Low - Interview 9/95
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from Applesauce Magazine, by Omar Rodriguez
sept 7. 1995, emo's, austin texas

When Alan Sparhawk, vocalist and guitarist of Low, wrote me a postcard announcing a performance at Austin's Emo's, I made it a spit-handshake promise to be there. Ok, no spit was envolved but my intentions were clear. Get the interview and see Low live, killing and maiming anyone who got in my way.
Low, a trio from Duluth, Minnesota, play "slow and quiet" music capturing audiences with and undertow of deep emotion and soft, beautiful singing. It's members include: Al, Mimi Parker (vocalist, drummer and wife) and Zak Sally, bassist.
At first glance Al appeared boyish and slightly nerdy; Mimi was quiet and composed; and Zak. . . Zak was like a little devil waiting for something to happen. At sound check something happened.
A storm front stomped into Austin from the north with tornadoes reported in some weird town. Lightning and HEAVY rain crashed down upon us. The roof leaked and sound check was over for fear of electrocution.
All three of them jumped up and out the door to see the sideways rain pelt Sixth Street. They were amazed. Zak took a short shower. With nothing much left to do Mimi and Zak disappeared while Al played Defender and Terminator 2 video games.
"Now I know how bad I really was at this game," Al confessed after losing.

THE INTERVIEW

It's been said that the initial reason Low plays so slow was to annoy people, but apparently that motive has evolved into a way of expression. . .

"It was a little bit of a novelty at first, but then we started enjoying it. It was rebellious at first, kinda against the grain. It became something that was fun to do and seemed satisfying and exhilahrating," Al said. "I don't know. . . I'm not sure in the future we will change much, we're still exploring the possibilities of minimalism and quietness. I don't know if we'll ever change drastically but we're always trying new things a bit."

Has it gotten boring playing the same stuff over and over?

"NO," says Zak.

"Well, sometimes you get sick of songs," Mimi said, "but not playing."

"The nature of the way we play," Al said. "It's so quiet, it's really involving to play."

Could it be that yer music takes involvement by you and patience by the audience?

"yeah."

Why are you doing/playing what yer playing?

Mimi-"For me, it's what I want to do. Say i was just a person out there and Like I was and I started playing in a band that's just what I would want to play"
"yeah," Zak said.

Al-"I don't know why we do anything. No, it's just stuff that we enjoy trying to do. We don't have any special agenda or create a rebellion or a group or club of people trying to do something to music. it's just a challenge to us to play and try to bring the people in."

"I think with the three of us. . . it's kind of a moot question. . ." Zak seemed to puncuate.

Then you Just ARE. . .

"Yeah," they agree.

The term subcore has been use to describe them. With the advent of slow bands like Codeine and Red House Painters, are you afraid of being categorized? Or do you just don't care?

Mimi-"Well, weve probably already been categorized."
AL-"It's probably too late. People need labels."
"That's fine," Mimi sed. AL-"If they have to do it, that's fine. It's something that happens and if you sit and you gripe all day, 'i'm not like that' or 'i'm not like that.' I can't imagine that. I mean can you imagine like being into slowcore or whatever the hell and listening to that stuff all day? 'I like this type of music and that's it and if you play something else i'm going to be bugged.'"
When asked what they sound like they usually answer, 'slow and quiet.'
Mimi-"But we need to come up with some stupid descriptive thing. Like a feather getting blasted up against a pillow or something. I don't know. . . something stupid."
Al-"We should just say we sound like Garden Lightfoot. . ."
"Garden?" Mimi chuckles
"Gordon Lightfoot. . . Gordon Garden," Al fumbles.

H ow can you sing in smoke filled clubs?
"Oh you just do it. It's not too bad, I notice it after awhile, it get's sloppy then it gets tough.

THe UnioN Mimi and Al met in 4th grade or in high school or they're just pulling my leg. . . But
"We were there when Zak was born. Mother was so proud. She called us up immediantly and we came right down. . . Little bundle of joy. . . There's my little puppy. We trained him early on."
Low shares a chuckle between themselves as I begin to wonder how touring might have effected their higher brain functions. . .
How is it like being married and on tour?
"It's alright," Mimi smiles as she yawns.
"We only need two places when we sleep. . ." Al sorta snickers.
"It's strange having to sleep with Zak every night," Mimi confesses to laughter. "It's a big happy group."

The Goal
"We just want to enjoy what we're doing."
"trying to write good songs." mimi reports.
Al-"I don't have any dreams of grandeur, i think."
"I have nightmares," Zak seems to confess.
Al sits quietly playing with a dollar's worth of quarters. Al?
"I want to be really good at that terminator game. I want to buy that game."
But Mimi knocks him off, "we aren't putting that in the house."
"I'll turn the volume down." Al

The atmosphere of duluth really didn't affect the ambience of their music.
"some of it is, but not a lot of the music is a reaction to the atmosphere." mimi
What did you give up to go on tour?
Al was a courier and basically just left along with financial security.
John Nichols left the band because he was 18 when the first came out. He wanted to go to school. He's at Zak's place right now. Zak, from Oakland, has been on board for over a year. Al's been his friend for a long time and they get along real well.
For Zak there was a problem playing slower and getting use to playing together. "it's been pretty smooth once I figured out how to do it and figure out what to do. I cam e in late, but I enjoy it."
Mimi reports that she doesn't do much of anything.


omar i. rodriguez writing for applesauce magazine
vangogh@panam.edu

 

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