HONEY OWENS didn't set out to make a new Valet record. Her solo project had been placed on the shelf while she explored collaborative work—like the house-music duo Miracles Club that she started with her partner Rafael Fauria, and her fun reggae/dub group We Like Cats, featuring Adam Forkner and Eva Saelens.
In fact, when Owens and Fauria started working on a batch of new Miracles Club material to debut at a benefit concert last year, the intent was to aim for more experimental dance music. But once they started writing, the music that poured out of Owens was cloudy, guitar-based psychedelia that was in the same vein as the kaleidoscopic sonics of 2007's Blood Is Clean, her debut release under the Valet name.
"I think I was just tired of doing the same kind of trips," Owens says. "The simplicity and the raw, natural quality of these songs came, and I thought, 'Oh, this is interesting to me. This is something I hadn't done since the first record.' It was a very natural state to be in and the whole point of the album is to capture that."
The eight-song collection, Nature (released by Kranky Records), also rings out with the influence of Owens' favorite music from the past. The chiming, jangly guitar calls to mind early twee pop bands like Marine Girls, and the more atmospheric qualities found in spacious tracks like "Lion" and "Transformation" evoke the haunting beauty created in the late '80s and early '90s by Paisley Underground icons like Kendra Smith and Mazzy Star's David Roback.
Owens felt that nostalgia after the birth of her child in late 2013. Being pregnant felt like her first big step into adulthood, and it sent her on a self-reflective journey. She churned over the experiences of the past, like getting swept up in political protests surrounding the second Bush administration during her days in the Bay Area, and moving to Portland and falling in with a prolific and spirited experimental music scene. Owens dug into her record collection for the gems that stirred her initial interest in making music.
"When you start listening back to your old favorite guitar music, you get really deep into it," she says. "So when I started writing guitar songs, I thought, 'I'm just going to write whatever feels natural and not judge it. I'm just going to let it be.'"
Owens doesn't have as much time to really fret over her creative work as she might have had in the past. The time she and Fauria get to work on music is relegated to the few hours they can hire a babysitter.
"It was more premeditated, and we had to hope that whatever we were doing worked out in this certain amount of time," Owens says. "One time, we spent four hours trying to get a guitar sound right and then the clock struck and we had to deal with dinner and laundry. These aren't the songs of someone who could take psychedelic drugs the night before and then the next day take this journey. It's a totally different person who wrote these songs."