Low Praises is a duo that happen to live over 500 miles apart. There’s Neil Lord in Austin and Jimmy Spice in Memphis. Yet the distance has not hindered, in fact it seems to have created a certain clarity, maybe even a sense of freedom, to their music. The group’s new record, Clear Light, is a series of stunning sound-scapes all built from elements of drone, simple rhythms and a sense of melodic tone. We caught up with one half of the band, Neil Lord, to find out how, why and when.
Bowlegs: How and why do you start a band that involves two people over 500 miles apart?
Neil: Jimmy and I lived next door to each other in Arkansas and played in a band called Voyageurs together. After spending a lot of time together, we realized that we both had an affinity for ambient music and dark pop music. We just wanted to fuse the two. We didn’t begin mapping out Low Praises until right after Jimmy had moved to Memphis and I had moved to Austin. I had actually sent Jimmy a song I had written for my project Future Museums, and when he had sent back the remastered version, it was in a completely different zone. We decided to keep rolling with sonic vibe that was that song (Clear Light on the EP), and just began writing and sending each other demos and ideas.
Bowlegs: I’m guessing this isn’t the sort of music that you can meet up for a week and crash out. So where does a song start its life and how does it grow and reach a point where you are both happy?
Neil: Usually Jimmy has just been staying up all night recording various ideas, or I’ll write and record an entire song and just send it to Jimmy who will then just rework it entirely and send back to me to flesh out and create as much ambience as possible. When it comes to both of us being happy, I can’t remember any moment where one of us hasn’t agreed with a decision the other has made. We’re constantly bragging to each other about how fluid our writing process is based on our knowledge of each others’ taste and intention.
Bowlegs: There is a real sense of serenity on much that is here, it often feels like new dawn in musical form. A track like Trenches for instance is a beautifully expansive piece. Are these songs influenced by your surroundings? Do you discuss the meaning behind these tracks with each other?
Neil: These songs are very much so a product of our surroundings. I wasn’t working at the time, so I was working so excitedly on this set of songs. Jimmy was always available online late at night and we would just stay online while the other recorded certain parts and we would be able to send back and forth new mixes and ideas like we were working them out in the same room, just staying up all night until usually we would just finish the song entirely.
Bowlegs: The rhythms here lift the record from what could have been classed as Drone to something that has a sense of motion. Would you agree? Is Drone a genre you both listen to or were influenced by?
Neil: We’re both very influenced by drone. We both actively participate in drone projects outside of Low Praises. So, I certainly agree, and with an appropriate amount of pride, with Low Praises noticeable nods to the genre. Our rhythms were written with great intention to be as minimal as possible.
Bowlegs: Tell us about No Nets, it has some great effects on the guitars. What other instruments are featured on this record that we might not recognize due to the effects and filters?
Neil: Clear Light is a guitar record through and through. If you strip away all the tape decay and effects and manipulation, it would probably just end up being a straight ahead rock record. Bass, drums, guitar, it’s a very simple set up. Some synthesizer is used sparingly for flesh on a couple tracks, but really its bare bones. Jimmy has a very unique production technique in which he loves making instruments sound otherworldly and not like their original form.
Bowlegs: My personal high is Skinned Materials, the distressed beat and ethereal soundscape create an amazing vibe. Do you have personal highlights – do you both have strong opinions on where the next record may go? Maybe do a soundtrack for a film?
Neil: That’s such an acute observation of that song! I think Skinned Minerals and Trenches were our peak moments on this batch of songs. Really though, Im proud of the flow of the record as a whole and love the way it pushes and pulls on attention while its in motion. We already have an LP titled Waste the Night written and recorded and are shopping it around for a proper release. It’s funny you bring up soundtracks because I just finished a score for a movie called One Last Time Before the Next Time out of Savannah GA via Brooklyn NY.
Bowlegs: How did you hook up with Fire Talk Records? Seems like you are in good company there eh?
Neil: I ran a house venue out of Arkansas for a number of years and hosted Trevor’s band Woodsman numerous times on their first tours. We kept in touch over the years and after he started up Fire Talk, I sent him the Low Praises demos and we were both excited to collaborate on this release. There are so many good releases on that label (Paw Paw’s new record is out of control!) that we feel very privileged to be a part of the roster.
Bowlegs: Is this a project that you might take on tour? How would that work?
Neil: Of course, we’ve discussed Jimmy moving to Austin in order to pursue putting together a live version to tour with. Every time we’ve discussed it, it just involves the two of us for now.
Bowlegs: Finally what records released this year have you been spinning on a regular basis?
Neil: It didn’t come out this year, but Skip Spences’ OAR has just been breaking everything down for me lately. A lot of drone and kraut (Infinity Window, Tangerine Dream, Amon Duul, CAN, etc). That new Daughn Gibson album was really cool and threw me through a loop for sure. Jimmy runs a blog called Blank Outlines that would best describe his encyclopedic knowledge of outsider art.
Head here for more info on the band.