Grizfolk, In The Valley Below

The story behind the band Grizfolk unfolds like a richly episodic Beat novel: it’s a collection of character-driven vignettes that give way to one another with ease, with songs like chapters in a traveler’s cherished diary, suspended in time and space above an aural landscape of blue-collar romanticism and electro-inflected folk-rock.

It’s the story of a small-town songwriter from the South who leaves the Bayou on a wanderlust whim and heads West across the desert toward California, bending his course to the bohemian back-roads of old Americana with a jazz-like, improvisational fluidity.

It’s the story of two bigger-city producers from Sweden who decide to trade the snowdrifts of Stockholm for the palm trees of SoCal, bringing with them a haunted, dreamlike moodiness to the artificial, electronic paradise of pop music.

Above all it’s story of three musicians who journey to Los Angeles as strangers, finding inspiration and comfort in the emotionally barren yet mysteriously enticing sands of Venice Beach’s “ghetto by the sea,” eventually making it their home. Alongside the vagabonds and bottled blondes of Venice legend, Grizfolk’s music is a casually-indefinable, artistic paradise of its own, built upon a bedrock of lush electronic tones and analog textures, stomp-and-clap guitars and heart-swelling vocals.

The band’s sound layers glittering synth harmonies atop barn-burner rock hooks, mixing America’s country music heritage with that of an electro-pop persuasion. The result is an undeniably catchy collection of pop songs that sound both futurist and revivalist at the same time, drawing upon the digital of today as much as they do the organic, decaying reminders of times past.

Evoking a sense of both sentimentality and conquest, Grizfolk’s music paints the picture of a vivid folktronic world in which listeners can fully immerse themselves, drifting in and out of different eras and places, much like escaping down a literary rabbit hole and getting caught-up simultaneously within the tangled futuristic narratives of Philip K. Dick and the timeless Bunker Hill dreams of John Fante.

Grizfolk’s music is where folklore meets four-on-the-floor; where tumbleweeds meet turntables. Imagine a Head First Alison Goldfrapp making out with Tom Petty in a dimly lit, Prohibition-era speakeasy while The Knife’s Deep Cuts spins somewhere in the background on a loop.

“In Los Angeles you don’t have to seek out pop music. As long as you’re listening, it’ll find you,” says Grizfolk’s frontman Adam Roth. Both casually and confidently, he explains how despite growing up on different continents and possessing vastly different musical backgrounds, each band member at his core is really just a pop-purist at heart.

Although they’d technically met once before on the sidewalks of Abbot Kinney two years prior, it wasn’t until late 2012 that Adam Roth, Fredrik Eriksson and Sebastian Fritze truly connected as a band. The trio was ultimately brought together by an intense, shared appreciation of pop music and the intoxicating thrill of discovery that only a never-before-heard, truly great hook can provide.

“Pop can be country, grunge, dance, blues, indie-rock, funk, hip-hop—anything and everything, you name it,” Roth says. “But for us pop isn’t a genre; it’s a way of thinking. It starts with ditching the connotation of pop being a dirty word, and starting to treat the songs with respect as they try and define new things. One reason to love pop music is that it’s totally fearless in the way it accepts or even embraces an artist’s urge to experiment and push boundaries. Whether we’re talkin’ The Beatles or Queen, Michael Jackson or Lady Gaga, or even Amy Winehouse for that matter, pop celebrates and rewards those who take exceptional artistic risks. Period. For me and the guys, pop comes down to less about whatever the mainstream is doing, and more about allowing ourselves develop in new directions as artists.”

Like Roth, for the other two members of Grizfolk, Eriksson and Fritze, the choice to become professional musicians wasn’t actually a choice at all; it was a destiny. The art is simply in their blood. The desire to make music and learn their music came at an early age for all three, but whereas Grizfolk’s New Orleans-born singer-songwriter grew up in the Southern sticks on a steady Cajon diet of folk, blues and rustic Americana, the multi-instrumentalist Swedes that make up Grizfolk’s production backbone were both reared from the sparklingly clean and pretty city streets of Stockholm, where their musical upbringing was inescapably influenced by Europe’s prevailing fascination with super DJs and the culture of electronic dance music. Although seemingly disparate on paper, in the studio it’s their musical differences that actually ignite the spark that cracks Grizfolk’s collective creativity wide open, resulting in a truly synergistic band much greater than the sum of its parts and without a doubt one of this year’s most intriguing new acts to follow.

In The Valley Below

He’s from Memphis, equally steeped in Link Wray and Phil Collins. She’s a small town girl from a “mostly cold and cloudy town in Michigan”, who found her songwriting inspiration while living on a sailboat in the West Indies. Jeffrey Jacob and Angela Gail met in Los Angeles, playing guitar and bass, respectively, in a fuzz-box rock band, but the seeds of In the Valley Below were planted one night at SXSW, when they realized there was something special in the passion and chemistry they shared on-stage.

Vocalist Angela Gail puts it frankly: In The Valley Below make “mostly music that we would want to listen to.” The duo’s debut recordings are equal parts atmospheric and gauzy, with sharp hooks and sing-along choruses, inspired by faithful archetypes and dealing with powerful subjects like sex, crime and religion, as on the first single, “Peaches,” a celebration of mutual attraction and sensuality that Jeffrey jokes could just be about fruit.

The attraction between the two is palpable, but hard to define. For In the Valley Below, one plus one equals three, with Angela’s Americana folk-country and classic rock vibe melding with Jeffrey’s penchant for Anglo art-pop and heavy, Memphis-infused riffs into something completely different. The two wrote, produced, engineered and recorded their own songs in a home studio. Two of the 11 songs on their debut are mixed by the band, with the others handled by John Congleton [St.Vincent, David Byrne], Dave Sardy [Oasis, Band of Horses], Lasse Mårtén [Lykke Li, Peter, Bjorn & John], and Pete Min who also shared his studio for the recording of some vocals and drums. Angela and Jeffrey never even intended for In the Valley Below to be a performing band, so it turned out to be a pleasant surprise when the songs were so good they demanded to be played for people. A constant touring schedule, with appearances at festivals like Reading and Leeds in the UK, Rock en Seine in Paris, and a even a performance on the Late Show with David Letterman, In The Valley Below are paving their path. During days off, back home in Echo Park, CA, they make time to brew their own brand of beer, which may soon be available for purchase. And the rest, as they say…is mystery.

Filled with emotions from guilt to hope, and encouraging voyeurism, when they announce to their audience, “We are In the Valley Below,” they immediately invite us to join their communal world, one with no boundaries and whose limits are only defined by our collective imagination.

Adv tix $12.00 / Day of show $14.00

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Grizfolk, In The Valley Below with Laurel

Wednesday, January 29 · 8:00 PM at Troubadour

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