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.”
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.”