Driving In Japan

5/12/17

Our vehicle for the past two Street Plant Japan Tours has been a van fronted, mini-motorhome: The Isuzu Fargo. Unlike any other vehicle I have ever ridden in or driven, the Fargo looks like something that the Jawas might have scavenged on Tatooine. Its wheels seem too small for its hulking body and its engine lacks any hint of power, but somehow it has proven its merit and transported us from Tokyo to Sendai, to Yamagata, Niigata, Toyama, Kanazawa, Fukui, Zushi and then from Osaka to Kanonji, Kōchi, Saga, Sasebo, Karatsu, Kumamoto, Izumo and Kobe. That’s a lot of kilometers.

Road Mirror en route to Kurume.

Kristian Svitak compares riding in the back camper to “rocking around like a boat in rough seas.” He sat in the back at the table, facing stoically forward out the front window, it’s all he could do all day long to keep his lunch from making a return trip up his esophagus.

When I have taken my turn behind the wheel, relieving our faithful Tour Manager Hiroshi to rest, Kristian has joined me up front, and you’d think by his shit-eating grin that he’d just won the lottery. Nope, just a few hours in the front cabin.

Though expensive, due to tolls, driving in Japan is a very pleasant experience. First, the landscape of mountains, hills, forests, rivers, seas, tunnels, villages and cities is forever stunning. Secondly, Japanese drivers are courteous, they do not suffer from the disease of entitlement, they respect the passing lane and thus traffic flows orderly and peacefully. In fact, I don’t remember ever hearing one horn honk, nor have I ever seen any sign of road rage while in Japan. Without the usual American manner of the highway being a pressure cooker, and an added stress to one’s life, driving truly becomes a much more enjoyable experience.

Scenic Overlook en route to Sasebo.

Over these past two tours, the Fargo has become an integral part of our experience, a 6th member of our touring party. I’ll never forget turning the corner, 4 hours late to arrive at Evolin Izumo. As we made our way down the street with the shop in view, we heard a loud cheer from the parking lot ahead. The locals had recognized the Fargo by sight.

Hustle Up Starlings

Heart and Guts.
That’s what it takes to live decently in this world.
To say yes to life, even with all of its sorrow and loss.
That’s what makes a hero.
These are the people that Matthew Ryan sings about on his new full-length album, Hustle Up Starlings, and that is what Matthew Ryan is himself, a hero.

On Battle Born, Ryan sings of one of his heroes, Joe Strummer: “He took it straight in the teeth / To find out what was underneath.” But he could be singing about himself, about his own experiences or of anyone who has sought something deeper, more meaningful in their work, in their lives.

In all of these new songs, the intimacy and immediacy of Ryan’s personal storytelling rings out. He’s telling his story, but in doing so, he’s telling your story, he’s telling my story, he’s telling OUR story. These seemingly quiet songs continue to gain volume and depth upon every listen. What starts out feeling like a hushed journey through someone’s diary, becomes a thunderous collection of anthems for this Moment and the road ahead.

Early on in his career, Matthew Ryan got a taste of what success in the music business might look like, and instead he chose a more courageous path, away from the market driven industry. Some may say he shot himself in the foot. But better he thought, to limp through life than race to the bottom. And in a world where the bottom is what we are all being force fed, it’s voices like Ryan’s that we need more than ever. Where most everything on the radio is tainted by a fundamental dishonesty, a shallow aspiration for fame and riches, it’s the Artists limping along that we need to embrace and cherish, because they are us.

“Until the wheels come off…”

Hustle Up Starlings is Available Now in both CD and Digital Formats Here:

CD

Digital

From The Heart, To The Heart

5/11/17

Street Plant at Soulride in Karatsu, Japan. Photo By: Aya Chan.

Japan is a Spiritual place for me. A wellspring of Inspiration and Motivation. But it’s not at the foot of the Beautiful temples that I find Glory (although I do worship the manmade architecture). And it’s not even at the Shrine of the Seas or Mountains that I bow (although Nature is my denomination). It is at the altar of the People where my Faith is Consecrated and where I am made Whole.

The is no language barrier between us. What is spoken from the Heart, goes to the Heart. Every relationship is Purified by Essence. Words fall away, replaced by Light and Tone. Love is its own language.

The Positivity and Energy that the Japanese Skaters give to me flows to every fiber of my being and informs my very existence: If we Live Right in This Moment, there is no need to worry about tomorrow. Every interaction Lives and is Honored in the Never Ending Now.

My Gratitude and Adoration for the Japanese Skaters breaks through and Rises Above jet lag, exhaustion and a natural introversion to Celebrate Our Common Ground, Our Love for Skateboarding, Our Love for Life! My Skateboard reveals itself under my feet and I Sing a Song of Love!

My Girl (Demo)

The New Arms EP was recorded with Matthew Ryan between January 19 & 22 in Beaver, PA. I flew into Pittsburgh on inauguration day and so, that circus, no matter how much I wanted to avoid it, became the background of our work that weekend.

We worked in an upstairs bedroom, while downstairs the TV seethed with increasing global negativity. We worked on Rise Above first, then Ice Age.

By Sunday morning we had time to work on one more track. I had this song idea, “Staycation” that was about retiring from a bunch of foolishness in my life. Matthew liked that song idea but he felt that perhaps there was a more optimistic idea in there somewhere and maybe something that wasn’t just about me.

We had stayed up late the previous night talking about the events that had been unfolding over the past 48 hours. I shared with him how Ann, Emily and Lucy had through the course of the election felt a very devastating blow to their sense of self, and how that had affected me deeply. The election was one thing standing in my shoes, it was quite another standing in theirs.

Matthew urged me to sing about that, what I wanted my wife and daughters to know, to believe, and then he shared with me some words that he had punched into the notes on his iPhone. I immediately connected with the words, it was everything I was saying the night before and we rushed upstairs to try to record the song while the idea was fresh.

Matthew hit record on his phone and began playing some chords on his guitar, urging me to sing along. The melody just came to me, and when I finished he asked, “How did you know what melody I had in my head.”

We ended up properly recording the track again a few minutes later but we kept returning to the demo version. Since it was recorded on an iPhone the demo version was missing something sonically, but it also had something spiritually that we’d never capture again and so, we included it on the EP.

The New Arms EP
Produced By Matthew Ryan
Is Available in both CDEP and Digital EP Formats Here!

The Texas New Arms

The Street Plant Open Hearted Texas Tour 2017 was a great time. Adding music to the equation was very Soul Satisfying. From playing inside Cactus Music in Houston, TX to the sidewalk in front of Deviance Skate Supply in Wichita Falls, TX we ran the gamut on where a band could set up and play and that is exactly what I was hoping to accomplish: Make the music accessible and immediate, FREE and ALL AGES.

w/ Tommy Luna in Wichita Falls, TX. Photo: Rob Wallace,

The band for these shows was put together by my Brother In Open Arms, Tommy Luna. I told Tommy that I was coming to Texas and that I wanted to play some songs from my new EP: The New Arms EP, Produced By Matthew Ryan, and I asked if he could help get a band together. The answer was an immediate Yes! — And what a group of musicians he assembled. The chemistry was immediate. Even though we had only rehearsed for two hours before our first show, I felt like I’d been doing miles with these guys for years. We even had a personnel change after the 3rd show where Guitarist Kevin Bernier left for Australia for his regular gig w/ The Suffers while Drummer JP Rios switched to Guitar, Tommy Luna continued to hold down the Bass and we were joined on Drums by Isaias Gil. And the first gig with the second line-up at 4DWN in Dallas, TX was done on the fly, no rehearsal.

Much Love and Thanks to The Texas New Arms v1.0 and v2.0:

The Texas New Arms v1.0 in Austin, TX. Tommy Luna, Kevin Bernier, Mike Vallely and JP Rios. Photo: Rob Wallace.
The Texas New Arms v2.0 in Wichita Falls, TX. JP Rios, Mike Vallely, Isaias Gil and Tommy Luna. Photo: Rob Wallace.

The New Arms EP is Available Now Here in both CDEP and Digital EP formats.

Recent Rambles

4/23/17

Rambling on Live Oak Trail.

I get up early most days, before the sun, and I dig in.
Not a complaint, an Exclamation.
I always try to find some way to be Engaged Life, in the Moment.
Employing an Athletic Philosophy in all that I do.
What we Practice informs our Doctrine.
Words on paper mean nothing, Actions come First.
Perspiration is the only proven elixir to turn Dreams into Realities.

On most weekday evenings I drive Lucy to her Dance Studio in Orange County. The hours in between dropping her off and picking her up are crucial, I always try to make the most of them: Reading, Riding and Rambling. Seeking Beauty in the hills, at the beach or in the pages of a book. And I Always find more than I seek. Recently Rambling in O’Neill Regional Park and the Quail Hill Trail in Irvine — There is so much to do, so close to us, always. We just have to look.

Ceremony of the Sunset on Quail Hill Trail.

This weekend, Ann, Lucy and I drove up to Santa Clara, CA for a Dance Convention. Yesterday, while Lucy was in class, I got out to Sunol-Ohlone Regional Wilderness for a long Ramble along Alameda Creek and lunch on Flag Hill before heading into San Francisco with Ann and Lucy for dinner.

Cow on Cave Rocks Rd.
The view from Flag Hill Rd.

My Girl (Official Music Video)

My Girl is from The New Arms EP.
Produced By Matthew Ryan.

Purchase Here!

My Girl
(Mike Vallely / Matthew Ryan)

Don’t think for a minute
That everything is doom
What you are is bigger 
It’s bigger than this room

My girl
The future is yours
My girl
The future is yours

I see you now
So broke and so uncertain
But something else comes
After you’ve been hurtin’

My girl
The future is yours
My girl
The future is yours

My girl
The future is yours
My girl
The future is yours

My Girl
Written By: Matthew Ryan 2017 Plastic Violin (BMI)
and Mike Vallely 2017 Burn And Burn Publishing (ASCAP)

Mike Vallely: Lead Vocals

Matthew Ryan: Acoustic Guitar, Backing Vocals

Molly Thomas: Violin

From The New Arms EP
on Street Plant Records

Produced By Matthew Ryan

Video By Ted Newsome

Now Available: The New Arms EP

Now Available:
The New Arms EP
Produced By Matthew Ryan.

Get it / Listen Here:

bandcamp (Digital and CDEP) — Best option to support the EP and Independent Music.

Street Plant — Signed CDs Available.

iTunes

Spotify

I’ve been writing songs for as long as I can remember.

Early on, I had a knack for hearing a Song on the radio and immediately creating my own situational or satirical lyrics for the Song. I’d Sing these Songs over and over for anyone who’d listen, mostly just my brother and sister. Every now and then I’d stage a concert in my kitchen or backyard. I’d flyer the neighborhood, going door to door, inviting people over for the big show. This audience was mostly comprised of my Family Members and a few of our Neighbors and Family Friends. I’d Sing them My Songs, they’d smile, and tell my parents: That kid is going places. Definitely not as a Singer, but he’s going places.

When I was in high school I joined my first band, Resistance. I proudly walked the high school hallways with my Lyric Notebook and Skateboard in hand. I filled that Notebook up, but none of my Lyrics were ever used in that band, as I was soon kicked out of the band for “Skateboarding too much.” Ha, ha… But I never stopped Writing and Singing Songs.

In January of this year, I had the Honor of being in a room with an Artist I greatly admire, Matthew Ryan, Working On and Writing Songs Together over the course of a weekend. We had met 4 months earlier and quickly became Friends. Writing and Working with Matthew was a lot of Fun. The material was heavy and very meaningful to both of us, but we found a way to lean into it when we needed to, and to laugh and goof off in the time between.

We thought that we were just “demoing” some Songs but at the end of the weekend we both felt that we had actually done something final, and that also, the three Songs that we had worked on, were together, a complete thought.

Matthew said, “I think you have an EP… Dude.”

The New Arms EP is Available Now Available on bandcamp in both in Digital EP and CDEP Formats.

CDs can be Signed upon request.
Just simply email me with the request after you have placed the order:

mike@streetplantbrand.com

bandcamp is a great place to purchase Music and to Directly Support Artists. They make the DIY aspect of releasing Music easy and rewarding. A purchase on bandcamp is a great way to Support this EP and Independent Music.

Thanks for your support!

Black Mountain Trail

4/2/17

While in Las Vegas with Ann and Lucy for a Dance Convention, I had a really nice Ramble and Scramble yesterday to the peak of Black Mountain in the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area.

What a Beautiful Day on the Trail: Blooming Cacti, Wildflowers and a Brilliant Blue Sky playing Canvas to an ever changing Painting of Cumulus Clouds.

As lizards darted across my path, I got the Legs and Lungs Burning up the Trail to eat my lunch at the peak of Black Mountain (5030 feet), where I Soaked In Views of the Las Vegas Valley and off into Arizona and California before heading back down.