The Valley Downs are
Marianne Shimkus - Vocals, Guitar
Mike Galassini - Vocals, Bass, Guitar
Christian Peterson - Drums, Vocals
Todd Rusin - Guitar

“This band started more as a songwriting project,” says Mike. “I was playing in other bands and whenever I had written a new song, I’d go have Marianne sing it to get a different perspective. Finally it just made sense to start recording the songs because she sang them so well.”

So the Chicago based songwriting project became a recording project. Marianne and Mike soon recorded some tracks with Jeff Murphy (producer Material Issue, Local H, Shoes) and George Langis (producer/engineer Lucky Boys Confusion, engineer Smashing Pumpkins). Marianne began to bring in her own songs and Mike began writing more with Marianne’s vocals in mind. “Marianne is quite a mimic: She can imitate all of our friends,” says Mike. “What she is definitely not is a "chick singer" - by this I mean she is NOT someone who wants to be on American Idol. She digs Buddy Holly, The Beatles and other cool music. So I realized I could write songs form different view points and characters and she could deliver them in a unique way. It brought on a new way of writing songs.”

Brought in for the recording and ensuing flurry of live shows were powerhouse drummer Chris Peterson and guitarist Todd Rusin. The band has since played an amazing number of live shows, literally across the country and overseas, in a very short time. Highlights include the Cavern Club and Mathew Street Festival in Liverpool and club performances in London, New York, Los Angeles, Nashville and Madison, along with numerous performances in their hometown, Chicago.

The songs fall loosely into the tradition of Chicago’s Power Pop scene, but they really move in many more directions than that. While songs like the tongue-in-cheek “Prison Ain’t No Fun For A Girl” exemplify the band’s character driven songs with its country riffs (courtesy of Todd’s Tele B-bender), the plaintive song “Better” swerves into a much more personal message. And if there is some boy-meets-girl material, there are also songs like the gender-bending “Drama Queen”, which suggests a much darker and twisted view of life and “love”.

As always with a song-driven band, the real story is in the songs. The debut CD, Behemoth EP, is just a small, first taste of what the Downs are currently recording and writing. The band also recorded their haunting version of The Beatles’ “For No One” for BBC Radio Merseyside in support of its appearance at the Mathew Street Festival in Liverpool and the song has since also received radio-play in Portugal, France, New York, Los Angeles and several other cities across the globe. A list of recent radio plays is available on the News & Reviews page of

The band is currently wrapping up the final mixes on its debut CD at Signal Sound Source on Chicago’s West side. Mike, who also designed The Valley Downs web site, has been trading web-designing time with producer George Langis for recording time. “It’s all in the grand tradition of Chicago’s DYI (do-it-yourself) mentality,” says Langis. “As significantly,” adds Mike “It has given us the opportunity to a make recordings on the same type of analog tape machines that our favorite records were made on.”

So what’s next for this band that seems to have done so much so quickly? “We are going to finish this record,” says Marianne. “Then start another,” Mike quickly adds. With live shows scheduled all over the map and a few dozen new songs finished or in the works, The Valley Downs’ hectic agenda is poised to payoff in a way that matters most to the band. “What it comes down to for us,” says Mike. “It’s really all about the creative work - playing shows, making recordings and then writing new songs. I feel like we’re just getting started."

- Renata Hintz

Biography in Word format - click here
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