Tender Forever comes along in tough times. Nobody can ignore the dark places we’ve watched the world go in the past few years. But as divisions grows in the world, so does our ability to connect. Ours is a world exploding with communication and Tender Forever sits neatly in the center of that explosion. Lots of flights and some missed phone calls, friends here, lovers there. Missed connections and connections made. Melanie Valera’s Franco-American pop project spans nationalities and leaps forward towards a world where we can close the gaps between countries, ideologies and ultimately hearts. Move closer.
Valera was born in 1977, the year of the punk, and spent her formative years in the village of Maurrin, in south west France. As often happens, this small town kid pushed past the restrictions of that kind of environment, out into the larger world. In this case the city of Bordeaux and the University Michel de Montaigne of Arts. Her years in Bordeaux saw her developing an aesthetic that would transfer into her first musical projects the Bonnies, and later, Garrison Rocks. Armed with girl group and R&B classics The Bonnies took on the streets of Bordeaux, and with the partnership of a Californian band mate and intelligent, soulful pop Garrison Rocks took on Melanie’s expanding world.
Tender Forever became Melanie’s project in 2003, a solo effort which simplified and concentrated her music. A laptop, a long mic cord and almost too much enthusiasm was all it took. Tender Forever from the start was as much an experience as a band. That girl with the mic moves with passion, pounds out fear, falls to her knees, cranks up the visuals and passes it off to you. All of this quickly led her out of Bordeaux to the gentle state of Washington and that weird, weird city of Olympia. New friends and collaborators of a like mind (including Mirah, The Blow, Anna Oxygen and Calvin Johnson) kept it a busy summer. These new connections would be the beginning of a Northwest/Bordeaux connection sending bands back and forth, and further establishing Melanie’s new intercontinental artistic life.
The Soft and the Hardcore, released by K in 2005 was the culmination of everything Melanie had done up to this point and then some. Songs sung in the tiny moments of waiting, hoping and loving that we experience daily, fleshed out in full color and life. The explicitly personal and ecstatically universal converged into one, filled with the power of international anthems. The Soft and the Hardcore is a testament to the terrifying and trilling first moments of love and self realization.
With her 2007 release, Wider, Melanie stretched out across both the globe and an expansive musical landscape. The album was recorded between Bordeaux and Olympia in the Dub Narcotic studio, hotel rooms, friend’s basements and guestrooms. Both lush and focused, Wider portrays an artist and person with new confidence, at home in a big/small world. For all their power Tender Forever songs remain just that — tender. A song is a delicate thing and Melanie coaxes these fragile things into the larger world. Tender Forever is the biggest, softest sound you’ve heard. It’s a kick drum in an empty warehouse while little kids play right outside.
Melanie’s third full length album, No Snare, was released in June 2010. This album moves away from the more exuberant dance oriented songs of past years into a darker and more melancholy direction. We get a deeper, denser sound, with songs that push through the forest as the evening comes, dripping wet; the lights of a little house up ahead. Perhaps it’s her current residence in the damp and dirty Pacific Northwest. Maybe it’s adulthood. Throughout Tender Forever’s work there is a commitment to understanding feelings and desires and seeing them through to completion. No Snare pushes through the wake and lays the turmoil to rest.
Tender Forever’s new album “Where Are We From” takes lost souls by the hand to create a chain of blinding light that leads to freedom and togetherness. Each song is impeccably different from the last and yet together, the collection is undeniably holistic and tightly interlaced. This is what you listen to on a road trip to your new self, louder than everything as the interstate ahead of you ribbons into dust and the blur of life is a distraction of sparkly lights. This is what makes your hands beat into your steering wheel and your head throw backwards to sing along. This is what you listen to when you need to shrug off an old armor in order to be reborn and washed clean while a steady hand gently pushes you in the direction of growth. Where Are We From is your new path, should you be brave enough to walk it?
4 successful opuses (K RECORDS) and more than 800 international shows later, she has worked on multimedia projects, including collaborations with film maker Ted Passon, Multimedia artist Nick Lally and producer Christopher Doulgeris. She has shared the stage with Cocorosie, Men, Deerhoof, The Blow, Calvin Johnson, Mirah, Electrelane and many more. Most recently, she performed at the TBA FESTIVAL 2010 in Portland-OR, the Whitney Museum in New York City and La Cité Internationale in Paris and soon at the Arts centers Georges Pompidou and La Gaité Lyrique in Paris to represent Portland’s scene. She has composed scores for multiple shorts, video games and advertisement. Melanie Valera’s multimedia pop projects explore and challenge spaces, overlap realities, tell you stories, span nationalities and leaps forward towards a world where we can close the gaps between countries, ideologies and ultimately hearts. She just currently released a 4th album on K records and has received the RAAC Grant to complete a collaborative project called with visual artist and animator Peter Burr. She went on a national tour playing the bass, noodling on keys and computer programs, drumming and singing with Thao and Mirah. A new coming LP 2013 announces exciting collaborations with Portland active scene members as well as new multimedia adventures that she just partially showcased at the Henry Art Museum in January 2012.