“We write from what the hell is going on,” Valdez says. “The record itself is kind of a response to the dog shit we’ve all been experiencing, as well as how we've been dealing with it.”
Valdez, who plays guitar and shares vocals with drummer Eric Riley, says that the opening song, “Crosses,” tackles the concept of how humans aren’t meant to last, and how the reality of that can be a gobsmack to the average person. The album closes out with the aptly titled “The End,” which espouses Valdez’s occasional wish for the sun to just swallow us all whole.
Early in its career, INTHEWHALE (FKA In the Whale) took a more cavalier approach to life, which Valdez describes as “fun, party, party. Everything’s fun. Everything’s great. We’re going to do some breakdowns, and it’s going to be awesome.
“As you get more mature and you grow as a person, things happen in your life that can alter your sense of reality and your sense of what’s important,” he continues. “For us as a band, I think it was important to be honest. It’s not always a party.”
So if Vanishing Point is not a party record, what is it?
The bandmates say it’s definitely their darkest work so far.
“It almost unintentionally goes through all the stages of how we felt during the lockdown,” Riley says. “Depression, anger, uncertainty — all sorts of stuff like that that is pretty relevant to what we were all going through.”
Lockdown was one of the hardest times he’s gone through both personally and professionally, Valdez adds. Not knowing when it was going to end dragged him down for months. He sank into a depression and had suicidal thoughts.
"Maybe I’m already a sensitive person; maybe that’s my fault. I took it extremely hard. The music we created for this record is little snapshots of what was happening and how we were or weren’t able to deal with it,” he says.
Without offering many details, the bandmembers say that some great professional opportunities evaporated in a matter of weeks as the COVID pandemic began to spiral out of control. It was a drag, and for a band that tours a lot, one that bordered on an existential crisis.
“Our whole lives are wrapped up in music and performing,” Riley elaborates. “Not being able to use that outlet to purge those feelings and having to stay inside definitely took a toll on us. I was working a landscaping job and wondering what was going to happen.”
Valdez's outlook has improved of late, he says. He sees the song “Smoke Break,” which takes on the subject of depression, as a way to communicate to listeners who might be suffering the same malaise.
“I wanted us to communicate that you are not alone,” he says. “It’s okay to not be okay.”
Riley has made a point of speaking out on stage before the band performs the song, letting people know that it’s okay to ask for help. He says he's lost too many friends to suicide over the past few years, including a close friend before the pandemic. He didn’t know the friend was struggling, and he worries that people with depression think they are alone. And that's not true, he says, because we're all going through the same shit.
“I love the fact that [“Smoke Break”] doesn’t resolve,” he says. “A lot of songs that deal with that subject matter have to say everything is shitty but it’s going to be okay. There are a ton of people who don’t feel that way. It’s unrealistic to paint that picture that way. It doesn’t always resolve.”
INTHEWHALE has been fortunate to play live this summer; in fact, the band just wrapped up an eleven-week, cross-country tour and is set to tour Britain this fall. Riley says that some of the shows were “off-the-wall bananas” — among the best they’ve ever played. But he and Valdez also got plenty of messages from people who said they forgot to ask for the day off, and he’s frustrated that people aren’t taking advantage of getting out while they can. After all, this window of freedom might not last forever.
“People are like, ‘I’ll see you next time,’ but there might not be a next time,” Riley points out. “That might have been your last chance to see INTHEWHALE or whoever play live. That could have been it for the next year.”
The tour started when COVID numbers were improving but before the Delta variant struck midway through, so things went from “Everything’s okay” to “A vaccine card or proof of negative test at the door or no show,” says Valdez, adding that it was a strange experience, particularly the last couple of weeks.
“We were going to go hard” at the beginning of the tour, he recalls. “And halfway through going hard, we were in Florida, and we were like, ‘We should be home.'”
"We were like, 'Oh, shit, we might have to cancel the tour,'" Riley adds.. "Every couple days, we're thinking, ‘Can we do this? Let's keep pressing on. We'll mask up and work with the venues.’”
Fortunately, they only had to cancel one show — in Buffalo — but it was a challenge to work with promoters to make shows as safe as possible for fans.
And keep their own sanity.
“No one has navigated this before,” Valdez acknowledges. “Big shows are still happening. I’ve seen these pictures of Korn, and it’s just massive. There are 20,000 people. I can’t criticize anyone else, but by the same token, I’m glad we're home — even though our entire existence is to be on the road.”
Vanishing Point drops on October 22; learn more at inthewhalesucks.com. After touring England with Evil Scarecrow, INTHEWHALE will celebrate the album's release December 10 at the Marquis Theater, December 11 at Washington’s in Fort Collins and December 12 at the Mesa Theater in Grand Junction.