Joey Valence & Brae: How To Conquer The Music Business, Without Moving Out Of Your Parents’ House

Joseph Bertolino and Braedan Lugue, better known as Joey Valence & Brae, are a testament to the unlimited possibilities of independent music in the digital age. In just a few short years, the Pennsylvania hip-hop duo have amassed millions of fans and played some of the world’s best music festivals– and they’ve done it completely independently, writing and recording everything from Joey’s bedroom studio. They’re currently on tour with Sum 41 and The Interrupters, and just dropped a new album, NO HANDS, which is out today. We caught up with Joey and Brae before their sold out show at the Stone Pony Summer Stage, to talk about creativity, gratitude, and staying uncomfortable.  

CC: I want to start with your song Double Jump, which went viral before it was even complete. That’s an amazing example of something that I’ve spoken to other musicians about- in which a breakthrough song that launched an artist’s career was a song that was written in five minutes, without much thought behind it.

Joey: I think those are the best songs, because that sort of creation is so genuine. And I think people can recognize that authenticity. If you record something that you wrote in five minutes, it’s not going to be overthought. But if you end up thinking too hard, it ends up becoming something less than genuine.

CC: Sure. That’s the danger in rewriting something a hundred times or doing a hundred takes; you might lose whatever magic you had when you began.

Joey: I’m so guilty of that, and I try to prevent myself from doing it. Brae is way better about that. My tendency is to rewrite and overanalyze, and I have to remind myself to keep it simple and stupid.

CC: You call it stupid, but I think you guys are really clever lyricists, and you’re curating something fun and playful- which is definitely not the same thing as stupid.

Joey: Yeah, when I say stupid, what I mean is, not overthought and totally genuine. We try to write from that place of using the first thing that comes to mind.

CC:  Let’s talk about music and social media, because you guys are a great example of this: Today, any kid with a phone has the potential to reach a huge audience, especially if that kid works hard. So what’s your advice for the kid who dreams of being a professional musician?

Joey: For me, music was my dream. I put a hundred percent of myself into it, but only because I loved it, not because I was trying to reach some goal of being famous. I was making music because it meant something to me, and because it filled a gap in myself. So if you can honestly say that your only goal is personal satisfaction, that’s when it’s so genuine that you can potentially reach the next level. But if you’re going in with the purpose of becoming famous, then you’re already doing it wrong.

CC: Brae, do you feel the same way, or were you just trying to get rich and famous?

Brae: Yeah dude, I just want a Lamborghini. (laughs) No, it’s true, I agree with everything Joey said. When we first started putting stuff out on music platforms, I had no other purpose for it, except to have fun. I was serving burgers and going to school. I was actually trying to become a medical device salesman. To the kids out there, I would say, keep all the opportunities open in every aspect of your life, go and mow lawns or work in a frozen yogurt shop, because no matter what your dreams are, those experiences are so important.

Joey: My biggest piece of advice is to stay uncomfortable. Any time you put yourself in a position where you get to do something new and uncomfortable, you’ll grow as a person and as an artist. When people get comfortable, they tend to stay in the same place.

CC:  That’s great advice. And you guys are only 25! How do you have that kind of perspective already?

Joey: I think because I’ve lived it. Whether it’s through work or music or relationships, I’ve realized that to be uncomfortable is the best way to learn, and to get to the next stage of your life. I’ve known a lot of people who stay in the same place because they’re unwilling to get outside of their comfort zone.

CC:  Do you ever wonder what your careers would have looked like 30 years ago, before social media?

Brae: I think about it all the time. (laughs) We would probably be nowhere. I don’t know how they did it, honestly, back in the day, going the label route, giving out mix tapes.

CC: Actually, I think you guys would have been right at home on MTV, in between Beastie Boys and Run-DMC.

Joey: I probably would have found a way on MTV, just because I love making an ass out of myself. But I don’t know what I’d be doing, if I didn’t have the ability to just, grab my phone and share what I’m working on.

CC: By the way, are you guys sick of the Beastie Boys comparisons yet?

Brae: No, it’s the coolest compliment ever.

Joey: I think when an artist starts out, their very first goal is to make something that sounds like somebody else. When I first started making music at 12 years old, I wanted to sound exactly like Skrillex. The thing is, Brae and I have only been working together for a few years, so in terms of our sound, we know that we’re still babies. To draw that comparison to the Beastie Boys, we love that people hear that inspiration. And we’re still developing our sound. Brae had never rapped before we started working together.

Brae: I grew up listening to a lot of rap, but I had never actually tried it until I met Joey.

CC: That’s pretty amazing, because your live act is already so tight.

Brae: For our first tour ever, we did a show at Madame Lou’s in Seattle- and there were maybe a hundred kids there. We’d never even performed in public before, we’d just, like, practiced in Joey’s garage. But from the first time we started working together, performance just came really naturally.

Joey: I think as music fans, we know what we wanna see when we go to concerts ourselves- and that’s fucking energy. Even if there were zero people in front of us, we’d still be doing the exact same show. We just want to make it a party.

CC:  You’ve mentioned in other interviews that you think there’s a lack of fun in modern music- popular music in general and especially hip-hop.

Joey: I think we’re living in a musical age where people are free to talk openly about whatever they’re going through, and if you want to get dark and emotional, that’s totally cool. But I think our music has unintentionally filled a gap for people who just want fun chaotic carefree music, with no intention other than just a having a blast.

CC: In your prior interviews, you guys have been so genuine about expressing love for your families- and not just in a “shout out to my mom” sort of way. When an artist has a lot of younger fans, I think it’s really powerful to see that artist being so thankful and outspoken in their love for their parents.

Brae: I never thought about it that way, to tell you the truth, but we both know that we’re so lucky to have families that support us.

Joey: We’re so fucking lucky. And even if you don’t have that sort of relationship with your family, it’s important to be thankful for anybody who supports you, even if it’s just one person.

Brae: And we still live at our moms’ houses. My mom still does my laundry! I’m still the kinda kid who will peek into my mom or dad’s room and say, “Hey, I’m heading out for a few hours.”

CC: Or a few months, if you’re going on tour.

Brae: (laughs) Exactly.

CC: You’re on tour right now, opening for Sum 41 and The Interrupters. Are you guys having the time of your lives, or does it feel like a job yet?

Joey: I think we’re smart enough to recognize that it’s a job, and we’re trying to take the right steps to do this for the rest of our lives- but we have a blast while doing it. I think you can have both. It’s a grind, but it’s such a fun grind.

Joey Valence & Brae’s new album NO HANDS hits music platforms on June 7. Catch them on tour this summer with Sum 41 and The Interrupters.

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