Valley Girl, the hottest and most recently polarizing hardcore four-piece from San Fernando, CA, uploaded a four-track demo tape, Demo, to YouTube on Friday, January 18. Shrouded in mystery and divulging no further information, save for the videos description, crediting only celebrated hardcore producer Taylor Young and his brother Colin Young, who provided the drums for the tape. There was no information for over a week about who the singer was, sparking excitable discourse and mockery with new fans and curious onlookers hypothesizing about the vocalist's identity and ragging on the band's chosen name.
That excitement, however, came screeching to a halt after word (and video) of the band's first live set began circulating. Valley Girl opened on a six-band bill at the Midnight Hour in San Fernando on Saturday, January 27, where they played the entirety of Demo and a little extra, finally unveiling their frontman's secret identity. Clad in what appeared to be pink pajama pants and a muddy orange hoodie, pacing restlessly across the record store's cramped plywood stage, was none other than The Neighbourhood's Jesse Rutherford. Rutherford paced through the intro of Demo's intro track "See No Peace," glancing at his bandmates, bassist Rocky Trombetti, guitarist Sean Chamilian and drummer Colin Young for assurance, as the crowd swayed apprehensively, itching for the band to begin.
Valley Girl had the Midnight Hour crowd moving from the first breakdown on "See No Peace," inspiring a new listener to through the open pit every few bars, elbows and ankles up and flying; photographers in every corner had to stay vigilante and mobile for fear of damaging their equipment or injuring themselves. Rutherford also became more confident as the set progressed, losing his hoodie and smiling visibly throughout. He addressed the audience formally between "Pepper Spray" and "Mad Dog" to express his gratitude. "Yo, this is the best shit that I've felt in so long, and i think all of us could agree," Rutherford pointed indiscriminately into the brightly lit back room, thanking the shop for hosting, the crowd for listening and attending, their longtime friends, Cosmic Joke, for supporting, and briefly touched on the band's year-long effort of writing and collaboration leading up to their January show. "I don't want to go too 'hardcore monologue' on you but I fucking could."
Rutherford's latest endeavor has not been met online with the same enthusiasm as the Midnight Hour attendees. Valley Girl has found itself as the butt of several jokes and the willing subject of some back-and-forth digital discourse. On the one hand, fans are excited to see Rutherford playing and releasing new music since The Neighbourhood announced its indefinite hiatus back in 2022, and corners of hardcore Twitter are more than pleasantly surprised with the quality of Demo. On the other hand, however, hardcore fans have criticized Rutherford's move to the genre, claiming inauthentic roots and connections to the genre, as well as a half-assed rehashing of Rutherford's brief and controversial relationship with Billie Eilish, which ended amicably in May 2023.
Cosmic Joke’s Mac Miller (no relation) took to Twitter to defend Rutherford's move to Hardcore following Saturday’s gig, explaining Rutherford's connection with the scene and their friendship:
Maaaan I really didn’t wanna get into this shit but-
1. Jess started going to shows with me over 15 years ago and had played it low key because he didn’t want to be taking attention.
2. Reasonable to hate on any band for the music but insane to make it personal with a stranger.
3. Valley Girl moved quietly and announced on the show anonymously so people would come out strictly for the music. They opened a 6 band bill and supported every other act. At the end of the day I just wanted to have my friends play our show, and I’m glad I did. They belong here
To Miller's point, it is forthcoming to judge a band based on its members before the actual musical context (at least in some cases, there are clear and egregious exceptions to this idea, even if Miller was just backing up a friend). But outside of Rutherford being an established celebrity and successful artist, Valley Girl isn't necessarily deserving of the backlash or the praise they're receiving. As a, quote, "melodic hardcore" act, there are really only two ways to go as a band. You'll either make your way down the Turnstile route and find yourself four albums and two Grammy nominations deep and excommunicated from your scene for "selling out," or you'll find yourself closer to the Otoboke Beaver template (more on them in another article), not giving a single flying fuck about keeping a successful image, throwing rocks and pointy, heavy objects at theory presets, boundary lines and incessant gatekeepers.
The trouble with Valley Girl is, one, it's too early to tell if this is "the next big thing" or if their destined for famous-singer-side-project purgatory. Two, there isn't anything particularly special about them. Not that the band isn't made up of extremely talented musicians in their own right, but the Turnstile comparisons would absolutely hold up in court. If you put Demo on in the car and told me it was off the deluxe edition of Nonstop Feeling, I wouldn't think twice about. That's not to say it's a bad demo tape, Demo is a really fun start for Valley Girl that could very well mark hardcore's next step into the alternative mainstream following the success of Glow On in 2021. Demo is full of great riffs, some of the best being in "Pepper Spray," and the rhythm section is off the fucking chain the whole tape. Rutherford also does a phenomenal job on vocals, as expected from the "Daddy Issues" singer, but where the tape succeeds in technical ability, it suffers from a lack of substance. Demo finds itself fighting an uphill battle against stuffy, and at times corny writing. "The government/the internet/the1%/the middle men/the innocent/the ignorant/it's all been killing me!" C'mon, this is riveting stuff!
Jokes aside, I'd be more than willing and curious to see Valley Girl live if they were to actually tour; based on the one show they've played, they look like they play a helluva set. But let's not forget, Rutherford is not a hardcore singer (at least not a fully fledged one), he's a glossy-eyed, 2000's Tumblr-era hottie; he made his name and his living off of the affections and infatuations of delusional, pre-chronically online individuals with heroine syndrome. It's a tough switch to make between indie pop rock and hardcore, but it's clearly one he's willing to work for out of respect for the scene and love for the genre.