Angela Gail and Jeffrey Jacob met in Los Angeles while pursuing separate careers in the music industry. After the two self-taught musicians traveled from their homes in Muskegon, Michigan, and Memphis, Tennessee, the pair crossed paths through mutual friends in California’s music scene and in 2011 formed what is now the band In the Valley Below.
Gail and Jacob wrote and produced their debut album The Belt, released Aug. 25, while juggling side jobs and recording in their free time. Currently touring the U.S. with The Airborne Toxic Event, Gail said she and Jeffrey are working on new songs while on the road, and fans can expect to hear a new album “eventually.”
The Chronicle spoke with Angela Gail of In the Valley Below about recording The Belt, playing at Riot Fest and dealing with regret.
THE CHRONICLE: How did you and Jeffrey meet in Los Angeles?
ANGELA GAIL: I saw a band that Jeffrey was playing in and I thought they were really great. We met that day and became friends. He would come to my shows, and I would see his shows, and eventually I joined that band and we played in a couple different bands together. We decided to try and write some songs together and they were really bad in the beginning, so we stopped for a while. Then we went back and tried again, and we liked them, so we thought, “Let’s start our own band.”
How did you meet the other two members of the band?
We wanted [the album] to be a studio project, and it was going to be practice for writing and producing. Then, once we had to start playing live shows, we didn’t want it to just be the two of us on stage—we wanted a full band—so we hired a couple of our friends [Jeremy Grant and Joshua Clair] as [part of] our live band.
What inspired you to pursue a career in music?
Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be on stage, and I was sort of a performer at heart. [I realized I was interested in] music when I started playing guitar. A friend of mine gave me a guitar [in high school] and I taught myself to play. I guess when you’re an artist and you create something, you just want to share it with people. With the guitar, I think Jeffrey was the same. He started playing the guitar and wanted to do that crazy thing of being a professional musician, and he thought that it would be possible.
What have some of your biggest musical influences been?
It’s a lot of classic rock like Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin. But when we write, we don’t really think, “Oh, let’s try to make something like this.” It’s sort of a subconscious influence of all the music that we’ve liked over the years. We were inspired a lot on this record specifically by artists like Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins.
You’ve said crime, sex and religion are some of your inspirations. How have those subjects influenced your music?
During the writing of this record, we both had a lot going on relationship-wise. I think that’s … just how sex and lust can drive you to do certain things. I think we both had a lot of regrets. I know I do … of the way that I’ve acted throughout my life and whether it’s feeling entitled to things and committing crimes that I never got caught for, [laughs] but somehow writing about that helped me deal with it all. And then religion is just such a crazy thing, how it drives people to kill and do things that seem unreal because they think they’re doing it for a higher purpose … it’s an interesting topic.
What was the writing and recording process like for The Belt?
We write all the songs together. Usually one of us starts with an idea and we’ll come to the other one and play it on the guitar, and we’ll either like it or hate it. If we like it, then we’ll sit together and build upon that. That’s how all the songs start. For the recording process, we have a little rehearsal space/studio in Los Angeles that we share with a couple bands and it took us over a couple years’ period to record the whole [album]. We did it ourselves. It was fun. It’s definitely a lot harder and more time consuming to do it that way, but at that point we were both working a couple jobs and you have to make it work.
What was it like to play at Riot Fest this year?
It was a blast. For us it’s the ultimate compliment when you get asked to [play at a festival]. We’re still a new band so we played pretty early in the day, but it’s a good way for us to get our music out there and maybe someone new will connect with it.
What do you hope your fans take away from your performances?
If we can give people a way to see the world differently, then maybe that will make them leave the show different than when they arrived. I think that’s the ultimate goal. We can have that connection when on stage, and I look out at the people and I just want that to be something that people won’t forget.