As soon as they arrived in the U.K. for their 14-date fall tour, INTHEWHALE bandmates Eric Riley and Nate Valdez started getting mistaken for a vacationing couple. During one recent hotel check-in, the duo was presented with two twin beds that had been pushed together to make a king-size, and a room key with a glass heart hanging from it.
“Draw your own conclusions I guess, I don’t know what the fuck to say,” Riley tells BandWagon.
Maybe it’s the fact that the two-piece band travel side-by-side, argue over where to eat, and sleep in the same room every night. More likely, though, it’s the first thing you notice when you meet them — a level of trust that’s formed over more than a decade of friendship and musical collaboration.
“I tell his wife all the time that I’ve known him longer than she has,” Riley says.
The motley pair might fein grumpiness at the site of their beds smushed together, but really they’re happy for the opportunity to make fun of themselves. They’re known for self-deprecation (their website is inthewhalesucks.com and their instagram features vikings on the toilet) but they’re heavy too, in both the musical sense and in their accomplishments, so let’s get to the business.
After six years of putting out singles and EPs, INTHEWHALE has finally released its debut LP, Vanishing Point. On the weekend of December 10, they will play a string of Colorado shows to celebrate the release in their home state. They will be joined by SNWBLL from PPL MVR (a band of mythical yeti-like creatures that you should definitely Google after reading this) but, while it’s definitely fun and games, the duo’s antics are a sharp contrast to the seriousness of their music.
Vanishing Point is INTHEWHALE’s most devastating effort yet, both musically and emotionally. Each song is dynamic, sometimes building with a slow crescendo and sometimes exploding into cacophony unexpectedly. Riffs are heavy, catchy and moshable. Valdez delivers earnest, aggressive vocals, and Riley enters with guttural screams from behind the drums during climactic moments.
What sets Riley and Valdez apart from other heavy acts isn’t their musicianship (though it is excellent) but their ability to translate unflinchingly raw moments into music. Starting with INTHEWHALE’s last EP, Dopamine, the band’s tone shifted from the sophomoric humor of their earlier releases to brutally honest explorations of the darker moments of life. These explorations continue on Vanishing Point. The band wrestles with pharmaceutical addiction, suicidal ideation and gentrification. The pain and anger is palpable.
“When we started out, it was ‘party, party, party, everything’s good,’” Valdez said. “On Dopamine, in the song ‘Deep End,’ I talked about getting bullied and being held underwater by kids. I felt like it was well-received and we thought, ‘why not keep using this platform to talk about real issues that we might have shied away from early on.”
One particularly brutal moment on the new album is “Smoke Break,” an anthemic dirge which openly addresses suicide. “God’s out getting smokes and left us all alone,” the refrain goes. Valdez isn’t afraid to admit that the lyrics are drawn from his own battle to get healthy.
“I was not in a good place. I was writing suicide notes,” Valdez said. “I was not able to really verbalize my emotions, so I started writing music.”
When writers of any medium delve into painful subject matter, there is a tendency to look for a happy ending — some indication that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. But, when Valdez brought “Smoke Break” to Riley, he knew they had to resist the urge.
“When he showed me that song I said, ‘we can’t resolve this.’ There can’t be a bridge that says, like, everything is going to be okay,” Riley said. “Sometimes you go through shit for a long fucking time. That story needs to be heard too, not just ‘it’s bad now but it’s going to be okay.’”
If there is one thing that Vanishing Point makes clear, it’s that the band is the same way with their audience as they are with each other — honest and unedited. After all, those relationships are almost equally as long.
“People have tattoos of our lyrics on them, which is always a bad idea because we’re just a shit band,” Valdez chided.
The album may have been born from pain, but it is a thing of beauty. On songs like “Drug Dealer” and “Antlion,” the duo seems to expand into a rage-fueled wall of sound. The result is, invariably, catharsis and headbanging, whether you’re plugged into your headphones or moshing in the front row.
Catch INTHEWHALE live Dec. 10 at The Marquis Theater in Denver, Dec. 11 at Washington’s in Fort Collins, and Dec 12 at The Mesa Theater in Grand Junction. Plus, watch BandWagonPresents.com this month for an exciting INTHEWHALE announcement this month and visit inthewhalesucks.com for more.