Ahhh fall time in Charleston: bonfires, oyster roasts, and craft beer. We may not have leaves in the low-country but we have an abundance of colorful musicians that bring Autumn to our heat index. Aaron & Christina O’Brien, of Oh Valentino, ooze of originals, cozy classics, and are essential to Charleston’s craft beer scene. Aaron’s lively spirit is matched by Christina’s haunting vocals to create a symphony of their own.
So not many people know this but you guys are a husband and wife [duo]. How did that get started?
C:Craigslist. Good 'Ol Craig.
A:I put an ad out on there looking for musicians and we were musicians first and spouses later.
What specialties do you guys bring musically?
C:I think our harmonies are really strong. When people hear us, they always talk about our voices together.
You do [resemble] The Civil Wars.
A:We do get compared to them and they were one of our bigger influences early on. Damien Rice as well; which formed a lot of what we were looking for in creating a sound together.
C:I love it when people suggest certain bands that we would never even think of. It always ends up being perfect, most of the time.
A:People often hear us, send us songs, and say “I'd love to hear you guys do this song".
C:It doesn't necessarily have to be a guy-girl duo either. But normally it is centered around harmonies.
Yeah your vocal range is so broad, which is great.
A:We certainly are not a party band.
C:We play a lot of sad songs. We used to drink to every dying song.
A:Yeah but we ended up getting really drunk so we had to stop that game. We try to keep an interest, play songs that people like to hear. We also like to transform stuff and make people look twice when they hear a song.
A:They will know it but they don't quite know it when we play it until they are like “oh wait a minute…that's Britany Spears".
Did you guys want to keep it chill and play local or have you thought about traveling?
C: We can't. [laughter]
A: We made a decision early on that this would always be fun for us. We don't ever want it to feel like a job. We are very fortunate that we don't depend on this to pay our bills. We want to keep it that way because it takes a lot of the pressure off. It means that we can be selective about when we play and where we play.
C: We've played at sports bars where you are competing with television. Now we never have to play those particular venues.
A: The venues that get us, keep inviting us back. We go well with a big craft beer crowd. I like to think that because they are discerning people but it's probably because they are all drunk as hell.
Aaron, you're from England tell us a little bit about that.
A:Well England is a small backwards country in NorthWestern Europe.
I like how you have to reiterate that for Americans.
A: Yeah, it's bigger than London. I came stateside many years ago as a college student. I played music before I came here and picked up right where I left off. Although I never felt satisfied with the music projects that I had until Oh Valentino.
How did you guys come up with the name?
A: I just made it up.
C:I was in a band, before, that was going through a legal issue, [with their own name], with another band who had the copyright to the band name. However, they only played around Atlanta; therefore, legally we were able to have their name. So when Aaron mentioned 'Oh Valentino' I immediately searched to see if anyone had the same name.
A:There's actually an old song titled 'Oh Valentino' (Caterina Valente) but not a band. We thought about adopting it as our entrance music.
Do you two have similar tastes in music?
A: There are. I'm more into world and jazz.
C:I'm more of a grunge/alternative gal.
A:Those influences don't seem to work their way into our music very much though. What we listen to and what we play are not the same.
C: We know what works for us and it's not necessarily music that we don't listen to.
A: There's also the time restraint. It's extremely difficult to coordinate schedules with other people plus we have two full time jobs and two kids. It's a bumper because we do really enjoy it when we can. [Because of that] we are inflexible so other people may feel the same way about us.
C: Who's inflexible?
A: Me, me, me. I'll own to that!
C: He knows what he likes and that's what he likes.
A: I'm Popeye the Sailor man. Toot Toot!
So what about your musical background Chris?
C: I was always in choir/a cappella. I've always enjoyed singing the harmony.
A: She can pick out a harmony seconds.
C: That was a challenge for me growing up because I really wanted to choose the hardest harmony. Then I was in an alternative band; which, I wasn't quite happy with because I never really sang, instead just played keys. Even then, I find this a lot in bands, there's always someone who wants to turn up louder than everybody else.
A: In this band, it's me.
C: No, we are quite balanced. However after I played with Apollo Drive I played with a band called Candela, which had the legal issue. They were actually getting ready to play for CMJ, the music festival in New York. They knew me from the previous band and had me come in and record and go on tour with them. I came in on the backside of them not creating new material, which is where I [thrive]. I did sing with another girl so it was a lot of harmony but I was a bit of an after thought. I quit for a really long time until I answered a Craigslist ad.
A:In Craig we trust.
Balanced is a good term for you two. You have the full-time jobs, you have the kids, and you have the music. How you do you make it work?
A: It means we never get to hang out with our friends, unless it's 30 minutes before a gig.
You guys were awarded “Best Husband & Wife Duo You've Never Heard Of".
A: And still no one has heard of us which is half by design and half due to laziness. We are terrible self promotors. We are very humble people. We are not social media savvy, we've never tweeted in our lives.
Word-of-Mouth is still number one.
A: Yeah, we meet amazing people every time we play.
C: Also it's not a job for us, it's just fun.
A: We love playing weddings because we get to see really awesome places and we get to cry. Plus we always make great friends with bar staff.
If you could name a beer that's perfectly in line with your music, what would it be?
C:I like my…
A:Tall, dark, and handsome. Slightly sweet, slightly corny.
C:Aw, I like my Cucumber Time. That's our favorite two drinks here.
A:Andale is the jalapeño beer and when you mix it with Cucumber Time you create this amazing harmony of favors.
What does music mean to you?
C: A chance to be artistic and to be together. It wouldn't be as much fun if I didn't have Aaron right there beside me. A chance to think outside the box.
I can see it on your face, it looks like love.
C: It is! But like I said, I wouldn't have as much love for it if it wasn't the two of us.
A: We say it all the time that it's cool that we get to do this together. Lots of people want that and we are fortunate to have that. It is a chance for us to take off our professional hat and our parent hat. It's like a deep breath for us. We recharge.
C: Even at our day jobs, we are listening to music and then I'll find something I've never heard of and I'll send it to him. We are constantly all about music.
That's amazing. Do you have anything that you want to add?
A:We are really happy that we finally got to sit and talk to you.
*Insert Real Joe Cook, friend and percussionist*
Joe, do you have anything that you want to add?
J: Rock on!
C: It's Joetry!