Local Spotlight | ‘Lines of Flight’ by Georgio Valentino

Georgio Valentino’s new album is local music, recorded worldwide

Press photograph of Georgio Valentino
Credit: Press photograph courtesy of the artist

Lines of Flight is the newest album by Georgio Valentino, a singer-songwriter and guitarist who was formerly the editor of Folio Weekly.

In March of 2020, Valentino left Jacksonville for what was intended as a two-week sojourn to Greece, a city with which he was very familiar, being of Greek descent himself. The pandemic began mere days later, and the resulting economic catastrophe caused the demise of Folio soon after. Suddenly, Valentino found himself stuck in Europe, jobless, unable to return to America, wherein resides his family and all of his musical equipment.

What to do? He got back to work.

Lines of Flight has been percolating for a couple of years now. “I took the first steps while I was still at Folio,” he says. “I ran into my buddy Craig Walker who is an Irish musician.” This was in Orlando, but the work was done when they reconvened in Berlin. “We wrote and recorded a track in about three hours one morning and it was just so fun and so effortless.” The result was track five, “Bound Berlin.” Production really stepped up once the pandemic began. By that point, Valentino had settled into Athens life, including weekly DJ gigs, but he had other ideas.

“I didn’t have any gear here, so everyone else was doing all the heavy lifting,” he says. “They just sent me tracks from all over––I got back in touch with all the friends I used to work with. They sent me demos and tracks, I sent them old demos I had laying around. And we just sort of cut and pasted a whole project. Every track has different people doing different things at different times and it just sort of all comes together. The exercise was just to have fun and see if I could make music again without trying to get too… you know without trying to kill myself. Just to get back to that feeling of having fun, exploring sounds with your friends and being happy when it’s all done. ”

The pandemic has been stressful for everyone, and we’ve all had to develop our own coping mechanisms, some more healthy than others. Lines of Flight stands as a good example of how the new normal inadvertently led to some impressive feats of creativity, the results of which have been trickling out across the world over the past year. “Here in Greece we had very hard and long lockdowns,” he says. “So that was a bright light since we couldn’t be in the same room jamming together. There was communication, it was contact with fun, familiar people and it was new even though I’ve been doing it all my life. That took my mind off of it and gave me something to focus on that wasn’t some kind of existential dread.”

Even though the album was constructed from pieces recorded all over the world, the resulting product sounds very much like it was recorded by one band, in one place, at one time. Ever the perfectionist, though, Valentino doesn’t feel quite the same way. “To me, it doesn’t sound seamless at all,” he says. “I’ve learned over the years to let it go and let go how I feel about it and let it be what it is and let it be how other people experience it. I guess if I’m doing it, it’s going to sound like me because it’s me and I’m doing it. And so even if in my mind, from one track to the next it might sound radically different, I just kind of have faith and it’s got my fingerprints all over it. I guess that’s what the unifying thread is – even if I don’t necessarily recognize it because I’m me.”

Album artwork for 'Lines of Flight'
Album artwork for Lines of Flight, the latest full-length album by Georgio Valentino

Valentino’s voice is the common thread that unites the disparate elements of the album, which reflects the West Palm Beach native’s itinerant lifestyle. “I split Florida after college,” he says. “I was 22 or 23 when I left. I moved up to Detroit for about five years and I headed over to Brussels. And then after a while I came back to Florida as an adult. By that time, I had spent half my life outside of the state and it gave me a new perspective. It was fun to come back but I sort of felt like I returned in disgrace, like I was the prodigal son. I wanted to be a rock n roll star and I came back in defeat. But I feel like I did some fun stuff and I met some fantastic new people.”

Valentino’s vocals were recorded entirely in Athens, but music parts came through from three different continents. “So, we’ve got Athens, which is like the hub,” he says. “We’ve got Berlin, we’ve got Brussels, where I lived for nine or 10 years. you’ve got Edinburgh, you’ve got your Jacksonville, you’ve got Los Angeles and you’ve got Melbourne––not the Florida Melbourne that’s a couple of hours away from you, but the Australia Melbourne, or as they call it ‘Milbin’. Intensity in seven cities.”

Valentino is just one of the many talented musicians who have worked at Folio over the years. It’s a long and incomplete list, one that starts with former Arts and Music Editor John Citrone, drummer, singer, guitarist and a founder of several groups, most notably Dovetonsil. (He was also the guy who hired me, way back in 1997.) Others include his successor in that spot, Daniel A. Brown, former Royal Trux bassist who went on to serve with distinction at Void Magazine, under the leadership of its former editor Matthew B. Shaw, who also held the same position at Folio and is now curating the site you’re reading right now, the Jacksonville Music Experience. (His new project, Kairos Creature Club, just released an album, mere weeks ago.) 

Danny Kelly also wrote for Folio, as did Mitch Cheney, Robert Kaye, Mike Mittelstadt, Michael Fitzgerald, G. Jerome Jones, Alan Justin’s and the great string theorist Arvid Smith, who remains a key figure in local music, to this very day. Keith Marks played a huge role as a promoter and facilitator of events through his PB&J, before moving up north to do similar work in lovely Vermont. Singer-songwriter Christina Wagner became a mom on 11/11; she founded the bar Rain Dogs, which has been the heart and soul of the Five Points scene for most of the past decade. Kevin Snow and Owen Holmes both played in Black Kids, probably the most successful local band of their generation. There’s also Kat Vellos, who made an excellent educational rap album for kids a few years ago. More recently, you’ve got writer Tilley Komorny, of the band GILT, and photographer Jason Irvin, aka Creep City. Folio 2.0 has already brought us former Creative Director John Aloszka, whose newest recordings are available now, as well as writer Casey Craig, newly of the band Cheeks (more about them soon, perhaps). There are surely others we’ve forgotten, and more yet to come. 

I first met Georgio Valentino about three years ago at the Volstead, during the inaugural Find Your Folio Happy Hour, a networking gimmick he developed with former publisher Sam Taylor. (Something similar now occurs during ArtWalk, on the roof of the law firm owned by John Phillips, who resurrected the Folio brand after covid killed it last year.) From the start, he was nothing like any of us expected, and that was good news for fans of the brand.

He was not the paper’s greatest editor; that honor goes to Anne Schindler, who now runs the investigations team at First Coast News, or maybe her predecessor, Bob Snell, who left the business altogether for a slightly less stressful gig as a fireman. But Georgio did a lot to freshen up the brand, continuing the evolution that began under his predecessor, Claire Goforth, who tapped him to replace her in 2018. (She now spends her days bullying alt-right agitators, and their adjutants, over at The Daily Dot.) 

“I think the global catastrophe put the personal catastrophe into perspective and I feel like I always felt like a spectator. I never felt like ‘woe is me’ I felt more like ‘woe is us’ with what’s going on here. so maybe I didn’t have enough time to register that I had lost my livelihood and separated from the folks I loved and still to this day, I haven’t been back – I haven’t had the opportunity. I mean it was a hard cut off at that time. I don’t know when I’ll see my family again, when am I going to see my parents again, when would I see my sister? This was all up in the air.”

Part of maturing as an artist, whatever your specialty, is having the ability to collaborate with people who influenced you when you were starting out, and that’s always a special treat. “I’m lucky because a lot of those cats are playing on this record. Folks who, when I picked up a guitar at 15, 16––I would listen to Joseph K records and Aztec Camera records and now I’ve got the mighty Malcom Ross playing on my record. Other folks are playing Blane L. Reininger from Tuxedomoon who also lives here in Athens and been a good friend of mine for a long time. Who else? Mick Harvey from the Birthday Party who became a Bad Seed. Dave Graney and Clare Moore have been helping me out for a few years now. They’re great folks.”

The exercise was just to have fun and see if I could make music again without trying to get too… you know without trying to kill myself. “

Georgio Valentino

The list of prominent collaborators is not limited strictly to the musicians. The cover art was based on a watercolor painting by his longtime friend Camille Marceau, whose father was the legendary mime Marcel Marceau. “I’ve known her for many years whenever I would tour through France. She’s a great person and a great artist and I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to use some of her images and I’m so glad I finally got that opportunity.”

It’s been almost two years since Georgio Valentino was in the United States, and much longer than that since he’s been on tour anywhere. With the new album, plans are in the works, but the situation in Europe makes things still very sketchy. “All these things take so much time to organize,” he says, “and by the time you’re in the middle of it, there could be a snap lockdown and it all goes out the window. In Athens, I don’t have a functioning band. I don’t have a full live band, and I never had a live band in Greece.” Listening in as Valentino surveys the standards that must be met for touring in various countries, one learns not just about the actual music, and his own road experience, but also  the wildly variant attitudes of a world that has taken very different approaches to handling the pandemic. 

“My band in Brussels, we would tour over here but I would bring musicians over. So I know some musicians, but I would have to scout a full band and that takes time. There’s talk of going to Scotland where there’s an actual full band just awaiting my vocal talents and so, if possible, we might do that in the spring – that’s sort of our target. But that’s the closest area where I have a full kind of setup. I can also go to Melbourne. Australia is going to start to open up slowly, although that might be thrown into reverse because they’re blowing up with the virus. Let’s see what happens. In Melbourne I would have to sort of self-sustain and have all the necessary elements that doesn’t exist here in Greece right now. Nor are the circumstances really viable for live shows. They are starting to do some concerts here but it’s more of the big corporate shows that have insurance and all the spacing. We’re used to playing tiny ass clubs where we’re packed in like sardines so that’s just not going to happen.”

Lines of Flight is Valentino’s first full-length release in four years. The album’s eight tracks can be had digitally for just $7, while the vinyl package goes for $33. Due, in part, to the ongoing vinyl shortage, these are available in a limited-edition run of just 100, with each copy signed and numbered, to optimize their collectability. Subsequent pressings are sure to follow, but they won’t be the same. Nothing will ever be the same, and that’s OK.