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In the Whale started out in Greeley as a side project of What About Pluto? and Trailer 77, but guitarist Nate Valdez and drummer Eric Riley wanted to do something more raw as an outlet for sublimated frustration and angst. A former counselor of juvenile delinquents, Valdez undoubtedly had plenty of fuel for that fire, as did Riley, who'd discovered that the life of a music major offered more rote learning than inspiration.
Rather than stay in Greeley, the two moved to Denver and pursued In the Whale in earnest, and have since made an impression on audiences with the raucous delivery of their fuzzy, blues-tinged, lo-fi power pop. We sat down recently with Valdez and Riley and talked about their new album's title and how the seedier side of society inspires their songwriting.
Westword: Your album is called Cake. Why that name?
Nate Valdez: The idea, in a way, is subtly sexual — but not blatantly. All the songs are about girls. It's very ambiguous, to the point at which it would confuse my mom. Every album title is based off of how much I can confuse my mom. When I brought her the album, she's like, "Why did you name it Cake? What's that about?" I said, "Mom, there's nothing to get." It's a self-satisfying thing to me, whenever I can confuse my mom.
Eric Riley: I feel like all the songs are a very masculine, chasing-a-woman kind of thing. Woman as drug is a big theme on the four songs. Kind of like the idea of cake being too sweet; too much of it is bad for you.
What about the sleazier side of life appeals to you?
ER: Again, a lot of our music is pretty masculine and testosterone-driven. It's all about pursuing a woman, trying to get into a chick's pants. I feel like everyone has that side to them. We're both stand-up guys, and we would never sexually assault anyone or anything like that; we don't look at porn five hours a day. But I think everyone has that little bit of devil in them. It's something you have to battle, and a lot of people don't necessarily explore that in their subject matter.
NV: That, and the small-town aspect, coming from a town that's conservative and very morals-based. For me, especially, when I came to a bigger city, it was, "We have sex, we have drugs, we have all this shit. Where was all this stuff when I was growing up?" I used to be worried about if I had to irrigate today or if the cows got fed. Then the world changes. Eric and I were raised in a very conservative, religious background, so a lot of our stuff is sarcastic, and we question God and everything we grew up with.