INTERVIEW : MIMI PARKER OF LOW

Low is a band in its own genre — a three piece that includes a married couple, Mimi Parker and husband Alan Sparhawk — with a dedicated following and the ability to snare new devotees with nary one or two measures of their haunting, impossibly attentive sound. As they embark on an international tour with their new album, C’mon, drummer and vocalist Mimi took time to talk about their nearly 20 years of playing together, and what goes into creating the meditative, connective energy in their music — not to mention making lunch, dressing like a corpse and sharing airspace with a Scandinavian hardcore band.

To celebrate their tour, we’re giving away tickets to this evening’s show at Neumos in Seattle, and Saturday’s show in Portland at Aladdin Theater. Enter here and we’ll let you know by this afternoon if you’ve won.
 

So, I have been a huge fan of Low since I was a teenager and am still spreading the gospel. 

Wow, thanks a lot.

And I remember the first time I actually saw you live, I’d already been listening to you for four or five years and it was such a different experience watching you and Alan sing together on stage — pretty amazing. I was with a friend that had never heard you before and when we left she asked, Are they married? They way they sing just makes them sound like they know each other better than anyone. What it’s like singing with Alan and making music together?

Yeah, I think, you know, there’s something to that kind of intimate relationship of a marriage. I guess I don’t sing with a lot of other people, but when I have, it almost feels like I’m doing something wrong, you know what I mean? Like I’m cheating on Alan in a weird way. So, it just adds weight to that relationship of — I guess it is what it is. You know, we have such a connection. I’m not thinking that [while performing], but I’ve been curious whether anything comes across at all, because it seems like we’ve been doing this a long time and there might be something that maybe somebody could hear.

Part of it is that with that kind of harmony, I think you have to pay so much attention to someone and it’s similar as a listener, as a fan, because the music is so quiet and that makes you kind of, like, turn yourself down and listen.

Yeah.

And, you know, it kind of demands a special audience and a special space. I remember reading about a show you had a really long time ago at South by Southwest, and there was a Scandinavian hardcore band booked at the same time one floor below you in the same building.

Right, that was our first South by Southwest experience. 

And it kind of overpowered your performance.

Yeah, it definitely drowned us out. 

So, do you tend to try to find spaces that are really quiet?

I don’t know. I think when we first started, we didn’t know the spaces we were playing and that just happened to be just really ridiculous and, you know, we didn’t know that that was going to happen. And we were young and probably didn’t think to check into those things. Now, we’ve been doing it long enough that a lot of the promoters just kind of automatically put us in really nice spaces. You know, we still play the occasional festival, and we still do kind of run into that situation every once in a while, where we’ll hear, like, beats pounding from another stage and we just laugh about it at this stage, because it’s kind of humorous and, you know — what can you do about it? It doesn’t do any good to complain or stop — you know, stop, throw your instruments down and walk off stage. But, we’ve been really lucky. We’ve been able to play in a lot of amazing spaces, a lot of cathedrals over in Europe and actually a few over here.

So, I mean, it’s not that we are super precious about our sets. It is great when that happens, but if it doesn’t, we can barrel through it and we might just change the set a little bit and do more of, like, a festival type set, where we tend to stay away from the really quiet songs, because you can’t really have that delicate dynamic going on — it kind of gets lost.

But, yeah, we’ve been pretty lucky so far.

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