To gear up for a new EP and July tour, Grand Rapids’ In the Valley Below appeared on Local Spins on WYCE, which also featured tracks by Michigan Mafia, Alexander Lynch, Fauxgrass and more.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Grand Rapids’ In the Valley Below were this week’s guests for Local Spins on WYCE. Listen to the full podcast here and read a feature story about the band below. This week’s episode of Local Spins on WYCE also showcased new music from Afterglow, Darin Zarzecki and Yolonda Lavender along with tracks from Alexander Lynch, Vox Vidorra, Dede & The Dreamers, Fauxgrass, The Moxie Strings and Michigan Mafia String Band.
PODCAST: Local Spins on WYCE with In the Valley Below (6/23/17)
Decked out in dazzling white, Angela Gail Mattson and Jeffrey Jacob Mendel masterfully blend subtle theatrics with potent musicianship – from an original gem like “Dove Season” to a striking, hypnotic rendition of Tom Petty/Stevie Nicks’ “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” — propelled by drummer Joshua Clair’s dynamic approach.
It’s a spellbinding experience.
“Musically, they are mind-blowing,” raves Peter Fox, recording engineer and co-owner of Grand Rapids’ Stone House Recording where In the Valley Below recorded parts of its upcoming new EP.
After reveling in international success as an L.A. dream pop marvel, In the Valley Below has found a home in Grand Rapids.
The group this week completed the last of three straight Wednesday nights at Founder Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids as part of a special residency at the brewpub as it prepares to release its new “Elephant” EP in July.
A provocative single, “Blood Hands (Oh My Fever),” was released earlier this month along with a video filmed in Los Angeles.
In the Valley Below also performed an acoustic version of the song as a trio earlier this month as part of Local Spins Live on News Talk 1340 AM (WJRW). Listen to the full radio podcast here.
PODCAST: Local Spins Live with In the Valley Below
Angela, a Muskegon native who graduated from Mona Shores High School and Grand Valley State University, and Jeffrey, a guitarist from Memphis, met in Los Angeles, eventually formed the band and earned widespread acclaim for the single, “Peaches,” from In the Valley Below’s 2014 full-length debut album, “The Belt,” released by Capitol Records (the same label that boasts stars such as Katy Perry and Sam Smith).
The attention brought them appearances on late-night network television, put them on tours across North America and Europe, and earned them buzz-band acclaim: The Huffington Post named “Peaches” the No. 5 song of 2014 and L.A. Weekly listed “The Belt” among the 10 best albums of 2014 by L.A. artists.
FINDING PEACE, CLEAN AIR AND ‘A TALENTED POOL OF MUSICIANS’ IN GRAND RAPIDS
But “the frustration of L.A.” eventually convinced them more than a year ago to relocate to Angela’s home state, with the couple buying a 93-year-old home on Grand Rapids’ Southeast Side where they also set up a basement studio.
“Once everything took off as a band, we were just gone all the time on the road,” recalls Angela, who plays bass and keyboards. “We decided we wanted to live somewhere that was peaceful and quiet and there was clean air.”
What the married couple also found in Grand Rapids was a thriving, inspiring music community.
“We’ve been really happily surprised by the music scene here,” say Jeffrey, an accomplished guitarist. “It’s a small town compared to L.A., so it feels like everybody kind of knows everybody, which is nice because you can kind of just sink into the scene real quickly. Everybody’s been very welcoming to us.”
Added Angela: “We’re very impressed by the talent. We had no idea it was such a talented pool of musicians here.”
The couple spent “a lot of time in the basement studio just writing a ton of songs” before paring those down for the new “Elephant” EP, recording drum tracks at Stone House, along with a backing Grand Rapids gospel choir assembled by singer Debra Perry for the “Blood Hands” single.
That poignant lead track – released along with a video on June 15 – was inspired by the 2014 Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo.
“You feel helpless to do something, when there’s something so wrong going on,” says Angela, who’s been influenced by artists as varied as Sinead O’Connor, PJ Harvey and Bob Seger.
“We wrote this … a couple years ago, and even then we thought, ‘Oh, well, the message is going to fade,’ but unfortunately, the same thing keeps happening.”
To help build its West Michigan audience, In the Valley Below also arranged for the three-week residency at Founders, a common practice in Los Angeles to “try to get as many people out as possible” to see artists perform.
“It’s good for us, because we can get comfortable on stage and it’s good for the audience because it gives them more chances to come out and less excuses,” says Jeffrey.
Following official release of the new EP in mid-July, In the Valley Below will launch a full-bore summer U.S. tour.
For Angela, that’s a long way from growing up in Muskegon with no notion of being a career musician.
“I was always a singer and a performer in theater and I liked to make up songs and have my younger siblings sing them,” she recalls.
“But I never thought I could do it as a job, as a profession. So my inpiration comes from … just ‘following your dreams’ and that whole poetic story. But it’s so true that you really can.”
VIDEO: In the Valley Below at Founders Brewing (June 7, 2017)
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