Gorky Release Nostalgic “Metrocenter” Single and Commemorative T-Shirt 



Indie band Gorky, who last year celebrated their first 20 years, have released their new single “Metrocenter”, a nostalgic aural swim through yesteryears’ daydreams of Arizona’s beloved mall, soon to be demolished. The song is the first to be released by Gorky since the passing of co-founder and drummer Ben Holladay to complications from Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, a rare genetic disease, earlier this year. 

“I grew up going to Metro with my family, then later Ben and I used to live with his brothers Vaughn and Keith in these apartments right next to Metro, and we hung out there all the time. All day long we’d just hang out and check things out like in the movie Mallrats,” lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Jesse Valencia says, “so with Ben being gone, and now our beloved Metrocenter is gone, out of that place of grief I wanted to make something that reminded me of the joy of those experiences, with my family, with Ben, with our friends, going to the mall and hanging out at the mall, and Metrocenter specifically. And I know there are a lot of other people with memories like that.” 

Valencia plays all the instruments on the track, which combines a chill synthwave beat with psych rock guitars, funk bass, moody vocals, and airy keyboard lines. 

Gorky have also released a commemorative “Metrocenter” t-shirt for $23.00 on their recently launched Gorkstore.com featuring the track’s single art. The track can be streamed now via SoundCloud and will be on all digital platforms Friday, June 23. 

Click here to pre-save the new Gorky single “Metrocenter” on Spotify! 

Preview the song on SoundCloud below!  

"About The Good Times" - Gorky A to Z  

Music is healing. 

Since Ben's passing, I'm not going to lie… it's been rough. The roughest, even. 

But there's also a bright light at the end of this tunnel, and that's the fact that even though he's gone, we have all of this music we made together to celebrate, and even more music we haven't shared with the world yet to explore. 

So, as I move forward through my grief, I have been going through all of the Gorky archives and finding treasures. 

I believe it is also important to share the stories behind these songs, or at least what I can remember. Going through it chronologically is going to be impossible, so I am going to try and go through the songs as alphabetically as possible. Recorded, unrecorded, released, unreleased…all of it. 

Eventually, I will rebuild the band. There are some plans now, but nothing set it stone. 

In the meantime, let's get rolling with Gorky A to Z! 

First in the queue… “About The Good Times”! Here's a picture of us and a couple of fans outside of the old Rumor's bar in Show Low, AZ where we played a few times. I feel this picture captures the attitude of the song. 



ABOUT THE GOOD TIMES (Valencia/Aldridge/Holladay)

This song's about the good times, buddy

So grab a seat and hug somebody

I'm headed to the fridge and I'm grabbin' a brew

I'll grab one for me and I'll grab one for you, too

Everybody's here having such a good time

It's the party of the year and the party of your life

The radio's playing and it's much too loud 

The radio's playing and it's singing to me now 

And it's singin' woah-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh 

Woah-oh, woah-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh


This song's about the good times with old friends

“Hey, man. What's up?” and “how have-a you been?”

She takes her drag and passes to the left

The smoke is so thick, I can smell it on her breath

And it looks so fine I can nearly taste it

She won't know ‘cause she so fuckin’ wasted

Never had a chance but I've got a chance now

Everybody's dancing and they're singing to me now 

And they're singin' woah-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh

Woah-oh, woah-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh


Everybody clap your hands with me now

‘Cause we’re singin' woah-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh… 



This song was very much a party song. It came about because Gregg couldn’t get the notes to “Waiting For Your Love (Hey Now)” right and started jamming the bassline to this instead, and we started playing around it. Boom. Instant song once the “Woah-oh’s” came in, and a lot of songs were written like that in the early days, us just jamming around. To us, back then, it was always about ‘the good times’...hanging out, drinking with your friends and blasting music as loud as you can. Being stuck in Show Low, there wasn’t much else to do. 

The second verse could be easily seen as problematic these days, but it wasn’t meant that way when I wrote it. When I was in high school and my early twenties, it was the mid-2000’s, and as can be seen in many of the movies I grew up with from the 80’s and 90’s, there was a lot of what we now call “toxic masculinity” and “rape culture” that was the butt of many jokes we now find tasteless. That kind of crude, crass, shock culture was heavily prevalent with my generation, and so the second verse came out of that same spirit: “Ooh! Score! She won’t realize she’s coming onto me because she’s faded! Now, at last, is my chance…” much like the virgin who scores with the drunk girl trope in those cringey teen movies so celebrated by Gen X. 

With no one around to tell you how to practice safe, responsible sex, particularly in rural America where abstinence-based sex ed is the norm, our response was to get drunk and high and hook up when we were drunk and high with whoever would take us. 

Still, when I play this live now, I change the lyric to “I won't know ‘cause I’m so fuckin' wasted" just to make it less cringe-y. 

Whatever the case, the song was a set-closer around this time, 2005-2008, and at its core is a celebratory song praising debauchery itself. Whenever I hear it, I remember those old parties and late nights partying in little mountain towns. There’s a guitar solo that was supposed to go in the blank space where one was supposed to be, but we ran out of money before we could record it  -  Jesse 

What The Strokes, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and "Indie Sleaze" Meant To Small-Town Bands: A Review Of 'Meet Me In The Bathroom' 

The Strokes

Watching "Meet Me In The Bathroom" was like looking through a window into my high school years. 

I've never been to NYC. Always wanted to, but of course money, life, and bad decisions kept me from going. What would it have been like to be twenty-something, playing in an up-and-coming rock and roll band in Brooklyn or Williamsburg at any time from 1999-2002?

For myself, and a million other kids at the turn of the century, it was a pipe dream. NYC was a far-off distant utopia, a city that never sleeps, bustling with artists, musicians, poets, hipsters...the centerpiece of America's rock and roll mythos. When you're a 16-year old dreamer, in a small town in the middle of nowhere, the kinds of people you read about in magazines who lived and breathed New York, and most importantly created there, were like demigods. In many ways, they still are, twenty years later. 

When I first heard the Strokes, it was the music video for 'Last Nite' and a bomb went off in my head. I was a teenager just learning guitar, barely learning how to string together a tune, and here were five guys in their twenties, embodying exactly what I wanted to become and do with my life, up there doing it for real on TV. The guitar solo to 'Last Nite' was the first guitar solo I ever learned on my cheap Squire Strat. 

Suddenly, I was saved from all of the contemporary music my schoolmates liked that I loathed. I couldn't get into pop punk, emo, metal, adult alternative, grunge, post-grunge...and being bombarded with those bands on American radio and MTV was excruciatingly mind-numbing. None of it was cool to me. It was all hokey, goofball shit. I didn't want the American small-town high school experience. I wanted to smoke cigarettes in 70s and 80s clothes I bought from the thrift store and talk about the Beat poets on Manhattan rooftops. I still do. 

The Strokes gave me a window into a world where I could do that, or at least replicate it. I did my damndest, and of course that led to me starting my band, Gorky. The reason why Gorky is 'Gorky' and not 'The Gork' or 'The Gorks' or something is because, inspired by the Strokes, I wanted to do my own thing, and everyone at that time who was cool was a 'The' band ripping off the Strokes. The press even called them '"the" bands' like having the word "the" at the beginning of your band name was a fad.   

The Strokes' music video for "Bad Decisions" is funny for that reason, because it pokes fun at the many, many bands over the past twenty years who've tried to emanate the same vibe and aesthetic the Strokes did when they first came out. "Strokes Clones," for lack of a better term. I'm guilty of copying the Strokes myself. In some ways, my favorite songs of Gorky's are just Strokes songs they never wrote.

So, watching "Meet Me In The Bathroom," seeing the Strokes being the Strokes in NYC at the turn of the century, seeing the actual footage of everything I was daydreaming about them doing when I read about it in Rolling Stone or the NME meant looking lovingly into my own past, and it is incredibly validating with regards to what my 16-year old self was trying to do.   

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs were the flip-side of the Strokes. The only people who knew who Karen O was in my town were all in my band, and she was a towering goddess to us. Her voice was so powerful, so sexy, that listening to that first record of theirs, Fever To Tell, was like having an inner pornographic experience. Mind-blowing to a 16 year old small town kid, but as a man in his thirties watching this documentary I was disturbed by how the press objectified and sexualized her. When I was in high school, I wanted her to beat me up. Now, I want to beat up all the people who did that shit to her. Life is weird.

Karen O

I never got into Interpol quite as much as I guess I could have, but watching them have similar struggles to Gorky was also validating. In one scene, they were booked at a rap metal festival, which of course they hated. In my mind, I thought "yep, been there!" because in the 2000's we'd get booked with the same kinds of bands, so we really struggled to find our audience. We'd be there playing music like the Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to people who had no frame of reference to our scene, so we'd get compared to bands like Three Doors Down or Smash Mouth (gross). It is a terrible feeling to go out on stage and then come off of it feeling misunderstood and misrepresented. 

LCD Soundsystem was never on my radar either, but it was refreshing to see James Murphy, a guy who was then my age now, being in and of the scene making something new, which is what real artists always strive to do. You can't stop. You gotta keep doing it, and not even because you may or may not make it, but because it still means something whether or not you do. 

This kind of music and scene is referred to affectionately as "Indie Sleaze" now, which is both great and accurate. The coolest part about it for me, looking back on its evolution, is the realization that I was on my own wave, doing my own thing artistically with Gorky very much by the time the 2010's came around.

We formed at the same time as The 1975 and the Arctic Monkeys, who also thrived on the high that these NYC bands had made. I couldn't connect to Vampire Weekend, the Vaccines, or other bands that came out after we started rolling with our songs because we had what they were doing already. Did people notice? No, of course not, because Gorky are from rural Arizona and Vampire Weekend are from NYC.

And does that matter? Also no, because we got to be that NYC band to the kids here in our small town anyway, and we've been able to make our own path of success without piggybacking on anyone's scene or style. If we couldn't do it there, if we couldn't be there, we had to do it here. We just had to. So that's what we did. Us, and our small group of hipster friends. Instead of smoking and joking on Manhattan rooftops, we did it in the woods and at each other's houses. Instead of playing CBGB's or the Bowery, we played the local gyms and dive bars. I imagine it is the same situation for a thousand other bands in a thousand other small towns.  

Like I said before: it's validating, and for myself, as both a viewer, a fan, and as an artist, that's what makes "Meet Me In The Bathroom" so special. 

Thank you, Dylan and Will, for making this documentary.     

Thank you, Lizzy, for writing your book

And above all, thank you, Julian and Karen, for giving me a window out of my world so that I could daydream a way into yours.

Maybe one day I'll make it to NYC. 


20 years later, looking back at the silly cool kids we used to be, and still are...

UFO's, Steven Seagal, Screenwriting, New Music, And My New Book About Prince  

Hello, friends!

I definitely haven't been writing in here as much as I should have, because I've got a lot to share, but better late than never, as they say. 

The brief version goes something like this: this year has once again been full of high notes. I've done more acting and released more music than in 2020 and 2021 combined. I've doctored some screenplays, written a couple more features, and continue to work towards my ultimate goal of becoming a filmmaker. 

Are things where they should be? No, of course not, but them's the breaks when it comes to being a working-class artist. You keep pushing. You keep going. 

The bad news is I had to drop a couple of projects on account of the people I was working with, because they were narcissists full of negativity. A bit of advice to other artists, whatever your medium: be careful and wary of anyone who wants to work with you, because if you're good at what you do and they know it, they're going to try and use you. I mean "use you" in the sense that they lack what you have, and they have to trick you into thinking you're working together, but really what you're doing is supplementing someone else's unhealthy fantasy of wealth and fame. If you're doing anything creative with the goal of wealth and fame in mind, you're not trying to be creative. You're trying to get rich and famous. And if that's what your goal is, then great, but not everyone is in the arts for that. I'd even go so far as to say most aren't, and for good reasons. There are, after all, other types of success. 

Now onto more happy bloggy things...

If any of you are screenwriters, I highly suggest getting a Coverfly account. Earlier in the year, I used their free notes program to land a few script doctoring jobs, and the experience has frankly been priceless. They even featured me on their social media, which was pretty cool: 

Earlier in the spring, I recounted my experience seeing the Phoenix Lights back in 1997 to Benjamin Leatherman for the Phoenix New Times... READ UP ON THAT HERE 

Then, I kid you not, mere weeks later me and a friend were going for a joyride and a UFO hovered right over us.

We had just pulled onto Snowflake, AZ's Main Street, when we saw these lights coming right at us from the left side of the road. It looked like a plane was about to crash into us. It was so close I flinched, but then whatever craft these lights belonged to slowed way down, then turned and hovered right over us, right over the street. It was so close to the street, I thought it was going to hit the street lights. It looked like it was vibrating, but it made very little sound, and I could see that it was in a triangle shape. 

I told the story to my buddy Doc Skinner, who is an expert on all things UFO. He then introduced me to filmmakers and producers Blake and Brent Cousins, who asked me to recount the story, which I did here, on their Third Phase of the Moon Channel:


I had such a great time with them that we started brainstorming, and the result of that brainstorm was for them to direct the music video for "Be In The Now", which we did in July: 

And then the video won an award at this years Show Low Film Festival

Equally groovy to this was that I also got to act in Ryan David Orr's music video for his new jam "Mr. Anderson", which you can see here (and also won an award):

Then, my friend and fellow filmmaker Garrett Moldrem, who also appeared with me in Ryan's video, later directed me in a funny short film where I got to spoof Steven Seagal, which you can see here:

As it turns out, the clip became a smash hit with YouTuber Space Ice, who reviewed it on his channel:

Besides acting, aliens, and the like, I also released not one, but TWO albums this month. Since they're both my first solo albums, I guess you could call them both my debut albums. 

The first one, "The First Band On Mars," was meant to be a Gorky album, written and recorded while we were making "Mathemagician," but there being no band, I'd been sitting on it for a while and decided after meeting and hanging with the Cousins Brothers that it was time to introduce it to the world. 

Chris Coplan of Phoenix New Times then graciously interviewed me to help promote the record, which you can READ ABOUT HERE 

My good friend Michael Mahoney also took some awesome photos to promote the record, featuring a spacesuit designed and built by my good friend Chase Dahlberg, and an awesome model spaceship by Gorky drummer Ben Holladay's brother Vaughn Holladay: 

And then, most recently, I released my album "MPLS '83 DREAM" to announce my next book, about the superstar musician, actor, and filmmaker PRINCE! On the 40th anniversary of the release his groundbreaking album "1999" no less, October 27. 

The book's working title is "The Dreams Xperience - The Musical Cinema of Prince" and will be the follow-up to my 2019 debut nonfiction book "Keep Music Evil: The Brian Jonestown Massacre Story." In it, I interview my friends Al Magnoli, Jerome Benton, and more. 

There is no publisher as of yet, but I am working on querying agents and indie publishers in hopes it will land a home in the near future. 

Until then, you can enter the Dreams Xperience by listening to the record: 

I think that's all for now! Like I said, I'll try to be better about posting updates in the future, as they happen rather than dumping everything at once.

Thank you so much for reading, watching, and listening, and please remember to FOLLOW ME ON MY SOCIALS

The Return of the White Mountain Music Scene  

It was my first time playing in front of anyone since August of 2019. Crazier than that, I'd barely bothered to pick up the guitar at all during the past two years. So, I didn't really know how this was going to go. 

Of course, it went great. Seeing old friends, hanging like we used to, and doing a show like we used to really felt freeing, like a weight is slowly being lifted collectively off of everyone. It felt good to do. It felt right. 

I'm sure a lot of my friends out there in bands agree. When you've been performing in bands for most of your life, which I certainly have, it simply doesn't feel right not to play for a couple of years. Now that we're getting it back, I hope we keep the momentum going. 

I love the White Mountain music scene, and looking around and seeing people succeed at their bands is so fulfilling to me. I want to encourage everyone to do more, and to push, and to keep it going. There's a beautiful thing happening here and I am excited to see it grow. 

A big thank you to Phil The Band and Negative Thirty-Two for including me in this. We have much, much more to do together guys! It was also good to see Christian Tyler cox get out there and sing some tunes, and see his wife Lindsay sing some as well. 

For everyone who missed the show, fear not! YouTube has saved the day. Below you can check out any of the acts from that night. Also be sure to SUBSCRIBE TO GORKY TV and also FOLLOW GORKY ON SPOTIFY 

Thanks again to everyone who came out and we are looking forward to seeing you next time! 

Podcasts, Screenwriting Awards, and Audiobooks...Oh My!  

Well, it's been a pretty eventful month! 

First off, I was invited to appear with actor Rainn Wilson and scholar Reza Aslan on their podcast "Metaphysical Milkshake" which was great! You can check out the episode HERE! On the podcast, we dived pretty deep into the big question of what came first...consciousness or matter?

Next month, which is November, my Audiobook for Keep Music Evil: The Brian Jonestown Massacre Story is FINALLY coming out! The biggest challenge? Actually recording it. The second biggest challenge? Getting the cover past censors, which is weird considering that no one seems to have a problem with the actual book cover, yet I have to bleep out Anton's middle finger on the audiobook. Oh well. The world we live in. 

"Metaphysical Milkshake" wasn't the only Podcast I appeared on this month...I also appear on my friend Shawn Maus's podcast Art In Your Heart! To check that out, click HERE!  Shawn is a good friend whom I worked with at the David Lynch School. From his site: "Art In Your Heart" is a podcast for those who have been told their dream/career in entertainment isn’t realistic and for those who need hope to continue to follow their arts dream during these tough times. Your host, Shawn Maus, is a screenwriter, storyteller, marketer -- and former stand-up comedian! Let's talk about the Art in Your Heart!

Last but not least, I won a 'Top Ten Best of the Fest' award for my screenplay "Nicholas Kringle" at this year's Show Low Film Festival  which is held every year at my place of employment, WME Theatres. I feel very honored! Screenwriting is one of my many endeavors. I've got two finished projects at the moment: "In The Land Of Good Oaks" and "Nicholas Kringle." If you want to find out more about those projects, please click on the 'Screenwriting' tab. 

Other than that, I have been posting more regularly on TikTok and YouTube doing some acoustic performances. I hope you dig those! I will likely post new songs as I write them, and maybe play some older Gorky tunes as well, just stripped-down acoustic versions. 

It has been a great month, to say the least. Hopefully there will be more to report next month! 

In the meantime, remember to follow GORKY on Spotify and please consider making a purchase at our Bandcamp

Thanks so much for your continued support and I will see you on the flip side! 

Jesse & the Gork 

Gorky Makes The Cover Of The Arizona Republic  

Above pic by RODELO

So, if you live in Arizona, chances are you came across this front-page article in the Arizona Republic a couple of weeks ago about the Sitgreaves County publicity stunt intended to promote our in-development film In The Land Of Good Oaks! 

To hear the "Sitgreaves County" album click HERE 

To read up on the Sitgreaves County publicity stunt click HERE

When Michelle Branch Schooled Me On My Lyrics 

Michelle Branch's first record "Broken Bracelet"


It was the weekend of my fifteenth birthday, so this was early October in the year 2000.   

I was with my family in Sedona attending the Verde Valley Music Festival, which was the first music festival I'd ever been to. Jackson Browne had started it ten years prior to raise money for the Verde Valley School and its Native American Scholarship Fund. 

Browne played the festival. Keb Mo played. So did the Indigo Girls, Bruce Cockburn, Nanci Griffith, Trisha Yearwood, and a bunch of other people. Back then, I was into rap, metal, and pop-punk like a lot of young teens, so there was no way I could've appreciated the sounds that were coming at me. I remember having a good time, but that the music was incredibly boring.  

Then Michelle Branch got on stage. 

It was one of her very first shows, and I heard later that this show got her signed to Madonna's Maverick records, which was incredible to me. 

She had this blue guitar and wore shades that were too big for her face. She was from the area, too, a little hippie chick as some would say, and she was two years older than me, 17 to my 15, which when you are a teenager practically made her a grown-up. 

In any case, I looked up to her. I'd only been playing guitar for a couple of years, but she had these incredible songs that made me want to write pop songs. After her set, I approached her and introduced myself. I have no idea what the conversation was, but I was probably a babbling nerd, as I can be. 

I bought her CD, Broken Bracelet, and she signed it. I played it over and over until it scratched. It was fantastic! It was all of these acoustic songs, these folk pop songs, and it wasn't like anything I had heard, and it made it ten times cooler that she was from Northern Arizona like myself, and she'd produced it herself. I thought, "she's got it going on! I've got to do what she's doing!"

Somehow I got her email address, reached out to her, threw a bunch of praise her way, and told her I was trying to start a band. She wrote back and encouraged me, and when I responded I asked her about how to write lyrics. I sent her some of mine, and she kindly told me that they were shit. 

I was writing lyrics before I had set them to music, so these lines went on and on like rap lyrics because I listened to too much Eminem, something I'd gotten in big trouble for in middle school when a substitute teacher found my Eminem-esque handwritten lyrics making fun of our teachers. I don't remember what the words were, but I assure you by today's standards my thirteen-year old punk ass would be canceled immediately.

Anyways, she tore them apart and told me something along the lines that it would be difficult to set these lyrics to music in a way that could be communicated to a broad audience. They were too complicated and wordy. The music had to come first, she said, and then you feel the vibe of the music and the chords and then sounds just start coming and then the song comes, and you write it verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, etc. you know, like you do.  

I was a little discouraged, but it flipped my switch on songwriting. It took me another two or three years before I could write a proper song, but my drive to nail one was all due to that chance meeting with Michelle at the Verde Valley Music Festival, sometime in October, 21 years ago. 

By the time I formed Gorky a couple of years later, Michelle had already gotten huge with her record The Spirit Room and collaborated with Santana. She was light-years ahead of me and still is, but I was admittedly disappointed in the direction she took then, both musically and visually, which had everything to do with the pop culture machine. 

When I met her, I didn't see a pop star. She was earthy and cool, and into Jewel's early records, which were great, and she was emanating that. That's what the "broken bracelet" was. It was something given to her by Jewel as a sort of talisman or totem, and when the bracelet finally broke, she went on to fulfill her destiny. 

Michelle was exactly like Jewel to me, maybe almost like Ani DiFranco when she gets catchy, even though she was playing "Goodbye To You" to a half-listening audience in Sedona.

I wish I still had my copy of that CD, but whatever the case, thanks for grilling me on my lyrics, Michelle. It paid off.   

- J 

Vintage Gorky Article From 2005 

Found this while going through storage. Crazy! 

With our 20-year anniversary coming up, it's a good a time as any to reflect back on the history of the band. The text might be a little hard to read, so I've transcribed it here: 

Local Band Tries To Sell Original Sound, by Benjamin Sedillo 

SHOW LOW - Local alternative rock - or as they like to call their genre, PIPE rock (Progressive Indie Post-punk Emocore) band 'Gorky' is scheduled to play June 9 in Snowflake, time and place are unknown as of yet. 

'Gorky', comprised of four Show Low natives - Chris Christiansen, 20, guitar and back up vocals, Jesse Valencia, 19, lead guitar and lead vocals, Ben Holladay, 19, drums and Gregg Aldridge, 16, bass - hopes to use its upcoming performances as well as its past successes as a stepping stone for a career in music. 

"Hopefully we'll be networking more shows this summer in Flagstaff and Phoenix," Valencia said. "We plan to do a recording session in July or August in San Diego, California and get a tour together for next summer with our demo and ship it off to record labels to try to get signed."

"We got our name from a girl named Whitney, who used to call her security blanket 'gorky,'" Valencia said. "We were searching for a name for our band and we thought it was a perfect name especially when we found out that it had other interesting connotations, such as meaning 'bitter' in Russian and we thought it could describe a person," Christiansen added. 

The members of Gorky draw inspiration from different aspects of life and channel that through their music. 

"I write most of our material about what is affecting me hardcore at the time, and whatever is bothering me and it is just stuff that I need to get off my chest and then I take all of my influences and put it in a bucket and mix it around and you get our music," Valencia said. "There's so many facets of music that haven't been explored yet. Our inspiration comes from a wide variety of things, from family members, politics, religion and even beverages." 

Gorky's members say they are trying to protect their band's uniqueness by offering music that is different to the audience's ears. 

"We are trying to progress our listeners up through different styles of music because there's at least one style of music that not everyone is hip to, so we have to change it up album to album, but not too much that way they will listen," Christiansen said. 

"We are different from other alternative rock bands in that a lot of the times people don't like our sound upon first listen, they get into it eventually but it's just different from other pop rock," Valencia said. "It's just so much fun to play your own music and when the people respond to it by singing and learning your songs when they come to our shows."