Low: Are We There Yet?
story by tim mcmahan
Lazy-i: March 16, 2005
w/Kid Dakota, The Mariannes
March 18, 9 p.m.
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
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).
pack them up and don't think about it too much because if
you did you wouldn't get on the road."
| || |
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."
Published in The Omaha Reader March 16, 2005.
Copyright © 2005 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.