams Joey. “I’m addicted to Pokémon, I like art and drawing.”

“It all just blends into the culture you’re into,” Brae adds. “You can find music in every corner of everything you like. People can use our music, just like we were back in the day, to interact with their culture and personality.” Their hobbies, worlds and passions are on display through every song in some way or another, welcoming fans into their weird and wonderful worlds. This level of connection has struck a chord with new fans all over the globe, but particularly in the UK – where they’ve just completed a sold-out tour, culminating in London with their largest headline show to date at The Garage.

“[The London show] was the first time we’ve had people actively crowdsurfing the whole concert,” Joey reflects, reminiscing back to their first gigs where the entire audience would end up onstage. “Every show that we do is just like a giant house party for an hour,” adds Brae, before Joey jumps back in. “It’s funny, because we literally don’t party, in the sense that we don’t drink, smoke or anything. We love to be stupid, all of the time, that’s what we like to encompass. The fact that we can carry that over to the shows and make it really fun is super, super cool.”

Bringing the party atmosphere is a foundational principle of their artistry, clearer than ever in the hook of feel-good anthem DANCE NOW: ‘I don’t wanna talk / I just wanna dance.’ The whole album is led by instinct and feel, where there wasn’t really a place for organised writing sessions, Joey tells Kerrang!. “We hung out for a week with our manager and a friend and tried to bang out as many tracks as we could. That turned into DANCE NOW, RN, KILL BILL. It definitely doesn’t feel like work. That’s why it’s successful, ’cause you can tell we’re just having fun.”

This was exactly how the story began for the duo. Meeting in college, Brae wasn’t initially fond of the antisocial “jackass” that was Joey, who would hole himself up in his dorm. He’d never even touched a microphone before, opting instead to learn the drums but really give his focus to dance classes. Although Joey had been producing music for a short while already, their MC careers didn’t fall into place until they started to become better friends.

“That’s the craziest thing about it,” Brae says. “I just jumped on the mic when he had random beats playing in his apartment. We both didn’t know we could rap ’til we tried it.” Joey jumps in to add another side to the story. “Brae was producing for a bunch of country artists before this,” he reveals, deadly serious. With a smirk on his face, Brae agrees. “Yep, I was Dolly Parton’s engineer. Tim McGraw’s guy, too.”

The not-so-secret recipe to Joey Valence & Brae is clear. Two best friends, having the time of their lives. In conversation or within the music, that carefree energy is dominant, from day one all the way to PUNK TACTICS. “Nothing has changed; the creation process is the same,” Brae confirms.

And when asked how the celebrations would go down as they reached this milestone, they respond in true JV&B style. “Maybe go to a gas station and get some food. We just got this game called Chivalry 2 and we’ve been playing it. Medieval warfare, when it drops at midnight!”

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