lazyhome         reviews         hype         webboard                interviews


Low: Are We There Yet?

story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: March 16, 2005

w/Kid Dakota, The Mariannes
March 18, 9 p.m.
Sokol Underground
13th & Martha

The latest music video by Duluth, Minnesota, band Low could be their most biographical.

It's not a video like you'd see on MTV2 or Fuse or Much Music. It's more of a home movie hosted on their website, featuring one of the most important things in the trio's life -- Hollis Mae Sparhawk -- the adorable daughter of Low drummer/vocalist Mimi Parker and guitarist/vocalist Alan Sparhawk. The clip features the precocious five-year-old at a CD signing party in a Duluth record store scrawling HOLLIS and drawing monkey creatures in red marker on the cover of the band's just-released record, The Great Destroyer.

Meanwhile, the CD's opening track, "Monkey," pounds ominously in the background like the march of a hundred dead soldiers. Mom and dad harmonize the lines, "Tonight you will be mine / Tonight the monkey dies" just before the band explodes into a wall of glistening electric guitar and organ. The minor-key dirge with its Indian-chant drums would be enough to frighten most kids, but toward the end of the video Hollis just looks tired and kind of bored, tapping her head with a Sharpie, her little face resting on her little hand. It's unbelievably cute.




It's also thoroughly appropriate, because these days Low is truly a family affair. The husband and wife team of Parker and Sparhawk have always taken Hollis, along with 9-month-old Cyrus, with them on the road as they toured not only the country, but the world. It's fun, but it ain't easy.

"You pack them up and don't think about it too much because if you did you wouldn't get on the road," said Parker from her Duluth home a few days prior to leaving for Omaha for the first show of a tour that runs through April 2. They don't do it alone. Low bassist Zak Sally's wife is along, playing the role of nanny. She watches the kids back at a hotel while the band hits the stage at the evening's smoky venue to spin their dark lullabies of hope, fear, dread and redemption.

"Hollis at this point is really great," Parker says. "She just turned five and she's one of the band. She has a good time and loves hanging out with all of her friends that she sees on the road. She loves getting to the dressing room and having snacks."

Cyrus, on the other hand, is a handful. "It can be a challenge just trying to get the naps in and navigating the meals and carrying them around," Parker said. "Actually, it's not that bad. It's just a little more work and a little more organization. If you think about it too much, you wouldn't do it."

But of course, she has. In fact, Cyrus was involved in making the band's new CD, sort of. Parker was pregnant when Low began recording tracks for the record in the couple's living room. After having the baby and taking a couple months off, the band finished recording at Tarbox Road Studios with producer Dave Fridmann (Mercury Rev, Flaming Lips, Mogwai).







"You pack them up and don't think about it too much because if you did you wouldn't get on the road."







"We just got finished touring for six weeks straight, and I can't imagine not having them with us."



The result, The Great Destroyer released in January on Sub Pop, is another step forward in Low's natural progression from the quiet, almost séance-like music heard on their early "slowcore" albums to the louder, more urgent sound-scapes first introduced on 2001's Things We Lost in the Fire and carrying through to 2002's Trust. Tracks like the rousing guitar-fueled "California," the kicky bouncer "Just Stand Back" and closer "Walk Into the Sea" with its shotgun drums, are full-blown, fist-pumping rock songs. It's almost as if the band grew louder over the years as their crowds became larger -- a natural defense mechanism to safeguard against being drowned out by less reverential audiences.

Parker says dropping the drone and picking up the pace wasn't a conscious decision. "If you listen to the last couple records, you know we've been taking stabs at being louder and faster," she said. "In the beginning, we had a set of rules we tried to work within just to challenge ourselves. We've done this long enough now that we can do what we want at this point, though it's not as if we haven't done that all along."

Still, fans of the earlier, more restrained Low music will get their share of the band's trademark, low-end brooding when the band rolls into town Friday. "I enjoy pulling out the quieter stuff and seeing if the crowds are attentive enough to pull it off," Parker said. "So far, it's going all right."

And so is having the kids along in the van. Will they keep it all in the family as Hollis and Cyrus get older? "At this point, we're playing it by ear," Parker says. "We've got Hollis signed up for kindergarten this fall, and we're not opposed to pull her out for periods of time for touring. We'll see what happens. She really wants to go to school."

The kids, however, will stay home when the band heads for Japan and Taiwan in May. "We'll leave her with a friend," Parker said. "It'll just be a week and a half. It's hard to leave them for that long. We just got finished touring for six weeks straight, and I can't imagine not having them with us. That would be harder. When she was 14 months old I left her for two weeks when we went to Australia. I was miserable; I cried all the way there."

Back to  huge.gif (2200 bytes)

Published in The Omaha Reader March 16, 2005. Copyright 2005 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.