From TikTok to Touring Joey Valence & Brae are Bringing Back Breakbeat
PHOTOGRAPHY by SHANE MCCAULEY
It’s been a minute since breakbeat has been a serious presence in music, it’s also been a second since we’ve seen the rambunctious rap/rock shows the Beastie Boys were famous for creating. Never fear though, because it’s back. Courtesy of a Pennsylvanian duo called Joey Valence & Brae who blew up on TikTok and are now selling out shows across the globe.
That wasn’t always the plan though. After meeting during college—where Joey was studying telecommunications and Brae was on track to be a doctor—music was something they did for diversion. It wasn’t until they started sharing their songs and humorous videos that things really took off, and they “jumped into this life real fast” after graduation. Whirlwind would be an understatement here; they’ve gone from making music in their bedroom to playing to thousands of fans at festivals across the US, UK and beyond. Most memorably, opening the dance stage at Reading Festival on day one; a notoriously tough slot but one which saw the tent packed to the gills with fans whipped into a frenzy by their energetic performance.
Both kids were raised on hip-hop and funk courtesy of their dads. Joey’s in particular also schooled him in the ways of Chicago house music and Daft Punk. But it was breakbeat that really caught his attention. “It was so cool because nobody else was listening to it. It was like super underground. I just thought, ‘I wanna try and make this.’” Brae’s dad was a New York b-boy and so when Brae got his first iPod, he downloaded “tons of old school hip-hop.” Later they discovered punk and loved the energy of the two genres blended together. While most parents might expect a career track after college, the duo’s parents were so supportive of them chasing their musical dreams, Brae’s mom even sent their video to The Ellen DeGeneres Show. That led to their first live performance: on Ellen’s TV show.
Wild break. “We always look at each other and go, ‘we skipped all of the groundwork’…like we never even performed in a library!” Fast-paced is all part of how they roll though. Most of their songs come together within 48 hours with Joey masterminding the beats and each adding lyrics for their own parts. They’re best friends and so collaboration is swift. “I show him something and if we click on it, and I see his energy respond to it, then I’m like, ‘okay, here we go!’ If the song’s not done in 48 hours, it’s not being completed. As soon as we hear something that inspires us, it just gets [the music] out. Then we promote it and post videos.” This speed of recording and releasing aligns with their straightforward approach to making music. “I think another thing that people enjoy about us is the simplicity of it all. We don’t do anything super flashy. Nothing is high gloss. It’s very DIY, what you see is what you get.”
This austerity extends to their videos; filmed using everything from a Nintendo DS to a Ring doorbell to an Xbox camera. Their motivation for it all? Fun. “We never tried to be something on TikTok, following trends and things like that. We’re just literally two kids that make music and put it on that platform because it’s a way to get your music out there.” And they get it out there. Rather than pause and disappear to record an album, they consistently release singles to keep their fans excited, and their own energy and creative flow on fire.
We’re really enjoying just promoting singles and the headline shows are amazing too because no matter how many kids are there to see us, they’re there for us. No matter what we do up there, they’re just absolutely loving it. How can you not have a good time when you’re performing up there, you know? All the anxiety and stress kind of just goes away.
At press time, their recent track “Double Jump” has millions of likes on TikTok and they don’t take that appreciation for granted. They sell their hand-drawn merch shirts for $1 and spend hours after their performances to meet audiences. “We stay after every single show and meet every single kid. Take pictures, sign their shoes, we’ve signed insulin pumps! We’ve signed social security cards, fake IDs, foreheads, like you think of it, we’ve signed it!”
Their ambitions range wildly from acquiring the biggest Pokémon collection in the world to collaborating with Denzel Curry and Tyler, The Creator but ultimately what motivates them is their listeners. “It’s incredible to see these people in a room just having the best time of their lives. We’re really fortunate we built such an amazing community with a lot of really young kids and we welcome that because they’re obviously the ones who are controlling the future.”
That may well be the case but if a revolution is coming, we’re fairly sure Joey and Brae have got the soundtrack nailed down. @jvbsucks