What's next for the indie punk rock band
From The Daily Texan, Wednesday, January 31, 2001
Volume 101, No. 84
by Stephen Palkot, Daily Texan Staff
In the darkly lit backstage of the Mercury, Low frontman/guitarist Alan Sparhawk -- seeming weary from a busy schedule of touring an parenting (he and wife Mimi have brought their 11 month old daughter on the road) -- explains what inspired his group to play soft rock music back in grunge-happy 1993.
"It wasn't our intent to say 'Hey lets do something that's punk rock,'" Sparhawk said. "It was more like we were just playing this music and we realized, you know, some people might really hate this and that's what people need."
On the night of Jan. 26, 2001, that would seem hard to believe in the crowded Mercury, where hundreds have shown up to hear the group, who is touring for their upcoming album Things We Lost in the Fire. But then, it was during the peak of post-punk "alternative" that Alan, his wife and drummer Mimi Parker and bassist Zak Sally formed Low of course the Nirvana-friendly audiences of Duluth, Minnesota, were frustrated when not only did the band start out quiet, but stayed that way for an entire set. But Low knew to stick with what they were doing.
Low plans to release their newest album, Things We Lost in the Fire, next week.
"I mean, in the first show we played, where most people hated it, there were a few people that really liked it. That to me was an early indicator [of our potential]."
With the help of musician and producer Kramer, they got off to a well-received national start with 1994's If I Could Live in Hope and 1995's Long Division, both produced by Kramer. Having found themselves recognized in alterna-college radio circles, it was only appropriate that their unique, low-tempo, understated sound bore its own subgenre title. Thus, they were dubbed slowcore. But that band is beginning to escape that label, as their albums get progressively rock-ish. For Low, this presents a new challenge in their live set.
"It's been a little tricky. It kind of means there are like four or five times in the set where we get loud as opposed to maybe two or three times," Sparhawk said. "It's a little weird. We're still learning how to deal with it without losing the things that we like about what we do."
But Alan relays the challenges the band face with a sense of humor.
"I notice that the louder we play, the louder the crowd is. Not like cheering. I'm talking like 'Hey, so how is your final on History 301?'"
Things We Lost in the Fire, which will be released next week, is a mix of both the old and new sounds of the band. The first single, "Dinosaur Act," is an irresistible, upbeat (by the band's standards) tune that in the midst of its cryptic lyrics, bears an anthemic drive propelled by well-chosen guitar harmonies and the well-honed vocal harmonies of Alan and Mimi. Produced by underground luminary Steve Albini, the song and the album take on a rawer, more straightforward sound than Low fans have experienced.
"I wouldn't say that we're gravitating towards rock more as much as this particular record, there just happens to be a few rock songs," Sparhawk said.
I mean, I don't know. Those are just the songs we have at the time. And they happen to be a little more snappy, a little more pop. Which I'm fine with."
It seems the band is not the only ones content with their new work. With regular airplay on KVRX, the album Things We Lost In the Fire looks poised to expand their audience even further than Christmas, the holiday album which Sparhawk calls their most commercial output. (Remember the Gap commercial where snowballs are tossed to the song "Drummer Boy?" That's Low's version). Signs of success (like the Gap commercial) come as a surprise for the group.
"There have been little things every once in a while. We played a big show in London recently and we said 'Geez, I can't believe there are so many people here.' By the way, don't quote me as saying 'Geez' because I sound like an idiot."
Back to the Mercury. The freaky-jazzy outfit Ghostcar have just finished their set, and the crowd is anxious for Low. Taking to the stage, the band opens with a new song. From that moment on, the crowd fell into a hush. Having heard about their live shows, it was hard to believe after listening to their quiet albums that songs like "Anon" and "Lust," from 1996's The Curtain Hits the Cast, would command an entire crowd.
Low performed a show that, for all its lack of decibels, had to be among the most involving I have ever seen. Perhaps it was some kind of husband-wife tension between Alan and Mimi. Perhaps it was Alan's well-articulated whispers. Or maybe it was the unassailable configuration that finds Mimi standing over a drum set with Zak and Alan to the left and right. Somehow it worked, and the audience was roaring for more by show's end.
After the three song encore, concert-goers rushed the merchandise table where Alan was busy doling out t-shirts and copies of their upcoming album and taking in complements with an enthusiasm that must have come from all the positive energy in the room.
Things are looking good for the members of Low.
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