Action Pants 3:280:00/3:28
Gorky was formed in 2001 by Show Low High School sophomores Jesse Valencia (vocals/guitar) and Ben Holladay (drums/percussion) shortly after they bonded over their shared love of comic books, movies, and underground indie rock at a time when rap metal, grunge, and emo-drenched pop punk were the dominant sounds popular with their teenage peers.
When they first started writing songs, they found their primary influences in the sounds of the post-punk and garage rock revivals of the early 2000’s, an aesthetic now affectionately referred to as “Indie Sleaze.” Initially inspired by groups like The Strokes, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Interpol out of NYC, and The Libertines, Bloc Party, and Franz Ferdinand out of the UK, Gorky quickly crafted a unique sound of their own that simultaneously evoked the power pop sensibilities of their peers while carving a niche of their own.
The biggest problem for the group at that time, in the era of MySpace and Napster, was that the wave they were waiting on crested long before it ever reached the Southwest, and Gorky was never interested in copying Arizona’s then-recent darlings Jimmy Eat World or the Gin Blossoms, as many local bands at the time were doing. If they couldn’t make it to the UK, NYC, or LA, they’d have to recreate the indie rock scenes happening there on their own in their small rural town, and that’s exactly what they did.
Shortly after high school, Jesse joined the US Army Reserves as an MP and spent the majority of his signing bonus upgrading their band equipment and starting sessions for their first album, but the band and record’s progress was suddenly halted in 2008 when Valencia was found at-fault in a DUI car wreck that shattered his ankle and loaded him up with severe financial debt and legal troubles.
Still, the band kept writing and recording several demos, releasing them locally as albums as more bands and artists started to form in the White Mountains, some of whom went on to greater success elsewhere, such as Zella Day and Charles Ellsworth.
While he was on probation, Jesse went to college and started writing the book that would become the critically-acclaimed “Keep Music Evil: The Brian Jonestown Massacre Story,” during which time he would learn an incredible amount about the music industry and the recording process.
In 2014, Jesse finished his probation and with it, his guilty plea was vacated and his civil rights were restored in full. Now free of legal woes, sober, and with a couple of Masters Degrees under his belt, Jesse poured all of his energy once again back into the band, which between a couple underground hits, some movie cameos, and good press quickly found their way to the top of the Arizona music scene.
In 2018, Gorky began mastering their back catalog of obscure tunes and self-released them as the compilations “The Gork…And How To Get It!” and “More Electric Music.” In 2019, “Keep Music Evil” was published internationally by Jawbone Press and the band embarked on their first-ever tour in support of their album “Mathemagician.”
Then, just as they were making plans for a West Coast tour, with the COVID-19 pandemic everything came to a screeching halt once again. Not to be outdone by an apocalypse, Jesse graduated the David Lynch MFA in Screenwriting program in 2020 and pulled off the Sitgreaves County publicity stunt in 2021, which landed the band on the cover of Arizona’s largest newspaper, helped turn the state blue, and set the stage for the group to produce their first feature film.
Beginning in 2020, with the band being shut down, Jesse began a solo career with the hip-hop song "Birkenstocks," a Tik-Tok hit, and recording the albums "The First Band On Mars" and "MPLS 83 Dream," released one month apart in 2022.
Tragically, in January of 2023, Ben passed away from complications stemming from Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, a rare genetic disease, following a three-year battle with heart and lung failure after contracting Covid in 2020. This tragedy has led to the band being put on hiatus, with the expectation they would one day return. In the meantime, production is moving forward on a documentary being produced by the band, with more details TBA.
As of October 2023, Jesse relocated to Portland, Oregon and has jumped headlong into the local music, film, and literary scenes. A documentary about the band and the White Mountain music scene is currently in pre-production.