It’s high time you took the Low road. Lucky for you, now’s the perfect time to get down with the Duluth-based dream-pop band Low -- playing at the Civic Center Friday.
Low is a band that’s consistently received accolades for their unique, independent, minimalist music. The co-founders of the band, Alan Sparhawk (guitar and vocals) and Mimi Parker (percussion and vocals), met when they were nine, and the couple’s haunting vocal harmonies are part of what’s kept the band producing genre-defying, original music for 26 years.
In September of 2018, Low released its twelfth studio album, “Double Negative,” which broke new ground for the band. It was included in several top-50 album lists for 2018, including a number nine spot in “The Guardian,” a British-based daily.
Alan Sparhawk took some time to answer questions for 507 readers.
How does it work to have your life partner, Mimi Parker, also be your musical partner?
It works out pretty great, creating music with someone you respect and love. Music has its little challenges, and mysteries, and things you are trying to solve. When you do that together it is exhilarating and can really enhance your relationship. Though it can be challenging, too. Traveling and decision-making in the band can be stressful, and if you are both having a stressful day, then there’s nothing left to help each other out with.
How did adding your current bassist Steve Garrington, a third person, into the musical relationship change your sound?
Steve’s a really disciplined and talented musician, and he really brings a sophistication to our music. Mim and I are a little more primal and self-taught, whereas Steve is trained and there’s a kind of twist he can bring to things that really helps us to do better.
How have you managed to keep the band together for 26 years?
The key is to not plan ahead. Let yourself be naive, but driven. I always tell young people “Play that thing every day.” Sit down with your instrument, or your writing, or whatever, and really make it part of your nervous system, and then it will give back to you. There’s going to be a moment where you are in the dark and you are stepping into “I’m not sure,” but if you keep pushing into that, you are always going to come out the other end, and you’re gonna learn something.
What draws you to minimalism and understatement in your music?
A little of it is necessity, but anytime you mess around with expressive art like that, there’s something about minimalism. There’s that power that it gathers. If it takes you twenty minutes to say two things, those two things are going to be massive. There is this challenge to create something in the most direct or simple way to present this vibe or this feeling. We are always looking for the most true way to deliver a creation.
How has the Duluth and Minnesotan music scene supported your music?
Mim and I grew up in Northern Minnesota, pretty rural, so there is a little bit of this being an outsider, being “stuck in the sticks” feeling that has always been there. It made isolation familiar, and being away from the mainstream has been sort of the way we are raised. Duluth is great. There is a very small musical scene here, and because it is small, it is full of people who really want it. For you to do something in town, you really have to care a lot about it. The scene here is supportive of each other, and it is just loose enough you can try whatever you want and find someplace to do it.
Any particular show you’ve played that really sticks out for you?
You know, you remember your first show, like, “Wow, this actually works and there are three people here who actually liked what we did.” You remember beer cups being thrown at you when you are opening for some other band. You remember Madison Square Garden opening for Radio Head.
You’ve had some run-ins with depression, and even the name of your band might be connected with it. How does music interact with depression for you?
Music that acknowledges the fragility of life is more soothing. Sometimes you have to go to where someone is and speak to them there. There is a place in music and art for things that say “Hey, come over into this other room where it’s beautiful, and positive, and sunny.” There is value in that, but I guess it’s not music that comes to you and accepts you for where you are now.