In the Whale - Nate EP

Fire ‘n’ brimstone. Rock ‘n’ roll. In the Whale’s third EP delivers, again.

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ARTIST: In the Whale



I first saw In the Whale perform during the 2012 Underground Music Showcase in Denver, CO. It was a sweaty, raunchy time. There was moshing, yelling, and lots of spilt beer. After the show, the venue, 3 Kings Tavern, was strewn with battered mock church fliers—creased over and covered in shoeprints stained in spilled drinks. It was a fitting image for the mayhem they brought to the stage. Borrowing its name from the biblical tale of Jonah and the Whale, In the Whale has been modernizing a bluesy, noisy rock ‘n’ roll that’s sometimes messy and always playful, fast, and hard. It’s comical, loud, both self-effacing and confident. When Nate Valdez (vocals and guitar) and Eric Riley (drums and backing vocals) decided to make the move from Greeley, Colorado to Denver, they bore themselves a hole in the ever-growing Denver music scene. Their high-powered, unrepentant sound fits the bill for shows featuring punk and metal bands, but also provides a cracking, welcomed relief from less thundering sounds that can be found in indie folk and more downtempo alt rock. Their sound complements and adapts well to different genres because their music originates from the divine—so to say—visceral power of the quintessential rock show. When Valdez and Riley take the stage, the audience can expect to dance, jump, stomp, clap, scream, and holler. It’s the kind of music you know you’d want to listen to loudly, no matter what.

Their previous EPs, Cake (2012) and Eric (2013), have set the tone for their rigorous sound. Released last week, their third EP, Nate, is another high-powered, energetic set of tracks with memorable melodies, forward drumming, and throaty, boiling vocals. Nate also further solidifies the playfulness that has made the band a pair of self-psyched, earnest, passionate performers. Their hard-working enthusiasm is heard both in the vocals and the instrumentals. Made up of only four tracks, Nate accumulates to less than 11 minutes of raging that asks to be played on repeat. Valdez’s guitar whittles riffs to wobbling grunts while Riley’s drums provide a booming, escalating backdrop. In the Whale’s spunky lyricism is still preserved. In the opening track, “Robert Johnson,” Valdez blurts, “Mama don’t you cry, don’t you shake your head cuz I’ve been drinking all night and I wish I were dead.” In the Whale also remains impartial to themselves and often flirt with comical self-effacement. “Wedding Bells” is a track about getting out of the friendzone with a girl who’s taken by “another guy, heavy as can be there ain’t no room for a sucker like me.” Patterned by long and short tracks, the arc of Nate works on a fast-rising trajectory. Each track arches high quickly. Each track is a crescendo of bashing, relentless motion. Similar to Eric, their new EP also ends with a red herring. “Sunbeam” in Eric steps into metal while Nate’s final track, “Grandpa Pete,” goes garage punk. Both tracks reveal the band’s playful excursion into divergent genres, but also shows the band’s experience with the very music that inspired them and their sound.

In a podcast interview with Dammit Damian, Nate Valdez might have said it best: “It’s the chemistry on stage. It just can’t be fucked with.” The partnership of two friends who aren’t afraid to make fun of themselves, who make hard-hitting music they’d want to hit up themselves, and who have cultivated a mutual understanding of their musical prerogatives, has made In the Whale most certainly a duo whose confidence makes their sound louder, brasher, and fresher than a lot of young rock ‘n’ roll bands.

“Now the devil’s head is on me. He won’t let me go.”

1. Robert Johnson
A track about the myth surrounding the legendary blues guitarist and singer Robert Leroy Johnson. Johnson was said to have sold his soul to the devil to play as well as he did. Valdez could have paid homage to Johnson’s iconic playing, but he decides to focus on chronicling the famous story to highlight the musician’s invaluable gift. “Robert Johnson” sounds like it could be used for the commercial of revamped muscle car.9.0
2. Wedding Bells
Content-wise, this track harkens back to their bombastic older track, “Girlfriend.” It’s another energetic track about wanting the girl you can’t have. Valdez and Riley’s voices enact a quick call and response. Later, Riley’s reiteration of “ring ring ring” acts as an additional, overlying beat to the song. This is a fun track that could go longer, but decides to close as quickly as it opens.8.0
3. Lake of Fire
Valdez opens, “I wanna take you to a lake of fire. You and me and Rosemary’s baby.” Valdez’s voice intermittently delays the progressing tempo of the track, but speeds up at each hook. The chorus is so fulfilling, it’s been stuck in my head for days. It’s one of those simple, stirring choruses that makes you feel inexplicably good to sing aloud. The guitar interlude is very Queens of the Stone Age—a sweet touch.9.5
4. Grandpa Pete
The red herring of the EP. “Grandpa Pete” is a kitschy, funny track that mimics the flavorings of garage punk. “Grandpa Pete is a creep” is repeated over and over. A funky, juxtaposed intermission is also provided by Valdez’s guitar. The composition of the track is thoughtfully layered. Where else could you hear the word, “Grandpa,” in the form of a metal growl?8.5
Denver transplant Jenifer Park roll tides at the University of Alabama for her MFA in poetry.

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