Back in 2016, In the Valley Below had an unexpected hit on their hands, when their single “Peaches” hit number 18 on Billboard Alternative Songs chart two years after its release. Living in Echo Park at the time, the duo – comprised of Jeffrey Jacob (vocals, guitar) and Angela Gail (vocals, keyboard) – moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan in the wake of another life-altering surprise; their musical success dovetailed with the birth of their first child.
Now, they’re back with a visual album of sorts – their latest LP, The Pink Chateau, is sexy AF, and the film that accompanies it follows a young woman who has stumbled upon a house in the woods where sexual boundaries don’t exist; as she wanders from room to room, we join her as a voyeurs. The band’s brief hiatus didn’t slow them down, with tracks like “Hold On Tight” and “Break Even” showcasing tension, tight vocals, and soaring guitar riffs. The album is a dance between brooding drama soundtrack and champagne-infused orgy.
Listen to Audiofemme’s exclusive stream of The Pink Chateau and read our interview with the band below:
AF: In the Valley Below was originally a studio project. Was the initial positive feedback for “Peaches” overwhelming? To go from being on the road in other projects to performing on Conan O’Brien?
AG: Not at all. “Peaches” was out for three years before the radio got on board and people really started to hear it. It was played on the radio in France and Germany before it ever got attention here in the US. We find that more and more people are still discovering it on streaming sites; it’s been a slow and steady road. There was a while between touring and Conan that we thought it was over. I had to get a real job again. After a couple weeks at work, taking photos of clothing on mannequins in downtown LA, we got a call saying we booked Conan and got some big radio plays and we had to go back on the road.
AF:There’s a wonderful balance between you within your songs, a kind of back and forth conversation, a melding of your voices that feels very natural and organic. How do you go about writing music together? Does one person initiate with lyrics or part of a tune? Or is the process more of a jam in studio?
JJ: Every song starts in a different way. Sometimes Angela will come in with an idea on guitar or piano, other times I will have an idea, and there are times where we start from scratch together in a jamming situation. But we always finish every song together, and we both have to give it a thumbs-up for it to make the cut.
AF: What was the initial catalyst for your film The Pink Chateau?
JJ: It actually came from an idea that the head of our record label (Tiffanie DeBartolo of Bright Antenna Records) had. She felt that our music and live show had such a sensual vibe that it would fit well with a soft core porn movie, so she suggested that we make one of those! We loved the idea but wanted to make it more of an artistic erotic film.
AG: I was instantly inspired to write a story of a woman who stumbles upon this magical place where all types of sexuality were open to explore – something I wish I had found when I was 15! We wanted to do something different, besides the usual single music videos. Something where you can watch and listen to the whole album.
AF: Angela, as the artistic director for the band, and director of the film, how involved were you in the nitty gritty? The mansion in the film is so sexy and alluring all on its own. Did you work with a location scout?
AG: I decided to shoot in Michigan as opposed to LA or France, because we live there now, and it’s such a magical place we wanted to share it. However it was a much bigger challenge to pull this together there. When it came time to do it, I brought on my friend Marcos Efron to help me produce and direct. I also recruited local producer Lisa Enos who had more of a network in Michigan. I was definitely deep in the nitty gritty for a few months of prep. We did all the location scouting, wardrobe, props, casting etc. We had a great local crew during the five days of shooting to handle everything on set though.
AF: Are the actors within the film also Michigan based? Each of them has such a presence, they truly make the music come alive.
AG: Most of them are, yes. We have a few from Chicago, and one from LA. Finding actors in a small town who are comfortable with nudity is not easy. It was also important for us to have a diverse cast and crew – all colors, shapes, and sizes.
AF: When listening to your music, my mind does tend to paint a Los Angeles backdrop, that kind of 1970s grit. You both (recently?) moved back to Angela’s home state of Michigan. Has the change of scenery altered your sound or subject matter at all?
JJ: I don’t think it has affected our sound in any obvious way, but it has been great to have a quiet place to come home to when we’re not touring. We built a cozy little studio in our basement, so during the cold winter months we just go down there and get weird.
AF: Panda Bear (aka Noah Lennox) has talked about parenting being an interesting aspect of writing music nowadays, in that he has less time to play, which forces him to think less and just do. Do you find that true with your own recording process now that you have a child?
JJ: It has been an interesting transition for us as writers. Having a child forces you to think about someone other than yourself. A lot of times as musicians you can get caught up in yourself and your music a bit too much, so having a kid definitely keeps you grounded and humble. And it does make you manage your time better.
AF: You’re in the middle of a tour/”immersive audio/visual experience” in conjunction with the Newport Beach Film Festival and Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas. How did that collaboration come about?
AG: Our team reached out to Alamo Drafthouse to see if they would want to get on board with our crazy idea of a movie/concert in headphones tour. It seemed like a great fit to work with a cool theater like this, and we were excited when they agreed. It helps that they have locations everywhere. The shows have been a really magical experience. We are also looking forward to our film festival premiere in Newport Beach. For that, we just submitted the film and crossed our fingers.
AF: What’s next for In The Valley Below? A tour? The festival circuit?
AG: We never really know what’s next for us.
In The Valley Below’s sophomore full-length album and its motion picture companion, The Pink Chateau, arrives April 26. Preorder it here.