In The Valley Below: Irresistible Synth Pop for Even the Most Jaded Indie Fan

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There comes a time in every music snob's life when they realize pre-judging a band based on the city where it resides and what musical genre it fits into is just as stupid as it sounds.

In the case of L.A.-based duo In the Valley Below, a new musical project comprising singer/multi-instrumentalists Angela Gail and Jeffrey Jacob, it might be easy to read a few keywords, toss them into the over-saturated sea of synth-poppers, and save fishing them out (to give their music an actual listen) for a later date (i.e., after Pitchfork tells you what to think about them).

However, the joke would be entirely on you, dude.

The band's debut video (directed by French avant-garde filmmaker Laurent Michel Moreau) for their broodingly romantic single "Take Me Back" is a clear example of the band's power, delivering carefully crafted male/female harmonies over catchy guitar riffs and eerie synths that ultimately result in a sound as dark and creepy as it is dreamy and beautiful.

What's working here is rare case of organic talent, good taste, and a simple idea the band was founded upon: making music that both Gail and Jacob would listen to. It takes listening to the duo's four-song self-titled EP to truly understand what sets the band apart from the rest. What makes In the Valley Below even cooler is a humble attitude that seems unaffected by whom they might be compared to and very much grateful for the (inevitable) recognition.

Up on the Sun: First off, I appreciate your take on creating music you and Angela both enjoy listening to. Though it's a simple idea, it just kind of struck a chord for me, especially after listening to your music. Do you think if every band did this, the current music climate would be more profound?

Jeffrey Jacob: Yeah, I wonder. I mean, I don't know what's in [other musicians'] heads when they're doing their creating, but I would assume that most people would make music they want to hear because otherwise . . . it seems weird [laughs]. Maybe they have other things in minds, like, "Oh, I want to make people dance" or some other motivation, but, yeah, we just try to write stuff we want to hear and just do it as well as we can and, you know, see what happens.

I read that when you and Angela started making music together, the band was meant to be a studio project, but you both toyed with the idea of never playing shows. I imagine you now have a pretty large number of shows under your belt. Would you say you've had the chance now to work out some of the difficulties surrounding your sound in a live setting?

I think we're pretty far along with working out the kinks, but you can always improve. I'd say we're definitely more comfortable now then when we first started playing live. Yeah, it's an evolving process, but I think we're at a good spot. At least, I'm comfortable on stage with what we have.

The video for "Take Me Back" is very cool and, well, über-hip being directed by a French filmmaker. It fits the song beautifully and almost takes it to another level -- visually representing this haunting/romantic theme. How'd you team up with this filmmaker and how was the shooting process?

It was just random, actually. [We knew] a friend of a friend and he mentioned, "You should check out this guy I know," and we met and just hit it off creatively. He had ideas right off the bat, and I'm not an intensely visual person, but Angela is actually really good at that. It was a nice communication, and we shot it for zero dollars around Los Angeles for a few days and it was a super-low-budget kind of thing.

Have you had an ah-ha moment yet? How long have you been working toward this?

Well, we've been playing live for about a year. Yeah, just under a year now and the whole project is only a year and a half old, so it's pretty new. As far as musical projects go, it's a baby.

Honestly, we didn't expect anything to happen, so this all has just been really fun to see whatever it is that's happening, you know? I just saw the poster for the Phoenix show and our name is, like, the third under The Cold War Kids. Our name has never been that high on any bill so . . . [laughs] What's life like lately? Have you been working on more songs? Have you been playing a lot of shows? Has it been insanely hectic?

It's actually all of the above. It's hectic because we've been working on a lot of new songs and playing a lot of shows, so it's pretty much a crazy nonstop adventure. We're prepping a bunch of other songs; maybe just writing as much as possible so we have a lot of stuff to choose from for a full-length that will hopefully be coming out later this fall. But also playing a bunch of shows just to get the experience under our belt as well.

Will this be the longest time on the road? Or have you toured for a prolonged amount of time before?

No, we did a couple weeks in December in the East Coast with Mates of State, which was really fun. But, yeah, that's been the biggest thing we've done with this band so far, so this will be a really fun trip to do.

It might be safe to say you're making music for the love of art, while other upcoming bands might have a mission just to be a relevant indie buzz band. Aside from the music, what sets you apart? And what are some of your struggles as an artist?

[pauses]Yeah, I think the struggle artistically is a constant struggle, to make the best part of music that you can. It's not so subtle. It's frustrating. Some songs happen really immediately and organically and show up just ready to go. And others, you have to drag 'em down, kicking and screaming. You know, it's a fight. But at the end of the day, you have to put in the work -- because it is a job, in that you have to put in the effort or you're not gonna get anything from it. So, that's the struggle, but it's a part of why we all do it. Deep down, we all love that struggle, even though it's a pain in the ass sometimes.

Slave to your art.

I mean, you know, it sounds cliché to be an artist or something, but it is a part of the creative process, and you just have to try to stay in that creative headspace because it's easy to get thrown out of that if you pay too much attention to celebrity news and gossip and the 24-hour news cycle. There's a lot of distractions that takes time away from whatever it is you want to do, [laughs] so that's a struggle, too. I try not to pay attention to that other stuff. How would you describe your partnership with Angela? You've obviously played music and been in other bands before, but do you guys actually like each other?

[laughs] We have a complicated relationship, but we do like each other. We played in a few different various projects over the years and we're both transplants to L.A. So, over the years, we kinda circled each other for a while. It wasn't like an instant, "Hey, you and me. It was more, like, "Eh, all right. This might be cool." We both actually played in more of a proper rock band for a while -- she played bass and I just played guitar, and there was another singer.

But, yeah, we've done different things and tried different stuff musically. As I think you mentioned, it started as more of a side project. The fun was to see what we could come up with musically. We just said let's do something different then we've previously done before and try to stick together and see what happens.

You've been compared a lot to Beach House. It's definitely a good comparison to have, but does it bother you to be compared to other bands?

We're flattered. We love Beach House. I get the reference in that it's dreamy in a sense, and with [Angela's vocals], it's easy for people to put it in that box. But no, I don't get upset about people comparing us to other bands because everybody has to have some kind of reference point to kind of think about things. It all depends on who you're talking to. For instance, I was trying to explain our music to an older relative in my family, so he would have no idea in the world what Beach House would be, so it was really hard. I just said, "We're kind of like Fleetwood Mac, but new." Then they were like, "Oh, okay I get that." You know, there's male and female vocals, there are harmonies. Even though we sound nothing like Fleetwood Mac, it gave them something to hold on to. We're happy to have anyone asking about us so we're flattered. Most of the time I like to let the music do the talking.

In the Valley Below is scheduled to take part in New Times' Carnaval Eléctrico at Crescent Ballroom on Friday, March 8.

See also:

-Cold War Kids to Headline New Times' Carnaval Eléctrico at Crescent Ballroom -New Times' Carnaval Eléctrico Expands With Wooden Indian, Diners, and Stan Devereaux & The Funky Suns

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