Lower Dens returned earlier this year with their sophisticated Nootropics album. Whilst the band’s make up has not changed, it seems that their working methods have. Naturally, this sort of thing is like a red rag to a bull with Bowlegs and we wanted details.
Bowlegs: Nootropics sounds like a future location of human exploration maybe? What did you have in mind?
LD: There was a very conscious goal to live in the studio and creatively push ourselves really hard. Also to do everything in aid of making the album that seemed like the best we could do without restricting ourselves by practical thoughts like, “but will we be able to play this live?”
Bowlegs: It really feels like you have broken through into new avenues of exploration this time. Was the process of putting the album together different?
LD: The process of putting this album together was quite different than the ways we’re used to working. the writing was more collaborative, and done at a distance since not all of us live in the same city anymore.
We also left slot of room in the songs to develop them during the recording process. That was a huge change. We usually write everything very thoroughly before we even think about recording it.
Bowlegs: Does this lp take influence from any area of music in particular? It feels like a progressive album, trying to explore rather than replicate’ but it recalled for us the Young Marble Giants, or even Neu and La Dusseldorf? In the sense that those bands had a clipped sense of directness and minimal futuristic approach.
LD: Yes and no. The more direct references/specific influences come as an afterthought once a song has been more or less completed. It’s not often that we decide: we are going to write a [insert band/genre] type of song. It’s more likely that a song is more or less done, but needs refinement, or is missing a part, that we’ll turn to outside influences. That’s not always the case. I know that Jana said that with Brains she was trying to write a song using the techniques that Kraftwerk used on Radio-Activity. There are guitar parts on Candy that I wanted to have sound very specifically like One Of These Nights by The Eagles.
In general, patience, minimalism and meticulousness are things that we’re always striving for in writing which *might* give us a distinct sound. Maybe.
Bowlegs: The production doesn’t seem to foreground the vocals. Do you see them as part of the fabric of the music rather than a focal point?
LD: Did you hear our first album? I think that by comparison, the vocals are very prominent on this album.
Bowlegs: We did, but we still think they’re not as high as many other new albums. OK, there are some interesting new rhythms used on this album, we love the way they seem to hang over the top of the song structures instead of providing the usual rhythmic undertow. Was that a conscious thing or did it just evolve?
LD: There could be several reasons. Some of the songs were written on a computer – including the rhythms. I think that it’s possible to come up with something drastically different by plugging in dots on a staff on a screen as opposed to physically banging on a drum kit.
We also have a new drummer, Nate. He’s really, really good.
Bowlegs: There is a lonely sentiment to the album for us. But it also exudes clarity and determination. Can loneliness be a positive thing do you think?
LD: In general I think loneliness can be a very positive thing. I can speak to loneliness in regards to this album because I associate it with several of us crammed in small spaces for a long time…. probably all dying to be lonely.
Bowlegs: And, does finishing a track give you a sense of clarity or is it in fact the opposite?
LD: It varies. It’s a great feeling, but sometimes I feel like I don’t know a song until I’ve played it a million times, or heard it in several different contexts. We played over two hundred shows after we released Twin-Hand Movement, and somewhere in the middle of that ridiculous cycle I found myself wishing we could record the album a second time to have a document of how the songs had evolved.
Bowlegs: So, what about that question you had to not think about…how will you perform the new material live? Will there be more electronics involved on stage?
LD: So much more electronics! So much that it’s tripled our soundcheck time. Nate has some electronic drums. Jana and Carter are playing keyboards. We had this shameful shower curtain for a while too.
Bowlegs: Sounds like they are no longer hiding behind it folks. Lower Dens have a few more dates in Europe at the end of June, then it’s back on the road through the US until the end of July.
-Interview by Julian Tardo-