Angela Gail, along with her partner, Jeffrey Jacob, forms the electronic music duo In the Valley Below. Their music is equally suited to dark nightclubs and sunlit beaches, and the press release for their latest album, The Pink Chateau, describes it perfectly as “sexy, urbane, tropical pop music.”
Rather than simply release the album or put out a music video, Gail directed a film which forms a visual interpretation of In the Valley Below’s new album. When we spoke about it the other day, it was really a fascinating glimpse into how both a new filmmaker (this was her directorial debut) and experienced musician can find something intriguing by trying something unexpected.
In the Valley Below are also touring this show and playing the album live, which makes it a really interesting thing, especially as they’ll be playing to the audience through headphones. All around, it’s just the most delightful thing I can think of, and the movie’s a fascinating interpretation of ’70s French erotica, shot at a bed and breakfast, of all places.
I spoke with Gail by phone about In the Valley Below’s album and film, The Pink Chateau, and it was a really delightful time.
The film really reminds me a lot of Jean Rollin movies, minus the vampires or zombies. Also, maybe it’s my viewing habits, but the early scenes also have this hint of ’60s nudie cutie films about them, like Doris Wishman’s Nude on the Moon or something. Were there any directors you had in mind when you made the film?
It was a collection of old ’60s and ’70s, maybe even some ’80s films. We were trying to get ideas for the vibe and the color. One movie where the mood was really inspirational was Immoral Tales. I liked the sensuality of that. We had the idea to do the stories through the separate chapters, and that was another movie that had that, so it was a good point of inspiration.
Why make a film to go along with the album? It seems like visual albums come mostly from hip-hop or R&B artists these days, like Beyonce or Janelle Monae, rather than indie rock bands.
Modern day, it hasn’t been done that often, but I feel like back with the Beatles or The Wall by Pink Floyd, it was kind of a thing back then. It was just we wanted to something different. It’s our second album, so we just [sighs] wanted to come up with a whole new concept of putting an album out there, because as things change, digitally, with people basically listening to just songs — not albums — we wanted to have more of a whole package experience.
That’s a really interesting thing, because if you’re watching The Pink Chateau, you’re also hearing the album in its entirety.
Yeah. It was also interesting, because usually, the film is made, and then the music is put into it. I’ve never made a feature film before, but it was strange to have to make a film to go with the music that was already there.
That sort of idea, that the music came first, makes for a really knotty thing to work out. You’re not just trying to tie one song to one scene, but also tying the entire visual representation to an entire album.
The album was written and completed before the movie idea was even born, so we didn’t have to focus on all of it at once. Actually, after the album was finished, the woman who runs our record label had the idea to make a soft-core porn film, because when we perform live on stage, Jeffrey and I are very intimate, and there’s kind of sexuality/sexual tension going on, so she wanted to do a spin-off of that. Instead of going straight Cinemax, we decided to do something a little more vintage erotica-inspired
The sexual expression in The Pink Chateau means that it features people of myriad sexualities and gender expressions, as well as different body types and ethnicities. Was it important for the film to be inclusive?
Yes, definitely. I didn’t want it to be a bunch of white people. That’s what we said going in. I feel like diversity brings so much more to the project. It’s way more interesting for me to watch, as a viewer, but it was a challenge shooting something like that, and finding cast and crew in small-town Michigan, but it was worth the extra effort, I think.
This does not look like it was shot in small-town Michigan.
I know, right?
Where did you find this gorgeous house?
In a small town called Battle Creek, where Kellogg’s is from. It’s really in the middle of cornfields, like miles of cornfields. It’s a bed and breakfast, and they do weddings and stuff there. We were locating scouting and that place just blew our minds, and we knew we had to have it. We were going to do it it France; we just kept saying, “Let’s just go to France,” and that was sort of a nightmare, so we decided to shoot there.
It looks like those French manor houses with all the gauzy curtains and high ceilings, for sure. How’d you come to decide to — after making this album, and then the film — tour the whole thing together live?
As a band, we usually just play clubs, and I’m not sure that if we just screened the movie, if that would be enough of an experience. So, since we did an album and a film, we wanted to be there and perform the music, so our fans will come and they get to see us and hear us and watch the movie. We’re also doing this with headphones, which is really cool.
It was our manager’s idea, and we did a little test, and it turned out really well. I can whisper to them and it’s really intimate and a cool experience for everybody. Nobody has to talk to talk to each, and they can’t, because they’re wearing headphones. It’s unlike a typical show, just something fun and different we wanted to try.
In the Valley Below’s The Pink Chateau is out Friday, April 26, via Bright Antenna Records. The live album and film experience tour starts Tuesday, April 9, at the downtown Brooklyn Alamo Drafthouse. Tickets and further dates can be found at the band’s website.