Interview | Tender Forever: Will She Stay Or Will She Go?

Nick Hilden / May 6, 2011
courtesy of K Records

Melanie Valera (Tender Forever) is a difficult artist to define.  This should not come as a surprise considering she is a French musician living in Portland and has spent much of her time working with K Records in the less-than-ordinary atmosphere of Olympia.  Her eclectic work is a reflection of her circumstances; the sort of female led synth-pop that Olympia has been steadily churning out over the past decade. One might see Valera perform in front of a screen, manipulating an array of keyboards and electronic gadgetry, dancing wildly while interacting with a piece of film or animation.


But your chances to check her out may be limited.  Currently Tender Forever is dealing with the monstrous machine of bureaucracy.  “My VISA is coming to term.” Valera explains,” There have been some new regulations and I think the reason is money.  The US is so poor right now they’re trying to get money wherever they can take it.”

I ask about the differences between working here and in France:  “There’s a support system for artists there, but whenever someone gets money and support they lose their drive and creativity. It’s weird to be supported by the government.  It’s kind of like being paid by the devil.  I was one of the few artists who had to start their own company to work outside the system.”

Valera continues to explore the differences between her native France and the United States by way of touring: “In the US it’s really messed up. On the other hand, you have to figure it out all by yourself–hotel rooms, meals–which gives you a lot of freedom in some ways.  I like the independence that people here have and the initiative that people take.  There’s not one great place to live in the world.  It’s kind of amazing and f***ed up everywhere.  But the NW has been good for this kind of initiative and freedom and creativity.”

For the past six years Valera’s work with K Records has introduced her to slew of like-minded artists (the Blow, Mirah, Anna Oxygen, and Calvin Johnson).  When asked about working with K, Valera exclaims “I love it!  I think they’re pretty extraordinary.  It’s not meant to sit with everybody and work with everybody.  They have a different way of putting out records.  That’s how they’ve managed to keep it self-sustainable.  They keep it small and that’s what lets them succeed in these tough times.  And they let you do what you want.  They’ve been really supportive.”

“I do get a little bored in Olympia.  It’s a little too mellow,” she laughs.  “But Portland has been good to me.  It’s more spread out and has its neighborhoods.  Something about it keeps the bogus people out.”

When asked about plans for the future she speaks about being awarded a grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council for a project she’s putting together with artist and animator Peter Burr titled MAZED.  “We started this project that was common to our personal histories.  The story of this character going through tragic times.  This maze of emotion and landscapes.  It will kind of be like a multimedia musical adventure.  But I don’t like musicals,” she laughs.  “MAZED—it’s a word that does not exist.  It comes from maze and dazed.  We submitted it with such little time but we totally got a grant.  It was pretty thrilling.  We’re hoping to go on tour with that in 2012.  I think 2012 is going to be a year of collaboration.  A lot of multimedia incorporation.  Almost like theater but less boring.”

You can see Tender Forever at one of her upcoming shows listed below. Check out a video of Tender Forever performing in Paris on May 14, 2008:


If she’s going to stay in America she needs your support. Valeria will be playing Olympia, Portland, and Eugene during the coming weeks, with proceeds from the shows helping pay for Visa costs.  Buy a CD or a T-shirt.  Without your help she’ll end up back in France with their excellent wines, delicious food, lavish history…

Upcoming Shows:

May 12th– Portland, OR  Saratoga Lounge 8:00 $5-15 sliding scale

May 14th– Eugene, OR  WOW Hall 8:00 Free/Donations accepted

May 19th– Portland, OR  PSU Park Blocks  “Dawn of the Day of the Living Queers Block Party” 4:00

May 21st– Olympia,WA  The Evergreen State College 8:00


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