Circuit Sweet Interview, Feature

Castrovalva- The Final Interview By Leemun Smith

June 22, 2014

Oli Montez- Circuit Sweet  Oli Montez Circuit Sweet






Castrovalva are a band we discovered a few years ago- we slightly became obsessed with this Leeds talent and knew it wouldn’t be long before their fanbase was enviable and their music was heard by all the right people. A band that originally started as just drums and bass; the duo consisting of Anthony Wright on Bass and Daniel Brader on drums. It wasn’t long before Leemun Smith joined Castrovalva to develop the act into what it is today.

Since their 2007 formation, their members grew as did their releases. Two full length, life changing albums and two 10″ split releases via Brew Records to name a few. In October 2012 Castrovalva returned with their new album ‘You’re not in Hell, You’re in Purgatory My Friend’ released through the recently closed Leeds label Brew (Nine Black Alps, Kong, Blacklisters, Humanfly).

Live, the trio just captivate each and every person in the audience, regardless of their taste. During their set, Castrovalva effortlessly beam from track to track, genre to genre. Thunderous bass lines, addictive and mesmerizing vocals and annihilating drum beats and rolls, every live performance more alluring than the last. In their time they’ve played Reading and Leeds BBC Introducing Stage, the first ever ArcTangent festival, shared stages with the likes of Pulled Apart By Horses, Exit International and Monotonix.

Castrovalva are personal friends of Circuit Sweet. A trio we’ve partied with, our own Aulos have played Leemun’s front room, we’ve joined them at multiple gigs over the space of 4 years. Tables have been thrown, Ant’s bass has knocked out a few crowd members, animal masks have been worn, there’s been a lot of milkshake on the scene, nintendo 64 has been played and that’s just a few nights that we’ve had the pleasure in sharing with the three. We were honored to have mentions in their thank you credits in their 2012 album release. Castrovalva are more than just a band, they’ve actively helped us and for that we are eternally grateful.

June 12th, Castrovalva announced via their facebook page that they were sadly no more. ” it is with a heavy heart that we say the band castrovalva is no more. We wish there was a crazy story to give as to why its happening however, the truth is distance, time, and general life have put us in a position where we feel we cannot continue as a band. We will all continue as close friends, and we will all support each other with project that we will no doubt be involved with in the future.”- This announcement shocked the valva community.

We are delighted to spend a little more time with Leemun to find out more about the final moments of Castrovalva, the highlights for the trio and what each musician will be getting up to now- to put these fans minds at rest.

Thank you for spending some more time with us.

Firstly introduce yourselves, How long have you each been playing and performing live?

I’m Leemun Smith singer/dancer in the late Castrovalva.

It was 5 years for me, Dan and Ant it’s been maybe 6-7 Years? I’m not to sure I remember Ant playing bass in a band called Blue Sky Project at the time. Castrovalva started as a instrumental duo similar sound and style to Lighting Bolt and Death From Above 1979
Back to the beginning of Valva and the formation of the band, how did all three of you meet?
At the time I was in a band called The Velvet Orchestra and was looking around for the right label, Dan and Ant ran a small indie label called Salt The Wound Records, I love the stuff they was putting out! Saw they liked Mars Volta and thought F*CK IT! MySpace messaged Dan for an address to send demos, went to Leeds the following week and personally posted a demo through his letter box.
Email the next day and they wanted to work with me!, was great we released a 7″ split with another band on the label Solus Locus (post rock/ambient) and then a year later I moved to Leeds to start my own art company called Kraffhics.
Dan and Ant asked me to design the mini album artwork, I said yes of course asked for the tracks to get some inspiration and one track just stood out for me… I heard the drums and bass kick it and I just heard it… The thing that was missing. So I set up my garage band imported the track and sang down my shitty little mic on my mic and laid down the missing piece, I remember it like yesterday haha. It was 4am and my girlfriend at the time was pissed I mean the face on it!! Just pissed about me singing so fucking high at 4am!. I didn’t give a shit! I needed to put this down!… Sent the track to Dan… He loved it. I laid more vocals on some others next thing I’m playing Live at Leeds 2009 at the Packhorse and everyone is going crazy! And With the Velvet Orchestra not really doing much I thought why the fuck not do this.. No one actually asked me to join Castrovalva I just turned up and sang haha.
Casting back to when you were recording the EP, split releases and the albums, enlighten us on your writing process and how you utilize your workmanship, did certain members have their own roles within material making.
The mini album I never wrote that was all them two but when I joined we went to a rehearsal room the bottom of town and wrote Thuglife and Outlawz we found like this pop noisey hip hop style sound from out of nowhere so we stuck with it. Start of Pump Pump by me and Ant and Dan filled the rest, That’s What I’m Talking About by Ant and Dan.. We all had something when writing for We Are A Unit and the Splits.
We would sing or hum a riff, record them on the iPhone and send them to each other haha That was basically every!! Castrovalva song!.. We didn’t need rehearsals! We booked studio time and recorded everything on the day from just little riffs hummed on the iPhone.
On Purgatory I wrote maybe 60% of the album as I just had all these riffs and 3-4 full songs ready and but again we booked the studio without rehearsing in a year and that came out! Haha.. We just worked so well together!
How has your own writing process changed/developed throughout each release?
It never changed.

Basically listen to different genres and take a break from rehearsing, suddenly got a riff in your head? Record it on you’re phone haha then when studio time comes, play the ideas and fit them all together.

2012′s ‘You’re not in Hell, You’re in Purgatory My Friend’ solidified Castrovalva a respectful reputation and dutiful support from a fan base, did you expect the support that arose from the release? And how does this make you feel knowing the work you create is constantly aiding others?

Purgatory won album of the year! In Vibrations Magazine a free Leeds based magazine I always picked up in crash records! From 2007 onwards. I remember seeing Forward Russia and Thisetal on the covers and I wanted to be in it! So winning that with bands like Hawk Eyes, Pulled Apart By Horses, Blacklisters etc also in the running was amazing to me!. I was surprised but not at the same time! It’s a great album!, fans loved it and I guess they just wanted new stuff and loved it.

You had a lot of involvement with Leeds label Brew Records before they ceased the business. How did your involvement with Brew initially come about?

Dan and Ant was already on the label I came in and it all just got bigger. With Donut and Pump Pump as our debut singles people didn’t really hear that kinda stuff anymore and the downloads got crazy! and Brew knew they had something and worked their asses off to push the music into more main stream! Sadly with swearing haha radio wasn’t really interested but we got to play many awesome festivals and tour with amazing bands and got shit loads of press.

Sadly as mentioned, just a few days ago you announced that Castrovalva had reached the end of the road, clearly for any band this is a difficult decision, but why was this outcome reached?

Remember getting the Email… I knew what it was going to say as we hadn’t spoke in a few months. “Maybe time to call it” damn… I thought Nahhh we can work through it but both guys agreed it was time… I did say before Ant joined Brawlers that you can’t do 2 bands haha, it’s true you can’t and with them guys doing loads of shows it was hard to book shows for us! Guessing Dan saw what was happening and with me living so far away I couldn’t really bring the positive vibes and make Ant and Dan remember why we started this band.

Maybe it’s my fault for moving back to Birmingham cause every house mate would fuck me over on the bills in Leeds or I needed to be close to my daughter?… Maybe we just got bored playing small shows and wanted bigger support slots and no fucking agent would give us the time of day cause we didn’t stick by the fucking rules or the sound wasn’t pussy enough for radio 1… Maybe Brawlers is better then Valva… Maybe…. We just wasn’t close anymore.

I didn’t want Valva to end we had something!… That sound!.. Such a waste! It breaks my heart.

The decision was a pivotal and upsetting moment, but to the outside world it seemed like such an unexpected shock- how have your fans reacted?

Gutted and confused but like I said it could be many reasons, Myself Dan and Ant have never had an argument and never will.. I love them.. Like LOVE! them and I wish we could of sorted this without it ending.

What does Castrovalva mean to you?

Got 5 things most important to me

My Daughter, my Mother, my Fiancée, Castrovalva and my Friends

During your time together what have been the highlight(s) and most defining moments of valvas time?

Playing Leeds and Reading Festival and Headlining Barcelona. Also touring with Exit International the best guys you could ask for! Stealing big boxes of donuts from the service station just getting into crazy shit.

Do you have a favorite track/release?

I Am The Golden Widow

Is there a gig that just felt like the pinnacle moment for Valva?

Live at Leeds 2012 I think it was?? At the Cockpit.. Was the best gig ever! with friends and fans. Also Barcelona.

You’ve been on the road a lot during your time, you really are one of the most hard working UK bands. What does it take to keep pushing yourselves each night?

I love performing and going on tour I have just a few things that I need, pizza and drinks on the rider, £150 for petrol and van costs and a place to stay. So not so much pushing more living the dream haha.

What is it that you personally get from your performance?

I never remember anything on stage I kinda turn into this beast, like a werewolf seeing the moon.. I hear the music and I transform sooooo couldn’t tell ya.

What advice would you give to any new aspiring acts trying to progress their career further?

Make sure you give away your best songs! Hate band that charge for 1 single.. It will help you build a fan base and then when the buzz is on you get a good press guy and get him to contact agents.

Leemun, you’ve announced your musical return already in new outfit AGAMOTTO, can you let us know more on this and what we can look forward to?

Agamotto was born the minute I got the “lets call it” email… I thought fuck this I got like 9 tracks ready and I’m not wasting them! I worked to hard to just give up. Went straight to PMT brought a Big Muff, Octave Multiplexer and a BOSS PS-6 cleaned up my old fender jazz master guitar and starting riffing out.
Got to understand I love Valva but because someone wants to call it don’t mean I’m gonna cry and not carry on. I’m still sticking to my style that I brought to Valva so hopefully people will like that. Got my good friend Alex Didlock on the drums one of the best drummers I’ve ever played with, and we start practising Thursday.
Agamotto isn’t Valva it’s what I wanted Valva to become that next level.. So the shit we do won’t be for the faint hearted.
What else in the future can we look forward to from all members of Valva?
Ant plays bass in a Pop-Punk band called Brawlers
Dan is having time but I’m sure he will find another band soon and do what he does best… Make that band sound amazing.
And Me…… Try one last time before I’m 30

And Finally any last words from you?

Thanks everyone for the support with Valva it was amazing and hopefully we will do one last show in august, Also I hope you support my new project Agamotto as this will be it for me.

We wish Ant, Dan and Leemun the best of luck with everything and from the bottom of our hearts- thank you for everything!!!!


We will report the final show in Leeds when more details are announced. These three musicians will go far in their next ventures, that we know.

All images by Oli Montez.
Email for copies/permission of use.


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