Music journalists are from Mars, Valient Thorr is from Venus
MUSIC There's no easy way to describe Valient Thorr. Hailing from Chapel Hill, N.C., the quintet has labored throughout its career under the strain of countless casual characterizations, each less accurate than the one before it. Reached by phone in Raleigh, N.C., as he prepared for the band's impending tour with Motorhead, singer Valient Himself gives the wry rundown.
"Forever, in The Onion, it said 'Kiss-like band, biker band' or some shit. None of us ride motorcycles!" he scoffs. Nor, for that matter, does the band wear elaborate makeup or sell branded coffins. The mistakes, however, continued. "People would say something like 'Lynyrd Skynyrd-esque' or some shit like that," complains Valient. "We don't play Southern rock. We have accents from the South because those are the colloquialisms that we have been accustomed to since we crash-landed here. Or they look at 'Thorr' and they say, 'Oh, they're Vikings.' If you could pick three adjectives that we get called the most that are totally wrong, they'd be Southern, Viking, biker metal."
Now, if you've been paying attention so far, you'll have noticed that the singer goes by an outlandish pseudonym and makes offhand references to things like "crash landing." By "here," in the previous paragraph, he means "planet Earth." This is because the band Valient Thorr claims, with a straight face, to be from the inside of the planet Venus. Valient Himself, a former sixth-grade teacher, sticks to his story throughout the interview, even when gently prodded to discourse on non-Venusian topics.
The band's beginnings can be traced to East Carolina University, where the five Thorrs (Valient Himself, Eidan, Lucian, Sadat, and Dr. Professor Nitewolf Strangees Thorr) were masquerading as undergraduates. Nurtured by the college radio culture that defined their adopted home state for much of the 1990s, the band soon discovered the geographic advantages of hailing from the Tar Heel State, which features nine midsized cities along the axis of Highway 40, which neatly bisects it into northern and southern halves.
Before long, Valient Thorr was traveling nationwide, hitting 47 cities in 52 days on its first trip out. This relentless dedication to touring would come to define the band, which has effectively been on tour since Valient's career in the classroom ended in 2005. That event also marked the last time he cut his beard, a fiery red thatch that has since attained truly epic proportions.
Though Valient Thorr's music — a combination of the rabid, breakneck pace of punk rock and the precision guitar work of classic Thin Lizzy — produces some infectious, exultant tunes, the onstage charisma of the band in general and the singer in particular forms the most important part of its appeal. Clad in impossibly tight pants, cherry-red wrestling shoes, and little else, Valient prowls the stage soaked in sweat, striking mock-muscleman poses and exhorting the audience with the inexhaustible, manic energy of a true rock 'n' roll evangelist.
The power of Valient Thorr's proselytizing can be seen at any show. A growing legion of die-hard fans, called Thorriors, pledge allegiance to the band above all others, often sporting customized jean jackets as emblems of their dedication. In that sense, at least, the band is like Kiss. One Thorrior, a Kansas City native, has even been granted an honorary Venusian surname; "Tim Thorr," as he is known, "has more Thorrior tattoos than anyone else" explains Valient. "We call him the True Believer."
Touring with a band as well-known as Motorhead, Valient Thorr is sure to win more converts to its cause. But whether people like it or not, or whether they believe it or not, the Thorrs will be out there. "I think performing is in your blood," Valient says. "I think everyone was born to do something. We didn't go to school to be rock 'n' rollers — it's just something that came out of us. It's an idea that started and it just had to happen." *
VALIENT THORR with Motorhead, Clutch
Wed/2, 8 p.m.; $35
982 Market, SF