FLYER Q&A: Catching up with Arkansas pop-punk band Idle Valley

Ben Welborn of Idle Valley (Alex Burgie)

Idle Valley is one of the best Arkansas bands of the moment.

The Northwest Arkansas-based pop-punk group is immensely fun, with live shows that are jubilant and memorable. Their show a few months ago at Mount Sequoyah Center was one of my favorite local shows of the past few years.

Graduates of the Rivers Cuomo, Matt Sharp and Ric Ocasek school of songwriting, Idle Valley deliver songs with incessant hooks and undeniable catchiness. Their recently released The First Album Ever is absolutely loaded with great songs that don’t leave your head and pull you out of the work week into a better time. I haven’t stopped humming their song “Girlfriend” since I first listened. And their new single “Yellow Teeth” will make any Monday feel like Friday.

The band opens for Water From Your Eyes and Friko this Tuesday, May 7 at George’s Majestic Lounge. Doors open at 7 p.m. with an 8 p.m. start. Tickets are available here. Do yourself a huge favor and see them live.

I hope Idle Valley blows up. You can help with that. If you can’t make it to a show, you can support them by buying merch directly from their bandcamp page.

I talked to singer/guitarist Ben Welborn about his band and here it goes…

Can you give us a brief history of Idle Valley?

Idle Valley started out as my bedroom recording project in 2018. I wrote and recorded all my songs on an iPad with GarageBand, and put out an album. I continued on that path until last year when I recruited my friends to join the band so we could start playing live shows.

Since then we’ve played a bunch of shows, and just recently put out our first REAL album, with everybody in the band on it.

How would you describe your sound to a stranger?

It’s pretty easy to just describe our sound as Weezer-core.

You just released your debut record. How long did it take to write and record? And how does it feel to have it out in the world?

I wasn’t really thinking about a full album when I wrote most of these songs, so it’s not like I was in a time crunch or anything. But I would say all the songs were written over a period of a year. We recorded the album in about two weeks with a few late nights.

It feels awesome to have it out finally. I personally love Fujimoto and I bump it all the time, so I’m glad it’s on streaming. It’s a lot easier to listen to now without digging through the files on my phone

Every song on the record has a vocal hook. Do you write the lyrics first? How does a song come together for you?

When I’m writing, it almost always starts with a chord progression. Maybe I’ll have a lyric I really like hiding in my notes somewhere, and that can help me figure out what the songs are going to be about. Once I get a chord progression I’m into, I just start humming to find a melody. A lot of the lyrics I write are pretty stream of consciousness, rearranged a little bit to rhyme and sound better.

After I’ve got my barebones song written, I take it to the band and they fill it out. Dan writes a cool synth hook, Aden will write a guitar solo, Aaron lays down a funky bass line, and Akshath gives us our beat.

What’s the last book, film or situation that made you want to write a song? And what non-musical influences affect your music?

Fujimoto was written like immediately after I saw the movie “Ponyo” for the first time. The lyrics of the song just follow the plot of the movie.

Nostalgia is a big influence for me recently, I think. I’ve been going back and watching a lot of movies and playing video games I liked when I was younger.

You’ve been playing around NWA regularly. What’s your favorite show so far?

My favorite show was a show that we played with this pop punk cover band called The Phase at Nomads in Fayetteville. It wasn’t a super packed show or anything, but The Phase played “I miss you” by Blink-182 and they let me do Tom Delonge’s verse.

Your music videos are awesome. Who films them? How did you make it through the Yellow Teeth video without laughing? And what was the worst thing to have thrown at you?

Thank you! My friend Alex Burghart filmed and edited the video for “Yellow Teeth”

He’s been handling all our artwork, flyers, merch, and video stuff like that since we started playing live. Brice Witt directed the video for us, like a real Hollywood director. Brice is also our main merch table man.

The only reason I didn’t laugh during the video is because we rehearsed it like 10 times before filming. Also, it’s hard to breathe being covered in syrup and milk, let alone laugh.

The worst thing to have thrown at me was either the milk or the hose water at the end. I didn’t think Aden was gonna pour the whole jug of milk on me, maybe just a little bit, but not the whole jug. And the water was FREEZING.

What are your favorite places in Fayetteville?

I love going to shows at Smoke & Barrel, the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, the thrift stores, and of course, the whole band loves Eureka Pizza.

I haven’t been to Lokomotion in years but that was always fun.

What are your plans for summer and the rest of the year?

We are hoping to play a lot of out of town shows this summer, and film some more music videos for the songs on the album. We’ve been toying with the idea of a cover album, and I think that this summer might be the perfect time to start work on that.