There are both advantages and pitfalls to having only two people in your band.
First, the downside: "We've been a band for so long, it's like I've heard the same stories. All our cool stories we have, we're in," says Eric Riley, one half of Colorado rock band In the Whale, with a laugh. "So we just listen to podcasts on the van ride."
Riley, who plays drums and sings, is referring to the band's other half, Nate Valdez, singer and guitarist in the group. The pair has logged plenty of hours in their van in the last year, mostly touring the U.S. in support of their new EP, Dopamine.
"We got to the end of last year and realized we were a little burnt out from touring so much and also we hadn't written anything new in a really long time," Riley says. "We took a bunch of time off and ended up writing a shitload of new songs, like 20 or something like that."
In the end, they wound up taking six of those tracks into the Foo Fighters' Studio 606 with Steve Evetts, who produced, engineered and mixed it.
His vision was to capture the duo's raw, energetic sound live.
"We weren't playing to a metronome or anything like that," he says. "It was all live. If something happens, if we mess up a part, you have to go back and play the whole song over again. It's not 'we'll fix that later.' Thankfully we rehearsed the living crap out of it."
The result was "the best thing we've done," Riley says.
Now they're getting ready to hit the road again, this time making a stop in Whistler at Garfinkel's on Sunday, Nov. 25, opening for The Flatliners. "We love playing Canada," he adds. "I'm a little afraid to go back this time because it's winter. We were out with D.O.A. in Canada in December and it was scary."
Frigid temperatures aside, the other challenge to touring for In the Whale is booking their shows all on their own.
"We're a very self-sufficient band," Riley says. "We go on the road and there's no tour manager, we don't have a booking agent, we find the openers ourselves."
Part of the reason for their DIY approach is the fact that it's challenging for rock bands—even good ones—these days. "A lot of these industry people now don't want to work with rock bands because rock is not a very popular genre," Riley explains. "We talk to a lot of agents about representing us. They say, 'Hey, we love the band, but it's risky right now.' Instead of calling it a day we decided, 'Let's just do it.'"
They have hope, however, that the genre will make a comeback. When they look out at the crowd on stage, there's a sense people appreciate their loud, wild show.
"The overall feeling we get when we play to new crowds is 'Thank God,'" Riley says. "A lot of comments we get is, 'It's a breath of fresh air.'"
To that end, you might be surprised by how much noise two Denver dudes can make. When In the Whale transitioned from their part-time project to their main pursuit seven years ago, the duo considered adding a second guitarist and bassist, but ultimately decided against it. "We felt that we would screw up the dynamic we had as a two piece, of it being super raw," Riley says. "We felt it was really different and adding (more musicians) would make it like everyone else. We just did a little research and came up with a way to make it sound big, not empty or LoFi."
One solution was to have Riley set up his drum kit up at the front of the stage to highlight their double-frontman chops. In that way, their rock 'n' roll aesthetic remains front-and-centre.
"There's something so raw about watching a band go up there and just annihilate," he says. "It's the kind of music Nate and I grew up loving and watching."
Catch In the Whale alongside The Flatliners and Living With Lions at Garfinkel's on Sunday, Nov. 25. Tickets are $15.75 available online at https://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/1738959.