Elephant in the Room: A Conversation with In The Valley Below

Elephant - In The Valley Below
Recommended If You Like: Cold War Kids, Young the Giant, Local Natives

Husband and wife duo In The Valley Below introduced themselves with a big, compelling sound back in 2013. Their debut album, The Belt (released New Years Day 2014 via Capitol Records) boasts a “grit-infused version of synth pop/rock that somehow manages to be simultaneously mellow and driving, laid-back and in-your-face.” The infectiously catchy lead single “Peaches” still manages to get under the skin, mesmerizing us with its dreamy combination of synths, guitars and vocals. Everything fires at just the right time.

Elephant - In The Valley Below

Elephant – In The Valley Below

Simmer down, it’s indigo
Come with me to the pink chateau
Down in the valley below
We can drink champagne in the pink chateau

Hundreds of shows, a baby, a move, and three years later, In the Valley Below are back and bolder than ever. Their new EP, Elephant (released 7/14/2017 via Bright Antenna Records), is a valiant return that highlights the group’s incredible songwriting abilities – not to mention, their excellent blend of rock, blues, and electronic influences.

Lead single “Bloodhands (Oh My Fever)” opens the record with a deep groove: The bass guitar pulses a thick beat as In The Valley Below embark upon a journey of racial tension, supposedly inspired by the Ferguson, MO shooting of Michael Brown. Angela Gail injects magnificent flavors into her subtle, airy vocal textures: She and husband Jeffrey Jacob trade lines, both adding their own sense of urgency to a song that will remain relevant for quite some time, and catchy always.

Ladies and gentleman,
Please step back, remain calm
You told me once
If we were blind
We would be kind,
The same kind
You told me once
If we were blind
We were shaking blood hands
When we promised
We were brothers Amen
We were honest
Tell me tell me why
We do it
“Bloodhands (Oh My Fever)” – In the Valley Below


This is just the tip of the iceberg for In the Valley Below: The infectious, ominous crash of “Bloodhands” is followed with the more sultry invitation of “Pink Chateau,” which Gail describes as “an invitation for sex.” Down in the valley below, we can drink champagne in the pink chateau, the two sing in a humorously self-aware, emotionally potent moment of electricity. Synths and guitars trade melodies, riffing off each other before the guitar takes it away with a vibing solo.

In the Valley Below © 2017

In the Valley Below © 2017

Much has changed for In The Valley Below since the married couple released their debut album to critical applause. Most relevant for them now our their three-year-old child and their relatively recent move from California to Grand Rapids, Michigan. These changes play an appropriately significant role in the group’s fresh new set of songs – most notably in “Hold on Tight,” a written for their son “as a sort of advice, welcome-to-the-world speech,” explains Gail.

“Hold on Tight” is also notable for its incredible mixture of sounds: Spacey synths hold down contra-melodies behind Gail’s lead vocals, supporting her entrancing singing until Jacob erupts with an evocative guitar solo. The pair release euphoric energies in each of their songs, always going the distance to give a track that extra spark – the flare to make it the needle in the haystack.

In point of fact, Elephant EP is a prolific set of needles in one majestic haystack. In The Valley Below’s sound is so remarkably concise, yet varied; their textures are layered with supple melodies and volatile emotions that engulf us, urging us to dive down our own rabbit holes of introspective reflection.

A gentle love that weighs two tons
Elephant
I hide my body in the mud
Elephant
There are things I want to say but I can’t find an easy way
Elephant
I remember everything
Elephant
I get so scared of the little things
Elephant
I just want to tell you that I’ll carry you on my back
Elephant

Coming out of the dark, ethereal landscape of “Break Even,” is EP closer and title track “Elephant,” a poignant, intimate lullabye. Raw and refined, the beautiful ending soothes with lush, dreamy sounds and heartwarming sentiment. It’s the perfect conclusion to the absolutely hypnotizing reverie that is Elephant: From its rich, catchy melodies that play on in the mind, to the vibrant lyrics that capture the essence of being human, imperfect, and in love. In The Valley invite us to join in on their latest adventure; it’s an offer you simply cannot refuse.

Atwood Magazine spoke to In the Valley Below’s Angela Gail and Jeffrey Jacob about their new music in our exclusive interview – dive deeper into Elephant below, and catch the band on tour this summer!

“Elephant” – In the Valley Below

A CONVERSATION WITH IN THE VALLEY BELOW

Atwood Magazine: How would you say the past few years have affected your sound? has there been a conscious change?

Jeffrey: I wouldn’t say it’s been a conscious change. Moreso, we’re just following our songwriting and trying to get better at that. Basically, our process is we write a bunch of songs and listen back to see which ones make the cut; that’s just how we work.

Why release music now?

Angela: It took a long time to get ready – we switched record labels, and as easy as that sounds, there’s a lot of logistical things going on there. We were also touring a lot, and we’re not very good at writing while on tour. Once we finally settled in after the move, we worked all winter here.

I love Elephant's album art!

Angela: I made that! I love the idea of painting black and white photos, so that happened to have been watercolor. I was just doodling, and it was one of the ideas and everyone really liked it. I was trying to fit into this do-it-yourself vibe for a lot of the products for this record.

Jeffrey: She’s the artistic director of the band.

Is DIY a new mentality for In the Valley Below?

Jeffrey: It’s always been part of our band because we’ve been in control of all of the creative aspects from the beginning, including the music and the visuals. Angela did the artwork for our first album as well – so it’s just how we roll.

What is it about this time in your life that Elephant EP captures?

Angela: I feel like it really captures the past couple years of us moving. You know, we had a child together; the song “Elephant” was actually a lullabye written in a collection of lullabyes, when we had kind of burnt out on writing and recording our record, and we liked it so much that we put it on the EP! “Hold on Tight” was a song that we wrote for our son as a sort of advice, welcome-to-the-world speech sort of thing.

There's a lot of heart on this record. I feel as though EP opener “Bloodhands” bridges the sound between your first album and now.

Angela: That’s the oldest – it was the first song we wrote after our last record.

Jeffrey: We’ve been playing that song live for a little while now, so it had time to mature and percolate on the road. Playing a lot of shows also gives you a certain perspective on songs, and so that inadvertently influences the way you might write songs, because you might picture what it will feel like in front of a crowd when we play it.

Angela: That’s true; our first album was not like that at all – we made it without playing any shows.

Jeffrey: Our first album we wrote just for ourselves; we had never played a show as this band, and we didn’t really want to play a show as this band. So most of the songs on the first record were written just as studio songwriting projects.

But hundreds of shows, a baby, a move, and three years later, you came back with a record that is still you, but feels removed.

Jeffrey: It still feels like us, to us, but that’s ’cause we’re us.

Angela: We’re deep in it; we can’t tell.

Are these songs you could have written at the time of recording your first album?

Jeffrey: I guess if we could have, we would have.

How did touring affect your music?

Angela: It was almost like another tool, when we were writing, to think of how people would enjoy it, basically, playing on stage; because otherwise, why do it?

Jeffrey: Well there’s different kinds of songs. Some songs, like “Elephant,” for example, weren’t written with a live audience in mind. Like she said, that was actually written as a lullabye – so we have a lot of songs like that, that we’re not worried about performing live because they’re mostly meant as “album” songs. Then there’s other songs, like “Bloodhands,” where you know it’s gonna be a good source of energy for you and the crowd when you play it live – so you kind of feed off that energy.

One of my favorite songs on this record is “Pink Chateau,” where you reference your own name. Can we talk about that?

Angela: it just sounded so good, and just, we don’t care, so… (laughs)

Jeffrey: We figured, if rappers can do it all the time, then why not us?

Angela: [The song itself] is sort of an invitation for sex, I think.

You're about to embark on a big tour this summer.

Jeffrey: Yep, we perform as a trio with our drummer Joshua. We love the power trio setup. We’ve got a few new instruments onstage that we’re working with, and a few more guitar solos and drum solos, things like that.

Angela: We bring our own light show with us, which is kind of fun.

For those who will be introduced to In The Valley Below from this EP, what do you want them to take away from this new music?

Jeffrey: I don’t know; I never really thought about that.

Angela: For me, I’d like for someone to find a part of themselves in it; maybe we can get down into their emotions and make them feel a certain way – not necessarily have them think about who we are while listening to it.

What are your favorite songs off this record, and why?

Jeffrey: I love all of them because they’re all so different to me, so that’s a hard question. I love “Elephant” because it’s just very mellow and beautiful, but then I do love playing “Pink Chateau” live, because it’s a lot of fun. I guess that’s the bottom line – we wouldn’t have put any songs on here that we didn’t both love.

Angela: I think “Hold on Tight” might be my favorite. It’s the way we recorded it… why? I’m not sure.

catch ITVB on tour this summer – dates below!

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Elephant EP - In The Valley Below

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:: ITVB 2017 Tour Dates ::

7/25 Urban Lounge, Salt Lake City, UT
7/28 Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver, Canada
7/29 The Crocodile, Seattle, WA
7/30 Doug Fir Lounge, Portland, OR
8/01 Harlow’s Night Club, Sacramento, CA
8/02 Rickshaw Stop, San Francisco, CA
8/03 Troubadour, Los Angeles, CA
8/04 The Casbah, San Diego, CA
8/05 Crescent Ballroom, Phoenix, AZ
8/08 Stubb’s Indoor, Austin, TX
8/09 Dada, Dallas, TX
8/11 The Earl, Atlanta, GA
8/12 Motorco Music Hall, Durham, NC
8/13 The Underground, Charlotte, NC
8/15 DC9, Washington, DC
8/16The Boot & Saddle, Philadelphia, PA
8/17 Mercury Lounge, New York, NY
8/18 The Hollow, Albany, NY
8/19 Rough Trade NYC, Brooklyn, NY
8/20 Higher Ground, South Burlington, VT
8/22 Brighton Music Hall, Allston, MA
tix & info @ inthevalleybelow.com

In the Valley Below Whips out 'The Belt'

:: album review ::

Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York’s many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch’s words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing.
Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com