YOUTH Radio: Interview with In The Valley Below

By Amy Karp
A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the In The Valley Below concert at the Visulite Theater, a dark, crowded, cozy venue, perfect for the duo's sultry, melodic, dream-pop vibe. Angela Mattson and Jeffrey Mendel came together in 2011 to form the band and have since released their studio album, The Belt, which consists mostly of songs with powerful lyrics over thumping electronic beats.    Their most popular song "Peaches" which was included on many lists as one of the best songs of last summer, has gotten a lot of recognition in indie-pop circuits and main stream radio as well; popular electronic musicians such as Passion Pit, Omniflux, and Kele have remixed the track. 
Both Angela and Jeffrey are a little quirky and gothic and share the most amount of chemistry I have ever witnessed while on stage together. They are two equal halves of the whole dividing most songs into duos and carrying their weight instrumentally--Angela plays keyboard and Jeffrey plays guitar. Their live performance is hypnotic in the way that it is hard not to be entirely wrapped up in what they are doing regardless of what it is. 
Angela took some time out of her super busy tour schedule to answer a few of my questions, so please enjoy the interview below(:

Q. How did you two meet and what brought you together to start In the Valley Below?

A. We met in Los Angeles in the music scene. I saw Jeffrey performing with the band Sabrosa Purr and they blew me away. I later became their bass player.

Q. Were either of you making music by yourselves or with another group before you found each other?

A. We were both playing in bands and writing solo music. We decided to try and write some music together and it was awkward at first. Writing songs with someone is a very intimate experience. It took us a while to get comfortable. Eventually we got very comfortable. Then we decided to focus on the things we felt were our weaknesses, like singing harmonies, keyboards, recording.

Q. What does the name In the Valley Below mean to you and how did you come up with the name? 

A. It was inspired by Bob Dylan's song "One More Cup Of Coffee". The song has such a thick mood and he sings about going to the valley below. We want to be In The Valley Below.

How did you get into crafting your own beer? 

A. Purely for the love of drinking beer. It tastes so much better. Like a home cooked meal.

Q. As far as genres go, how would you classify yourself? You don’t really seem to fit into any particular bubble. 

A. It's in the spirit of Rock & Roll

Q. I read somewhere that you both are huge Phil Collins fans. Is he still your dream collaboration, and who else do you both draw inspiration from? 

A. Him or Peter Gabriel

Q. Do you both go through the whole song writing process together? Especially with the majority of your songs being duets, do you each write your own part to a song?

A. Usually one of us starts a song or comes in with an idea for a song and we finish it together. Often we write each others lyrics.

Q. Where do you find inspiration for your lyrics? Are they all personal or do you tend to play roles?

A. Most are personal, some contain surprising amount of foresight, almost clairvoyance. We'll write about things that happen a few years later. A lot about past relationships romantic or otherwise. Some are inspired by society.

Q. The song, Peaches, got picked up by radio stations pretty slowly, as most alt-turned-pop songs do. Were you surprised when it became so popular 2 years after its release?

A. We are always surprised when anyone pays attention to us. We made this record not expecting anyone but us to enjoy it. We knew it was good, but there is so much good music out there that never gets on the radio. We are constantly grateful and feel lucky to be where we are now.

Q. How do y’all get ready and excited before you go on stage? Do you have any rituals?

A. We dedicate every show to someone. Last night in Buffalo it was to the crew of the Edmond Fitzgerald. Then we slap each other on the face.

Q. After concluding The Belt Tour, what is next for In the Valley Below? 

A. We've got a warm basement somewhere cold and snowy to work on our next record.

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