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In The Whale: On The Rise

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On the rise and busy most of the year, the In The Whale members have been working hard toward a shared dream. Nate Valdez and Eric Riley, the punk rock duo, have been restless in their battle to be heard. From SXSW, to a full summer tour, cutting a new EP and then Lollapalooza, they are finally getting the exposure they deserve.

They might be playing on bigger stages now, but they haven’t always been used to the big crowds of people. Both of the guys are from small towns, but Nate is coming from a much smaller town than you may think. Las Animas, Colorado, a town with a population of about 2,400 people, is where it all started for Nate. He grew up with no one to show him a huge variety of music, he had to find it on his own.

“I didn’t have older siblings to show me music and In my part of the Arkansas Valley, not very much music was coming through, but when it did, it was punk bands,” Valdez explained. “I basically learned about music by listening to stuff that everyone told me not to listen to. They’d say ‘don’t listen to Dead Kennedys, it’ll make you hate Jesus.’ So, I was like oh man, I’m going to listen to Dead Kennedys.”

Int The Whale | Courtesy Photo

Int The Whale | Courtesy Photo

Nate’s side of the influence for the band is heavy in a punk style that he is used to because of his childhood, but he has experimented with music throughout the years. Nate and Eric have really combined much more than genres, they have combined their attitudes and style to form what they call “eargasm.” If you check out their Facebook page, they list the description of the band as “The Kenny Powers of Music,” which is an example of the kind of fun this band likes to have.

The other half of In The Whale is from Harlingen, Texas. Eric’s home town, located at the southern tip of Texas, might not be quite as small: 66,000 people live there. So, after shifting around between states, Riley finally settled in Greeley.

This is where the In The Whale story starts. Nate quickly made his way out of Las Animas after graduating from high school and went to school at the University of Northern Colorado. After some time being involved with the music scene, outside of concentrating on his studies, he kept on running into Eric and things just started to fall into place.

That was when Nate decided to go to Eric with a demo he had recorded as a solo artist and he loved it. The acoustic sets that Nate used to do sound a lot different now. With Eric on the drums, playing heavy and fast-paced drum patterns, it doesn’t get anymore rock ‘n’ roll than what they create when Nate comes in blazing with his aggressive, yet unique, style of vocals. The loud and “in your face” approach has worked out very well for them. They managed to take a punk style, that has kind of died down over the last decade, and smashed it together with a twist of alternative and post-hardcore.

They started doing some shows for fun and it didn’t take them long to permanently commit to what they were able to create together. This is what also led to the creation of the band.

It was all because of an incident with an ex-girlfriend. Before Nate recorded the demo, he had a girlfriend, and, you guessed it, their story didn’t end with a happily ever after. She went away to study abroad and came back engaged, with Nate under the impression that they were still together.

“I felt abandonment and it led me to the band’s name,” Nate said. “I grew up religious, and so did Eric, but it reminded me of Jonah. So, then came the name In The Whale.”

That was back in 2010 and here they are now. From playing a few times out of the year, to now playing about 180 days of the year, the band has taken this venture as seriously as any other successful band. Since 2011, the band has released three EPs and this fourth EP, Full Nelson, is a clear sign of the maturing the group has done.

“We took the advice of Reverend Horton Heat who said you’re not going to be famous by sitting at home,” Nate said. “It has obviously worked out for us.”

This year, so far, the band has already played more days than not, and even squeezed in a full week at SXSW. After playing for a full week, they closed on an official SXSW stage and made their way on to a full swing of summer dates, which just so happens to be their summer tour.

This will be the beginning of when they really push the new songs from their latest EP, Full Nelson. After a ton of testing songs on the local crowds in Denver, they cut the list of songs down to what they considered the best.

“If the crowd didn’t like it, it didn’t make it on the album,” Nate explained. “The locals played a big part on selecting the tracks that we would record.”

They played their album release show in April and finally put the album up on their Bandcamp page a little earlier than they had expected. They had to make it available if they were going to be playing the album during their tour, so it went up around the time they started their tour with Agent Orange.

The guys are playing alongside their friends, Agent Orange. The group is taking them out for two and a half months, before switching off to another tour. They’ll be playing all across the U.S. and parts of Canada.

“We’ll finish in Arizona and then we have two days to drive to Texas, where we’ll meet up with another band called The Continental and we’ll tour with them for about two weeks,” Nate said. “We’ll end up in Salt Lake and then we’ll have one day to drive to Denver overnight for another show.”

Just when it seemed that the band was way busy, it got busier. The band was invited to New York, for a few days, to play a show for a Billboard Top 100 bands showcase for bands about to break. They were definitely stoked about the news and it was perfect timing, because it would leave them a couple of days of relaxation before they play a set at Lollapalooza.

Though it might seem like a hectic schedule for any band, it’s exactly what In The Whale wants. They know hard work will pay off in the end and the fact that they are able to play so much means that they are in high demand.

“I can’t exactly pinpoint the moment I knew we were doing well, because we had already been playing so many shows,” Nate explained. “But, it had to be the feedback that we were getting from tour managers for other bands and they were telling us we were the best band they had heard in awhile. That’s when I knew. That meant a lot to me.”

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Soul mates: An interview with Colorado’s in/Planes

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I feel the need to take a quick second to clear something up—I watched the band in/PLANES get married. Not for this article, mind you; the ceremony was years ago. I have been friends with musical and otherwise soulmates Inaiah Lujan and Desirae Garcia for over a decade at this point (due in no small part I’m sure to our mutual enthusiasm and passion for local music). As a result, I have had the opportunity to bear witness as not only their music but also relationship has burst and bloomed into multiple amazing endeavors. Whether it was their passionate and spirited take on Dustbowl-era Americana as members of folk revivalists the Haunted Windchimes or the wonderfully intimate lo-fi solo albums the both of them have released over the years, these two have a continually impressive musical output and a charm that I have always been excited to delve into. Hell, they even played in my basement once upon a time.

But none of them have struck me quite the same way as in/PLANES has. “Radio Wave,” their first full-length offering via Denver indie record label GROUPHUG, is something altogether different; something wondrously unique. It could be their voices. THOSE voices—honeyed and harmonious—especially whilst entwined in the duets that frequent the songs of in/PLANES. It could be the melodies they create—a riding-high blend of 50’s sha-la-la doo-wop, 60’s sunshine pop and indie-birthed soul—that feels distinctly pop without the trappings of sounding glossy or over-produced. Where tons of modern indie acts are ready to make a loud racket, in/PLANES instead opts to let the grooves play out sparsely and intimately, with inviting musicianship and vocal performances that envelop the space surrounding them. Whether live in concert or in the car, the music of in/PLANES holds on tightly and never lets go.

PULP: It’s weird trying to formally interview you guys; being friends makes it weird to ask you questions in a regular way.

Inaiah Lujan (guitar/vocals): That’s okay.

Desirae Garcia (bass guitar/vocals): We’ll be semi-formal.

IL: Business casual. (laughs)

I did do some research though, and I realized that in/PLANES has been around for longer than I remembered. But this new album is your first full length?

IL: Yeah. This is our first formal release that isn’t an EP. And also first physical release. There is some intention with that. You know that we are champions of analog stuff; Cassette tapes are my first love; I grew up making mixtapes. And CD’s have always felt pointless to me, but for so long we played the game because you used to HAVE to have CD’s on the merch table. But this band has been pretty vocal about our disdain for CD’s; “Radio Wave” is only going to be available on cassette. You’ll get a digital download with purchase of the tape.

Speaking of which, what does the name “Radio Wave” mean in regard to the band?

DG: It’s a line from the song “Why Didn’t You,” a song that is actually not on the record. (laughs). But it’s the very first in/PLANES song we ever wrote. We wrote that song, and it felt like it was part of a totally different project; it felt different than anything we were doing. So maybe it’s a nod to the beginning of the project. We like to think of the song as kind of a breadcrumb to where we are at now.

IL: The benefit of this band is getting to take our time with things; to be more intentional. So now we have been releasing stuff retroactively. The EP we released just last month is stuff we had recorded from our apartment; “Radio Wave” is stuff we put together with Adam Hawkins from Right Heel Music and our drummer Carl Sorensen, and we already have another album in the works.

For me, it also has dual meaning; in/PLANES seems to always create this kind of duality. “Radio Wave” also musically reminds me of when people were only listening to the radio. It kind of plays to idea of this vintage-pop genre we’re kind of going with.

DG: That’s also the music that this record is really inspired by.

IL: The EP feels like kind of a sampler or mixtape for what we’re all about, but this full length is more focused; a little more of that classic pop sound. It’s a fitting title for sure.

DG: Also it’s 1,000,000% love songs; which is bad and good. (laughs)

When you wrote “Why Didn’t You,” did it feel like a song intentionally for a new project?

IL: I think it just presented itself that way; I had been toying around with some chords, and I had been trying to write a song and I didn’t know where to start with melody or lyrics, so I had Desi help me out and it came together really quickly.

In doing so, we realized that we hadn’t collaborated in that way with just the two of us since the beginning of the Haunted Windchimes. At that point, the ‘Chimes had already become four contributing songwriters and had developed a strong formula; in that way it felt like not exactly a departure, but something new that we could try and explore on our own.

DG: It came out really naturally and organically. And it didn’t fit anywhere, either with the ‘Chimes songs or solo songs.

Do you feel like fans of the ‘Chimes and your solo efforts are following you down this path?

IL: I think so. We are all taking a break with the ‘Chimes for now, but we haven’t officially announced that to our fans, so sometimes we’ll get messages asking where we’ve been and why haven’t they heard any news about the band. So maybe some people are a little resistant to it. I don’t know.

DG: It sounds different enough so that some people aren’t going to be into it, which is okay. The other day, someone left a comment on the Windchimes Facebook page asking about us, and another person commented back saying “you should check out in/PLANES and (Haunted Windchimes member Mike Clark’s) the River Arkansas” and the first person commented back “We just like ‘Chimes’ style music,” which is okay! You don’t have to follow us everywhere.

IL: The great thing about being an artist and a musician is the ability to shift gears and follow rabbits down different holes. And with in/PLANES, we’re already trying to get out of our own box and comfort zone. But the common thread that ties it all is that we write all of the songs together, and we wear our influences on our sleeves.

So if you had to explain what you think in/PLANES sounds like, what would you say?

DG: That is my least favorite question, because it’s so hard to explain. The shortcut i usually go for is throwback, vintage pop with some rock tendencies. And if they’re listening after that, then I’ll just keep talking until they walk away, because it’s so difficult to answer.

But like to go with vintage-pop, because if someone says rock & roll, I don’t feel attached to that. We write pop music; all the formulas, the lack of formulas…

IL: It does feel like something you would turn on the radio and hear in the 50’ or 60’s to me, but our modern influences still sneak in; we’re both big fans of hip-hop and country music, and it all gets in one way or another.

DG: Digital drums are where we lose a lot of people. They’re like “WHAT? Is that a digital drum?” And I’m like, “Yup, it is.” (laughs) It’s those 808 beats.

The electronics are really subtle in your songs though.

IL: I think so too. I think we just want to be able to write a song without putting it in a box, you know? But at the same time, making sure to trim all of the fat; which may be contradictory.

We’re not trying to write complex songs. I don’t like to have any rules, but I do like to set limitations on myself; almost like limiting your color pallette if you’re a painter.

DG: Not to be pigeonholed, but also maintain some cohesion. Present yourself in a way people can understand. I don’t like to tell people what genre of music we are, but it is helpful for us; it makes us more focused.

IL: Knowing where the line or limitation is and knowing how far we can push it over causes a tension we like to work under. It’s good tension.

DG: You can’t put me in a box—only I can put me in a box!

“Radio Wave” from in/PLANES is out 5/3 on cassette via GROUPHUG records, with a slew of release shows and a digital release to come soon thereafter. For full dates and info, head to inPlanes.com

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CO Springs emcee Che Bong goes outer limits on new psychedelic full length

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Electro-Soul Hip Hop | Che Bong – From the dusty ‘Amen break’ heavy loop-gone-psychedelic of album opener Telescope to the lo-fi space rockin’ of album ender The Paradox of Time, CS emcee Che Bong (of Bullhead*ded) has really outdone himself and the genre itself on Telescope to the Heavens. With an album full of immersive and challenging-yet-chill hip hop musicality that owes just as much to free jazz and psychedelic rock as it does to hip hop and neo-soul, Che is on some next level stuff.  Get. On. It.


90’s inspired Alt-Punk | Hooper – “No Monument” from Denver Rock City punkers Hooper does a couple things very well; it provides stellar songwriting and momentum building, gives a healthy shot in the arm of indie-slathered 90s era punk rock, and in doing both provides a direct line to the sonic and perhaps more importantly workhorse aesthetic of the nascent indie punk heyday of the 90s. Trip out on that, holmes!


Blackened Sludge-Punks | Worry – The newest EP from Colorado Springs heavies Worry is not for the faint of heart, smashing heads on the punk rock with a bludgeoning mix of seething sludge metal and intrinsically intense hardcore know-how. Monolithic and absolutely monstrous, the seven raw cuts on A Celebration of Suffering are gloriously bleak, blackened and smolder with an actual extremity that most other “extreme” bands often lack.


Slow Burn Indie Rock | Wrinkle – Mind melding and photosynthesizing the big hook power-pop of early Weezer and the Rentals with the wide-eyed indie bend of Neva Dinova and Cursive, Denver’s indie rock supergroup of sorts Wrinkle are a slackers fever dream; a haze of unaffected yet disaffected indie-fed pop rock that first and foremost rules and that is more commercially viable than them nor I would care to admit on their newest offering A Kaleidoscope of Butterflies.


All releases available for purchase now thru Bandcamp. Go Local!

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Raw Rock & Roll and dark Blues collide with Denver’s the Velveteers

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At only six tracks long, this brand new self-titled EP via Denver’s the Velveteers (Recorded on warm analog tape at Silo Sound Studios in Denver) is a half-hour long magic spell; a concoction of twisted psychedelic undercurrent and blues-rock guitar histrionics draped in the smoky and arresting vocals of one Demi Demitro. Demi, along with co-founder and multi-instrumentalist John Demitro, conjure the kind of gnarled, foot-stomping rhythms and riffs that have dual citizenship between the acid-laced Led Zeppelin 70’s arena-rock heyday and the modern fuzz drenched, psychedelic revival of now.

Musically, this 2 piece makes quite the racket. Raw rock and roll power and deep, dark blues mystique collide head on. If you want a band that can riff, look no further! You may snap your neck clean off from all the head nodding you’ll involuntarily be doing. Like a confession to the dark lord himself, the Velveteers pen the kind of dirty rock and roll diddies that are a conduit for the heathen in all of us. With lyrical gems like “You know just what your doing to me / but heaven knows what’s up your sleeves” (off of the sublime album midpoint “Bloody Little Secrets”), Velveteers delve into the dark and macabre underbelly of the mind and bring back blues-laced musical treasures for the world to behold. We should be so lucky.


“The Velveteers” is streaming (and for sale hint hint) via Bandcamp now. Live dates and more info on Facebook.

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