In an eastside indie scene full of emotional tourists and parent-funded upstarts with hilariously expensive equipment, In the Valley Below is a hardworking duo of neither extraordinary means nor manufactured sincerity. Angela Gail and Jeffrey Jacob are not trustafarian navel-gazing layabouts, and in fact hone their sound around their day jobs. Hailing from Michigan and Tennessee respectively, Gail and Jacob met here amid the getting famous grind and make music that rises well above that trope.
At their best musically, they're something like Buckingham and Nicks filtered through Collins and Bush (that's, uh, Phil and Kate) but steeped in softened astral aspirations. With three songs up on Bandcamp we have yet to see or hear anything that's not really good, and they're in the midst of a month-long Monday night residency at the Bootleg. Below are highlights from our conversation.
As transplants who have been here a long time, does L.A. feature prominently in your music?
Jeffrey Jacob: I would say that we're more inspired lyrically by L.A. than musically.
Angela Gail: Yeah, we like to sing about the grind a little bit, but more the seedy underbelly. I would say it's more about the “West” rather than California or L.A. specifically.
But you found each other in L.A.?
JJ: Yeah, we moved here separately and we both moved here to just be in the music scene really. You have that young delusion of “I'm going to move to L.A. and be a rock star.” You think it will happen in less than a year, and then you realize it takes a little time.
AG: We found each other out at shows, running into each other and through friends.
JJ: We've both been in other projects. This was just our idea of co-writing, try something together and see what happens. It was a pretty organic meeting just in the music scene here.
AG: When we started this thing we didn't plan on ever playing a show or doing anything besides putting out a few songs into the world.
JJ: Ideally, it was a studio project because putting the songs together live is challenging. I said when we first started recording these, let's just never play any shows and just be a studio band, for whatever it's worth. And then people starting telling us that we need to play live to get the word out. So we just did it.
And now you're headlining this Bootleg residency. Who did you bring along for the ride?
AG: We'll be playing with a good mix of friends and strangers.
In an ideal world, though, who would you be playing with?
AG: We both love this band called the Latin Playboys.
JJ: Opening for someone like Peter Gabriel would be amazing.
Musically, you described your sound as “something we'd want to listen to.” What do you have stuck on repeat?
AG: Well, that was sort of the short answer. We just started making music that we liked. We are obsessed with darker Phil Collins. Like “In the Air Tonight.” That's one of our inspirations, actually. We didn't try to sound like that. We just wanted to make something that we hadn't heard yet, that we've been kind of looking for, and this is what came out.
JJ: Oh, yeah, with Phil Collins…Peter Gabirel…they were just in our brains for a long time, and you just subconsciously absorb that stuff.
Even though he's kind of on everyone's secret guilty pleasure list?
JJ: We're not really secret Phil Collins fans.
AG: Yeah, we're definitely out-of-the-Phil-Collins-closet.
But what you do is much dreamier. I hesitate to use the word dreamy…dream pop? Dream anything really. But you are pretty dreamy.
AG: We're pop. But there's kind of a classic rock element. We use a lot of electronic things, too. But yeah, we are pretty dreamy.
JJ: Are we talking about physical traits here [laughs] or the music?
AG: Well, Jeff is pretty dreamy…as a man. We like to think of ourselves as dark and dreamy.
What are the big challenges in taking the band live, given that you intended this to be a studio project?
AG: In the studio, Jeffrey and I do everything and live we have a drummer and a keyboardist joining us on stage.
JJ: I think the challenge is just to build the space that we create on the recordings — because we use a lot of layers on stuff — so the challenge is figuring out how to get all of those layers on to the stage and make it sound organic. We don't want it to sound empty, so we try to make a big sound with what we have.
So what's next? Especially if Peter Gabriel doesn't have any open spots for you quite yet.
AG: We have an EP at the beginning of next year. We don't have a date yet. Right now you can download three songs online. We're thinking of maybe going to the UK with it? But we don't have any tours planned until we have a physical release, so we're just writing a lot and working on our live show.
In the Valley Below performs Monday nights at the Bootleg for the rest of November.
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