Artist Profile: My Bloody Valentine

Shoegaze, otherwise known as dream pop, was one of the revolutionary genres that have come out of the 1980s. Most of the artists and bands that incorporate shoegaze into their music have an eerie, dreamlike, and sometimes unnerving sound to their songs, and this style of music is achieved through subtle guitar distortion effects, feedback from instruments, and vocals that sound “drowned out” or obscured.

One of the bands that popularized the shoegaze genre is My Bloody Valentine, an Irish-English band that started making music in 1983. To know more about this experimental alternative band, here is the artist profile for My Bloody Valentine.

Formation

Kevin Shields and Colm Ó Cíosóig, the two founding members of the band, became friends when they were introduced to each other during a karate tournament in the southern region of Dublin. According to them, they became close friends overnight, and their shared love for music inspired them to form a punk band called The Complex. 

The said band would later disband when one of their members, Liam Ó Maonlaí, left to form another band called Hothouse Flowers. Shields and Ó Cíosóig would then form A Life in the Day, but it would disband as well since they cannot get enough people to watch them play at gigs. However, their two disbanded bands didn’t stop the two from playing music, as they would later form My Bloody Valentine in 1983 alongside vocalist David Conway.

Early Lineup Changes

Despite the relative success that they had within the first months of My Bloody Valentine, they have already experienced a lot of lineup changes. The first one that officially left the band was bassist Mark Ross, who would be later replaced by Paul Murtagh in December 1983. Unfortunately, Murtagh would also leave after a few months of March 1984. Original lead guitarist Stephen Ivers would also leave the band around the time they recorded their first demo in the home of Shields’ parents. Right after the recording, Conway invited her then-girlfriend, Tina Durkin, to join the band as a keyboard player.

When they weren’t getting enough recognition in Dublin, My Bloody Valentine relocated to the Netherlands in the middle of 1984. In the said country, they were able to get moderate success, as they even once became the opening act for American rock band R.E.M on April 8, 1984. Following their successful gigs, they decided to move to West Berlin, Germany, in the late months of 1984, where they would also record their debut mini-album titled “This Is Your Bloody Valentine” in 1985. After the subpar release of the mini-album, the band relocated to London.

In London, the members of the band didn’t contact each other for months, and Tina Durkin eventually left the band because she felt unconfident in her keyboard playing skills. The remaining members of the band would soon reunite, and they decided to host auditions for a bassist. Shields would later get Debbie Googe’s phone number and contact her to become the bassist of the band. With this lineup, they recorded “Geek,” their debut extended play that was released in December 1985.

Because their success was on a slow decline due to their recordings not getting enough sales, Shields started contemplating migrating to New York City, where most of his family members were living. However, Shields and the other members of the band were persuaded to continue playing as My Bloody Valentine by Joe Foster, who formed Kaleidoscope Sound and asked the band to be the first artist signed to the label. The band would then release their second EP, “The New Record by My Bloody Valentine,” in September 1986. The EP would then be their first successful recording, thus allowing them to perform more gigs around London.

Lazy Records Signing

In 1987, My Bloody Valentine signed to another label called Lazy Records. The band would then release the single titled “Sunny Sundae Smile” under the label, and that song would peak at number 6 on the UK Indie Singles Chart. Despite the success they were now having in My Bloody Valentine, David Conway decided to leave the band around the same year, citing health concerns that were brought on by his gastric illness. However, Conway also stated that he wanted to become a writer instead because of his disillusionment with music. The band would then struggle to find a fitting vocalist to replace Conway. Eventually, they have decided to recruit Bilinda Butcher as a co-lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist for the band. Shields would then move to be both the co-lead vocalist and lead guitarist.

My Bloody Valentine would release a three-track single titled “Strawberry Wine” in November 1987, which would be followed up by their second mini-album “Ecstasy” in the same month. While Strawberry Wine was successful, Ecstasy was heavily criticized as a “half-finished album” because it lacks the overall shoegaze sound that My Bloody Valentine popularized. The criticism was actually deserved, as My Bloody Valentine really did not have enough money to pay the studio sessions, as Lazy Records refused to compensate for the payments and would only handle the album’s promotion. Because of disagreements, the band would terminate their contract under Lazy Records in 1989.

Rise in Popularity under Creation Records

Through fortunate circumstances, My Bloody Valentine found another label that wanted to sign them when they performed in Canterbury in January 1988, where they opened for Biff Bang Pow! that included Alan McGee, the founder of Creation Records. The band would then sign under Creation Records and was invited to record a single in the label’s studio. With the help of the label, they were able to release their third EP, “You Made Me Realise,” on August 8, 1988. The EP received wide critical acclaim from both reviewers and listeners. In November 1988, My Bloody Valentine followed up the EP with their first full-length album titled “Isn’t Anything.” The release of their first studio album launched them into the spotlight, as the album peaked at number 1 on the UK Indie Chart.

Due to pressure and the building personal problems between Shield and McGee, the band experienced difficulties recording the second album. It was reported that the band had to travel to 19 different studios and hired a number of engineers to help them create the intended overall sound for the album. Around the time of their struggles, Shield and McGee agreed to release an EP to not keep fans waiting for new material. The released EP was titled “Glider” and was released in April 1990. Another EP was released in February 1991, which was called “Tremolo.” Finally, the band released their second studio album, “Loveless,” in November 1991. The second album was not a commercial success, and because of the expensiveness of recording the album, McGee believed that My Bloody Valentine bankrupted Creation Records. McGee decided to drop the band as one of the artists of the label, thus leaving My Bloody Valentine without any labels in the later months of 1991 and the early months of 1992.

Breakup

My Bloody Valentine would sign with Island Records in October 1992. Even though they have just recently signed to a bigger deal, the band experienced a “semi-meltdown” as members began disagreeing with how their songs should be recorded. In addition, Shields was also rumored to have suffered from “writer’s block” during the band’s time with Island Records. Because they were unable to release new material, the band decided to release two cover songs, “We Have All the Time in World” by Louis Armstrong and “Map Ref. 41°N 93°W” by Wire.

Three years after their contract signing, Debbie Googe and Colm Ó Cíosóig decided to leave the band. Googe would find work as a taxi driver while also playing for an indie band called Snowpony, while Ó Cíosóig migrated to the United States, where he would form the band Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions with Mazzy Star lead singer Hope Sandoval. In 1997, Bilinda Butcher would quit the band, leaving Shields as the only remaining member of My Bloody Valentine. Unable to write new songs and release an album, Shield became a touring member for Scottish rock band Primal Scream and collaborated with many different artists like Dinosaur Jr. and Yo La Tengo. According to both Shield and Butcher, the songs that they recorded together from 1996 to 1997 would fill at least two albums, but those songs were never released. The band would officially break up in 1999.

Reunion

It was heavily rumored in 2007 that My Bloody Valentine would reunite to play for Coachella in 2008. After many rumors and reports, Shields officially declared in the middle of 2007 that the band would reunite and perform a series of shows at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. The band finally reunited and performed in public for the first time in 16 years on June 13, 2008, at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, UK.

After their first performance as a reunited band, My Bloody Valentine then went on a world tour in 2008. The tour would later be extended in 2009 due to popular demand. A compilation album called “EP’s 1988-1991” was released on May 4, 2012, after a series of delays.

The album, which has been teased by Shield to have been the third album that was worked on by him and Butcher in 1996, would be reworked and finished so that the band can finally release it. On February 2, 2013, the band’s third studio album, “m b v,” was released and received universal acclaim by critics, fans, and new listeners.

Current and Future Plans

On March 13, 2021, My Bloody Valentine announced that they have officially signed with the Domino Recording Company, a record label focused on independent music in London. With the help of their new record label, the band’s full discography became accessible to major streaming platforms like Spotify and YouTube Music on May 21 of the same year. As for their future plans, Kevin Shields stated that the band is currently working on new songs, with plans for multiple EPs and an experimental double-album also revealed.