In the Valley Below is making music that’ll make you dance

In the Valley Below, which consists of married couple Jeffrey Jacob Mendel and Angela Gail Mattson, play Lincoln Theatre Oct. 12, 2017.
In the Valley Below, which consists of married couple Jeffrey Jacob Mendel and Angela Gail Mattson, play Lincoln Theatre Oct. 12, 2017. bighassle.com

It’s pretty rare to hear indie artists say they want to make music that’ll “make your butt move a little bit.”

But for the thirtysomething duo that makes up alternative-pop group In the Valley Below, getting people to put in some booty work is high on their list of priorities.

“I like to do – I call it ‘the stinkface,’ ” says guitarist/vocalist Jeffrey Jacob Mendel, on the phone from his home in Grand Rapids, Mich. “If the groove can make you do that face, where it looks like you smelled something awful, that’s a good sign.”

And that could happen Oct. 12 when they open for Tricky at the Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh.

Mendel and his wife, keyboardist/vocalist Angela Gail Mattson, make up In the Valley Below. They began making stinkface-inspiring music when they were bandmates in the Los Angeles rock group Sabrosa Purr.

“Sabrosa Purr is a heavier rock band, and I was just playing guitar and Angela was just playing bass in that band,” Mendel recalls. “We weren’t the singers or songwriters in that band. So In the Valley Below started as just a songwriting exercise for the two of us, just to see if there would be anything interesting going on there.”

It wasn’t until a trip to Austin’s South by Southwest Festival in 2011 that these pals decided to take their union one step further. As Mendel remembers, “We were just friends when we went there and, then, by the end of the week, it kind of evolved into something else, during many days of drinking and other things.”

They released a self-titled EP later that year, which eventually led to a full-length album, “The Belt,” three years later. And even though “Belt” was released on Capitol, they weren’t planning to stick around on a major label long.

“Basically, we just had a one-album deal with Capitol,” says Mendel. “So after we did the one album, we were free agents, so to speak. And we decided to put our second album out on an indie, because it seemed a little more suited to our aesthetic, in general.”

That second release was an EP, titled “Elephant,” released earlier this year on Bright Antenna Records – and, yes, most of the songs on this five-track EP could get those posteriors going.

“We weren’t trying to accomplish anything specific,” Mendel says. “We were just writing songs that felt, you know, good to us. We definitely are operating in the pop-music realm, as far as our song structures and everything. We’re just trying to write interesting songs that we would want to listen to, and that’s kinda all we do.”

Not all of the songs are fun, danceable ditties, though. The EP’s first single, “Bloodhands (Oh My Fever),” was inspired by the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown, which led to the protests and riots in Ferguson. It’s not unusual for these two to get socially conscious in their music. After all, their band is named after lyrics in the Bob Dylan song “One More Cup of Coffee.”

“We didn’t sit down to write a song about it,” says Mendel. “It just was on our minds when we were writing that song, and it kind of came out naturally in the moment that we were writing. It’s not a protest song in the traditional sense. It’s just our sort of feelings, at the moment.”

In the Valley Below is currently on tour with trip-hop legend Tricky. Besides working on material that’ll lead to another full-length album to be released later this year, they’re also compiling an album of lullabies. The titular track from “Elephant” was originally conceived as a lullaby. “We are gonna continue to write ‘sleepy-time music’ and, so, we might put out ‘The Bedtime Album’ coming up soon,” says Mendel.

This is how In the Valley Below rolls: If they’re not out to make your butt move, they’re gonna put your butt to sleep.


Who: Tricky, with In the Valley Below

When: 8:30 p.m. Oct. 12

Where: Lincoln Theatre, 126 E. Cabarrus St.

Cost: $22

Details: 919-821-4111; lincolntheatre.com