Produced by Van and Wes.
Mixed and Engineered by Wes,
2nd Engineer Dawn Pfund.
Mastered by Chis Goosman @ Baseline Audio Labs - Ann Arbor, MI.
Cover Design and Layout: James Bender of Thrill Industries .
Reviews for Head Full of Pills...
I wasn't all that impressed with Valis'debut. Even after repeat spins, it never struck a chord with me. Which is why I was approaching Head Full of Pills with trepidation. When you spend an ungodly amount of time writing about albums, the last thing you want to do is slog through something mediocre or, even worse, just plain bad.
But like The Empire Strikes Back and Black Nasa's Deuce, Head Full of Pills outshines Valis' prior release. The band, formed by members of Mudhoney (original drummer Dan Peters), TAD (Kurt Danielson), Screaming Trees (Van Conner and current drummer Sean Hollister) and Kitty Kitty (Patrick Conner) and rounded off by Wes Weresch (guitar synthesizer) and Adrian Makins (bass), deliver 11 quality tracks on their first album for Small Stone Records.
Given the band's pedigree, it's no surprise that the songs have a late '90's alt-rock meets grunge sound. And there's plenty of psychedelic influences as well, such as on the title track and "Across the Sky." The latter sounds like it should be on the soundtrack to some '60's art house flick. When they lay on the distortion, as on the opening track, "Welcome to Home School," and "World of Decay," the band is a great option for those who miss the Monster Magnet and Fu Manchu of old. "Motorbike" is another good rocker, although the song cribs the central riff from The Four Horsemen's "Rocking Is My Business (And Business Is Good)."
Quibble about that song aside, Head Full of Pills is a damn fine album. File it next to Lord Sterling and Nebula, and chalk up another winner for Small Stone.
John PegoraroOctober, 2004www.stonerrock.com
DAREDEVIL MAGAZINE (Germany)
I?ve been waiting a long long time. I heard the first release of Valis on Lunasound Recordings and I loved "Vast Active Living Intelligence System"... it was so different to all the other stuff I heard in the Heavy-Rock genre. Now they?re back with "Head Full Of Pills" and nothing changed... they?re still different and absoluetly original... ok... they got more trippy and psychedelic compared to their last album, but that?s cool and brings in a whole new vibe. Sometimes they really remind me of old Sabbath... for example "world of decay"... that could be also a old Sabbath song, hahaha... I love these guys, cause you never know what?s coming up next and their musical horizon is huge. This Heavy-Rock is different and I think that these guys will make their way.
When the Northwest psychedelic rock band Screaming Trees came to an end, most people looked to singer Mark Lanegan for future lightning bolts from beyond. Lanegan's solo work has certainly been interesting, with moments of brilliance nudging up against nuggets of mediocrity (kind of like the Trees' stuff, to be honest). But the most consistent music from the camp of ex-Trees comes from bassist-turned-guitarist Van Conner and his band Valis. On its second album Head Full of Pills, Valis revels in the acid rock the Trees were abandoning near the end of their life span. Conner and his guitarist brother Patrick spray the landscape with electrifying riffs and solos seemingly extracted straight from the heart of a star, as drummer Sean Hollister and bassist Adrian Makins keep the rhythms anchored to the planetary surface. Wes Weresch, credited only with "trip," adds appropriately spacy noises with a variety of keys, electronics and tape manipulations, his efforts compounding the space rocking vibe. Van sings as if he's in a rocket zooming past, sounding clear but distant at the same time, desperately trying to get his message across the galaxy. His voice isn't as distinctive as his former bandmate's, but it's still a strong instrument, given appropriate treatment here. The band races swiftly but steadily through a bucketful of strong tunes, as light on its feet as it is heavy in its stride. The Conners and company give roaring rockers like "Motorbike" and the politically-minded "World in Decay" and "We Got a Situation" just the right touch of third-eye otherworldliness. At the same time they also revolve more obviously acid-drenched anthems like "Across the Sky," "Voyager" and "Perpetual Motion Machine" around an earthy axis. Melodies and hooks abound, even as the quintet never lets up on the nuclear energy. Head Full of Pills is the space rock epic Hawkwind never made, the psychedelic masterpiece Monster Magnet doesn't quite seem capable of conjuring, and a career high Valis will find it difficult to match. But it'll be a trip hearing them try.
Michael TolandOctober 24th, 2004www.highbias.com
Valis' brand of stoner rock on "Head Full of Pills" has so much variety under the umbrella of Valis' general sound that each song blares across with its own personality. There's never a dull moment, provided you like stoner rock, which I happen to think is one of the more interesting genres out there. Blending elements of modern rock, classic rock, psychedelic rock and good old blues based Sabbath darkness, Valis is one of those bands that should be on the radio instead of all the crappy modern rock shit like, oh, I don't know, Three Doors Down, or Nickelback or Staind or any of a plethora of dull corporate rock artists amok on the airwaves these days. Cause dull is not a word you can use to describe Valis. A thick slapping of fuzzy but sleek guitar warmth, aggro attitude and a heaping cup of shut the fuck up.
Kristopher UpjohnNovember, 2004fishcomcollective.net
Currently, it seems as if Small Stone Records becomes the home of a lot of 70's oriented heavy guitar rock bands, and after the first full-length on Lunasound Recordings VALIS has also signed with Scott's label. The band successfully merge 70's heavy rock, 60's psychedelic and Hawkwind references to create an intoxicating musical vision. Van Conner was the original guitarist of the Screaming Trees and together with his brother Patrick Conner their ability as musicians assures the originality and complexity of the guitar work on this album. "Head Full Of Pills" boasts a number of fine composition that are brimming with tasteful and convincing hooklines such as "Voyager" that draw heavily on early Hawkwind or "Motorbike" , a heavy driving piece that sounds as if AC/DC had taken some magnificent LSD 25. But the album title is really something like a concept, because the complete album has a very trippy and atmospheric vibe. The softer "Across The Sky" is sheer delight coming close to Syd Barrett's style without copying it while "Ape Canyon" is a massive track with a swinging bulldozing groove and hot, heavy, sweating blues riffs. To sum it up "Head Full Of Pills" is a sonic journey into high intensity heavy psych rock without being too retrospective.Or like Sun Ra once said: "Space is the place". VALIS continuing the tradition of genuine sweaty, spaced-out rock and this is a very addictive release - buy this disc!
Originally started as a side project by erstwhile Screaming Tree bassist Van Conner, Valis became a primary concern once the reluctant grunge band officially faded into (cough!) sweet oblivion, circa 1998. Come 2004, Valis delivered their third release, Head Full of Pills, for their third record company (Detroit's Small Stone -- the last indie label standing after the "great stoner rock collapse"), and perhaps the most surprising aspect about rambunctious, hook-laden opener "Welcome to Home School" is its crisp and crunchy hard rock production. This is somewhat at odds with Valis' not so surprising taste for loose, almost casual performances, and their unlikely union results in a quite unusual-sounding record. Monster Magnet may be the closest sonic parallel for the decidedly retro but quite diverse songs on display here, whether it's the dreamy psychedelic title track wafting lazily between your ears or the more spacy garage rock aesthetic of "Motorbike" (featuring token hard rock riff number two, it's been recycled so often) cruising down the highway of your mind. Generally sticking by these ground rules, ensuing tunes alternate between mellow (the lysergic wash of "Voyager" and a nearly straightforward rock ballad in "Across the Sky") and rockin' (the wah-wah-intensive "We Got a Situation" and the metallic-tinged "World of Decay") before the closing "Perpetual Motion Machine" embarks on a mission of deeper space exploration. Through it all, the songwriting is usually compelling but never groundbreaking and rarely outstanding, the performances competent but rather staid, and Conner's voice a little strained (suffice to say he's no Mark Lanegan) in an almost Ozzy-esque whine. But it works, so long as you keep an open mind and accept the fact that Valis' intentions are less than world-conquering. Ultimately, Conner is far too unassuming a character for one to condemn this release as a self-serving vanity project; rather, it's a good record by a group of guys happy to be playing rock & roll.
Ed RivadaviaNovember, 2004allmusic.com
Valis is a post-arena grunge superband featuring Screaming Trees riff merchant Van Conner, his literal bro Patrick, and his metaphorical bros Sean Hollister, Adrian Mackins, and Wes Weresch. They all had before-bands too, but let us just soak in the sheer indulgent electricity of Valis for now. Opener ˘Welcome to Home School÷ is SO forcefully RAWK that I almost got out of the stereoĂs way as it poured out of the protesting speakers, fearing that it might knock me right the fuck over. Right from the first thump, Valis establish a we-came-to-kill vibe, punctuated by VanĂs stun-gun acid metal guitar and his Ozzy-esque vocals, and on ˘Welcome to Home School÷ they are in full-bore cock star mode, just fucking ROCKING OUT, like theyĂre dancing around a raging bonfire of old-skull Sub Pop vinyl, firmly resolved to build a whole new world of arena-wrecking Northwest power-rock on the ashes. Actually, theyĂd probably choke to death on the fumes, but you know what I mean. Elsewhere, the settle into a snaky, Monster Magnet-y kinda groove, like on the mega-druggy (imagine that) title track, and the space rockinĂ, Sabbathistic ˘Voyager÷. Oh, and then thereĂs the crunching, balls-out throttle rock of ˘Motorbike÷, which IS, make no mistake about it, ˘RockinĂ Is My Business÷, only with Dio keyboards and an even more corrosive guitar sound then the Four Horsemen versh. I dunno, how many different ways can you say ˘This record is a total and complete motherfucker?÷ IĂm sure thereĂs plenty, but thatĂs my message, Fred. Buy this and then go conquer a nation or something. ItĂs pure rock nĂ roll thunder. Motherfucking rock nĂ roll thunder, even.
Oh yeah, and for some related retro-rawk kicks, check out 80Ăs Boston power-trio, the Slaves, whose sole album, "Welcome to the Meat Machine÷ (1988, Legacy), was like one ˘Welcome to Home School÷ after another. They recently got back together, too. Rock n' roll's a blast, ain't it?
KenNovember 7th, 2004www.sleazegrinder.com
alis might just sound like a spacey version of Fu Manchu, with some old Pink Floyd mixed in at first, but that's a bit too limiting. In fact, Valis are in a world all their own, filled with fuzzy guitars, rock n' roll, and wah pedals. "Across The Sky", is straight 60's-70's influenced Led Zeppelin-esque goodness, while "Perpetual Motion Machine" has a riff that's straight out of the book of Black Sabbath. But you've got to hear their classic stoner rock sound for yourself.
WolfieNovember 27th, 2004www.absolutmetal.com
In the genre of "stoner rock" it's strange to hear a band fornicate with the idea of actually taking something else other than the green wizard. Valis has come along and admitted that they have some pill poppinĂ ideals and has drawn the line in the dirt toward the other classified heavy-duty rawkers. Is this to be a new label for an already established style? I think not. I have an inkling that Valis has just created an album based on a set of timeframes and song inspirations and have no real need to switch ˘stoner rock÷ to ˘pill rock÷ or whatever. And pill rock sounds like something you remove from your sweater anyway.
Beyond all that, Valis creates a fine and light environment even among the fuzzy guitars and clangy beats. They can go from a seminal choner tune of home schools, situations and worlds in decay, and they go across the universe to some space ditties to which youĂre not too sure you need the pills or the pot. Just enough rocket fuel. Nothing mind-blowing here but nothing to say, "Dude, this album sucks!" Driving at night with the top down would be highly recommended. Pharmaceuticals optional!
Mark WhittakerNovember 10th, 2004
Former Screaming Trees-man Van Connor has been slogging along in the rock underground since 1996 with Valis yet HEAD FULL OF PILLS marks only the bandĂs second full-length album. Believe me, this is a shame because Valis is a much more interesting musical entity than his previous band ever was.
Harkening back to the classic rock sounds of the 1970s, ˘Welcome to Home School÷ tears through your speakers with a youthful feel thatĂs both aggressive and welcoming, Valis inviting everyone in to the riff-rock extravaganza that is about to occur. From there the disc flies (or should I say "trips") to all the various musical nooks and crannies that were oh so interesting 30 years ago, sometimes thrilling, other times meandering, and still others just odd. There is a definite acid-trip vibe to the proceedings, easily belied in titles like "Ape Canyon", "Humanzee" and "Perpetual Motion Machine" (this one in particular conjures visions of wild rainbow lights, go-go dancers, bongs, smoke machines - the works). ItĂs all well meant and well medicated, everything heaving along with gusto, topped off with VanĂs wild hippy vocals.
Of course, as with everything that happened musically in the 70s, there are parts of this disc that are both vapid and annoying, but hey thatĂs the idea, man. After all, whatĂs left? Just grooving along with the riffs my friend and HEAD FULL OF PILLS has riffs aplenty. Oh yes.
WaspmanNovember 11th, 2004www.metal-rules.com
Rock and roll of the heavier kind, thatĂs how I would describe A Head Full of Pills. The second record Valis brought out. And this album is filled with low-tuned, roaring guitars and has a numbing groove on it. Those two properties make that this album is made for on the road. I should know, because a friend of mine and I were almost caught cruising thirty kilometer an hour to fast. (Thank goodness they were just a couple of kids messing around with cameras instead of the cops).
Most songs are mid-tempo rock songs that make you want to step on it. But Ahead Full of Pills also has its tranquil moments like the title track: A Head Full of Pills. A laid back, kinda moody song, but it sounds quite nice though. Or Across the Sky, a song which is even more laid back and moody. This song sounds like collaboration between Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and U2. But Valis mostly sounds a bit like Queens of the Stone Age mixed with a lot of other bands. There was one song that got me really confused though. When I first heard World of Decay, I thought Valis had covered a Black Sabbath song. But I was wrong, although this song has Iommi and Osbourne written all over it, itĂs still a Valis song. Valis also seemed to found a (little) bit of inspiration in the Britpop scene, because some songs have the same feeling (a bit melancholic) Britpop has. Take Across the Sky for example. An other song which has traces of Britpop on it is the song: We Got a Situation. This is also my favorite track on this album. An up stirring up-tempo song with a great chorus and a fine groove.
In conclusion: Valis had made an album which rocks like hell. And itĂs an album suitable for a very broad audience (I especially want to recommend this silver disk to every car owner).
BramNovember 5th, 2004www.pitfather.com
The Glass Eye
This is the second full-length release from SeattleĂs Valis. The band has been a labor of love for brothers Van and Patrick Connor (Screaming Trees, Kitty Kitty) since their formation in 1996. With several side projects and member changes, it has been a long time coming to what seems a match made in heaven on the Small Stone label. After hearing Van Connor take care of the vocals here, I was left wondering why he didnĂt give Mark Lanegan a break here and there with the Screaming Trees. The guyĂs got good pipes, reminding me of a young Ozzy. The music here is just a brilliant mix of heavy rock guitar, complex progressions, beautiful harmonies, and a touch of psychedelia. But this is no hippy record, by any means. Just listen to ˘World of Decay÷. That, along with ˘Perpetual Motion Machine÷, and ˘Welcome To Home School÷ will provide plenty of proof that the heavy stuff is stressed here. Meanwhile, the title track and ˘Humanzee÷, provide some laid back time for you to catch your breath.
All this said, I think the core strength of this album is that it can be enjoyed thoroughly by a broad range of music fans. IĂm can say with confidence that this is one of my favorite albums of 2004. Keep your eye out for a live show.
Jay HathawayNovember 20th, 2004
I love Valis, but all the Small Stone bands are going to have a hard time topping The Glasspack. Valis, fronted by former Screaming Tree bassist Van Conner, spin out better-than-average stoner rock, bending farther back to their roots than most modern stoner does: Black Sabbath saturates the riffs and plodding pace of most of Head Full of Pills, but peeks through the most in the reverby vocals. When the riffs get faster, more driving and catchy, the specter of Fu Manchu hovers in the background incessantly. I could do without the skull artwork and sound of motorcycles preceding "Motorbike," but overall, even though theyĂre not doing anything original, Valis are masters of the catchy riff (especially in "We Got a Situation," "Perpetual Motion Machine" and the glammy, druggy, T. Rex-ish "Across the Sky") and have given a solid contribution to the magical world of stoner rock.
Rebecca VernonDecember 15th, 2004www.slugmag.com
Watch out world, because rock heavy weights Valis are coming to a town near you. Valis contain members of the legendary TAD, Kitty, Kitty and the Screaming Trees, have been known to hang out in the desert doing the 'Sessions', and as part of the early Seattle grunge movement, the name Valis should be pretty familiar to people who have followed this scene since it's inception. Valis has been through some tough times, label wise, with the demise of Man's Ruin, which released the Vallis/Kitty,Kitty split, then signing on with Lunasound Recordings based in Sweden, which released 'Vast, Active, Intelligence System' folding as well. The band now finds its current home on Small Stone Records for a two album deal. Way to go Small Stone!
'Head Full of Pills' is the latest release courtesy of Small Stone records. Okay so enough name dropping, and on with the review. First, this is by far one of the best albums in a long while I have had the pleasure of listening to. I must have played this album at least 50 times since I received it and I am still no where close to being sick of it. Let's start out with the first track 'Welcome to Homeschool', which is clearly the most accessible tune on this album and for some reason the one that tends to throw some people off. 'Welcome to Homeschool' is a simple, definitely 80's metal influenced track. Therein lies the issue for most people. See anything 80's metal must be bad. Well hey, I have my own opinion of this track. I could care less if it has an 80's rock style, I love it. It's infectious and the vocals are amazing. The tune is a straight forward rock anthem so who the fuck cares if it doesn't fit the stereotype of what these guys should sound like? I certainly don't. If you are cool with living up to your past and admitting you liked 80's rock, you will certainly be cool with this track. Anyways, relax because 'Head Full of Pills' is a more psychedelic based tune, fitting given the topic covered here. Slower, loads of cool psyche guitar, great lyrics and a wicked Sabbathy chorus. Nothing not to like in this track. Heavy and dense and filled with that pure rock attitude that sometimes gets lost in the music put out these days. 'Head Full of Pills' is the track you really don't want to throw on after a night out frying your brains. "Reality is the enemy".
"Voyager' is one of my favorite tracks off this album. The songs starts off with the sounds of space and just blasts off from there into full on rock and roll! Killer song with one of the best breakdown choruses in awhile. I love the vocals on this song - somewhat muffled but discernible regardless. A kick ass chorus that flat out grooves. Heavily psyche influenced, 'Voyager' fulfills the urge for groove based psyche. Again, stellar chorus, amazing guitar and simply a very good song. 'Humanize' is a weird little tune. At just under two minutes its basic premise - minimalism (drums, guitar and bass) suits the mood well after 3 high energy songs. 'Motorbike' is a kick ass tune along the same vein as say... ATP or Raging Slab would produce. A little bit of Southern and a lot of hard rock head-banging.
I'm not going to describe all the songs, because seriously this is one of my top picks for the year 2004, except to say that 'Perpetual Motion Machine' is a brilliantly executed song. It has everything in it - psychedelica, groove, heavy rock, and a chorus that floors. I saw these guys live and this album, while killer, does not touch the live experience.
I am very glad that Small Stone sent this disc my way. It has certainly brightened up many a work day - head-banging and singing loudly at my desk, headphones on, and a roomful of laughter. Ha! If only they could hear what I hear! I am now on a quest to get all things Valis. 10/10 for this disc. Not a flaw on it. Valis rules!! Pure rock and roll mixed of the fuzz/psyche mix which these guys do so brilliantly. This is a very talented band whose next album I anxiously await.
Deanna St.CroixDecember 1st, 2004www.stonerrockchick.com
As I hear it, Valis know what they're capable of, and they have every right in the world to flaunt it. Hence, they bless us with "Head Full Of Pills." It took a few spins throughout the course of two or three days, but there came a point when I thought, "Oh, okay. This makes sense, now." Ever since then, it's been my firm belief that this, right here, is the future of Rock 'n Roll. Oh yes, my friend, it will evolve into this at some point. Other listeners may or may not have the same epiphany. Either way, the fact remains the same: If listeners slip into that certain subjective mindset, they will eventually realize that every song on this album is stellar. Each one of these tracks is a virtual reality trip into your wildest and most bizarre dreams.
The Conners once again display their talents in all areas concerning guitars. The warm, almost soothing bass tones of Adrian Makins are not heard but absorbed through osmosis. Sean Hollister tears some serious shit up behind the drum kit with a righteous display of drumming. And, to top it off, Wes Weresch provides the extra spice, the extra 'Trip' that is just as mandatory of an element to the band than anyone else. It's true, the talents of Mr. Weresch behind the keys as well as behind the soundboard is exactly what administers the musical foresight that is Head Full Of Pills.
With five active members in Valis, it's really no surprise that "Head Full of Pills" offers an immense experience that arouses all five humanoid senses: Feeling the monstrosity of "World of Decay" shake the walls; the fact that you can start to smell AND taste gasoline fumes 30 seconds into "Motorbike"; seeing streaks of multi-colored cosmic trails whip by while riding warp 5 in "Voyager"; hearing the exalted bliss of "Across the Sky." And this is just half the album, people.
Though the music may alter itself, the vocal chords of Van Conner remains a steadfast co-pilot. This, coupled with mind-expanding lyrics and some badass backup vocals, provides a narrative to help this trek of an album ride out smoothly. Fear not, for you are not alone! Valis have created a musical prophetic vision. Head Full Of Pills is an interactive projection of what is to come: This is not just an album; this is an experience where you are, indeed, The Voyager.
Dr. JonesDecember 22nd, 2004roadburn.com