‘Slowcore’ Low rock out on new album, tour

Andrew Hampp

Indie band turns things up on new album

Low, an indie rock band based out of Duluth, Minn., have notoriously kept things slow, quiet and beautiful on their previous six albums for Kranky Records.

But on The Great Destroyer (Sub Pop), released this Tuesday, the band turns things up just a tad, leading critics to describe it as the band’s “loudest album” to date.

It’s a description bassist/keyboardist Zak Sally isn’t sure he agrees with.

“It’s probably not wording I would use,” Sally said. “We didn’t set out to make a ‘loud’ record. We kinda set out to do what we always set out to do, which is learn from what we’ve done before and try and push ourselves in new ways.”

Among the new ways Low pushed themselves with their latest album was a switch in record labels. The Great Destroyer is the band’s first release for Sub Pop, a step up from their previous home of the small, Chicago-based Kranky Records.

“(The reason for the switch) certainly wasn’t that we didn’t like Kranky,” Sally said. “We had a great run at Kranky, and they’re good friends of ours. What they do is completely amazing for a record label that’s two guys in Chicago.

“Kranky’s a small label, and Sub Pop is somewhat of a bigger label,” he said. “They have different resources, and we sort of felt like (they would fit) this record we were making. We didn’t take this lightly at all. We’re not one of those bands who only want special people to listen to people in the underground, and it’s not like Kranky was in the way of that at all. It just felt like it was time.”

Now a happy part of the first label to sign Nirvana, Low is embarking on an extensive U.S. tour with fellow indie rockers Pedro The Lion. The band kicks things off at Cleveland’s Beachland Ballroom, marking the first time Low has played the city in nearly six years.

Sally said the band’s louder approach to songwriting on The Great Destroyer won’t necessarily translate to their live shows.

“I think we kinda consciously just wanna write good songs and play them as well we can,” he said. “If a song needs to be loud and we play it slow and quiet, that’s not doing justice to the song. We’re just gonna keep trying to get up there and play the songs and be honest about it, try not to go crazy while on the road.”

Another thing Sally is honest about is his religious beliefs, which, given his bandmates Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker’s devout Mormon faith, are something many fans are curious about.

“I don’t think I could describe it,” Sally said of his belief system after a roughly 20-second pause. “I probably think that there’s something bigger than us. I think you should do your best and try not to be a jerk.

“Alan and Mimi are Mormon and my two best friends in the world, (but none) of us view Low (as Mormon music). We just make music for humans because we are humans.”

Mormon or not, Sally is looking forward to a lengthy future with Low as well as becoming a successful comic book artist. An avid illustrator since the age of 13, Sally did all the artwork for The Great Destroyer, including the cover shot, and has produced a series of comics that help him deal with the nation’s political state.

“I’m gonna fight George Bush by putting out comic books about guys watching squirrels,” he said with a laugh.

Sally’s comics will be available at the merchandise booth at all Low’s shows and on the new Web site www.lamano21.com, launching soon.

Contact pop arts editor Andrew Hampp at [email protected].