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LOWER DENS: WORKING WITHIN OUR OWN SPHERE - INTERVIEW BY PHIL KING

For me Lower Dens’ Twin-Hand Movement was one of the high-light albums of 2010. It’s a hermetically sealed mix of swirling guitars, deep bass and krautrock rhythms, which in itself is enough to make you part with your money, but it’s when the band stir in the magic ingredient of Jana Hunters black throated vocals that the resultant concoction becomes something really special.

With new single ‘Batman’ just released and guests of the very wonderful Deerhunter on their current tour, I meet up with Jana and Will Adams for a short chat before their show at Sound Control in Manchester.

PHIL: How did Lower Dens Form?

JANA: I never enjoyed playing solo very much so I decided that I would stop performing. But I wanted to do one last tour to see friends in other cities so I put together a band.

PHIL: And that was in Baltimore?

JANA: Yes I moved to Baltimore kind of incidentally, I didn’t intend to do anything other than get out of Huston because it’s culturally stagnant, and I’d previously gone through Baltimore on tour and it was the opposite.

PHIL: So you initially lived in Texas, but you’re records were released through California. Did you just send off CD-Rs to Devendra Banhart?

JANA: No he came through and I was asked to open the show and until then I’d never heard of him. So we met each other that night and he asked for fifteen copies of my CD-R. My understanding is that he passed them around and no one was interested so he decided to start a record label – Gnomonsong - and he put it out himself.

PHIL: Who is in the current Lower Dens line-up?

JANA: Our drummer left, so Will (Adams), who was playing guitar, is now playing drums. Geoff (Graham) plays bass and Abram (Sanders) plays guitar. I sing and play guitar.

PHIL: Did that change the dynamic of the band?

WILL: We sound a little different. We’re a little bit louder.

PHIL: Could you tell me which bands have had an influence on your music?

JANA: Joy Division, David Bowie.

PHIL: I personally hear a lot of Can in your music?

JANA: A little bit, but more Faust. We like Kraftwerk as well but only in the bass and the drums.

PHIL: Who do you see as your contemporaries?

JANA: I see Lower Dens as being kind of isolated; working within our own sphere. We don’t generally pay too much attention to whatever else is going on but there are similar groups to us who use the same effects that we like to create muffled, emotional, ambient music. But I haven’t kept up with them so as to not be concerned with comparisons or meeting expectations.

PHIL: Do you feel isolated when you tour?

JANA: Will thinks we’re a cult! (laughs)

WILL: I don’t think that that was my idea to begin with, but we do spend so much time on tour in our own little self-contained bubble.

PHIL: Now you’ve had some time to live with Twin-Hand Movement, is there any thing you’d have changed?

JANA: We were writing and getting used to each other at the same time as well as spending a lot of time working on specific parameters of sound when we recorded Twin-Hand Movement. So we had a lot of work to do to make a whole from the sum of parts we had and I feel that if we’d had a little more time we maybe would’ve written more into the songs, there would have been a little more narrative in there.

PHIL: But on the whole you’re very pleased with it?

JANA: Yes!

PHIL: When can we expect new material from Lower Dens?

JANA: We have a single out right now (Batman/ Dear Betty Baby) and another comes out in April though I don’t know if it’s coming out over here. We’re planning to release three or four singles over the course of the summer but we’re still working on it. And we’re working on new stuff for an album.

PHIL: What made you decide to release singles?

JANA: We like singles.

WILL: It’s nice to work within different mediums and a single is a quick distinct point in a short amount of time, whereas you can get carried away with an album.

JANA: And if we wanted to put out a single where one side is a country-funk-dubstep song, it wouldn’t cast a negative light on the whole LP, it would just be one terrible single that we’d put out. So it gives us the opportunity to do something that kind of a one-off.

PHIL: So your creative impulse has no connection with commercialism; you make what you believe to be great music then just put it out?

WILL: Yes it hasn’t really been a concern with our music; we write what we want to write and what we naturally write and we don’t think in terms of commercialism just that the music should be good.

PHIL: When will you be coming back to the UK?

JANA: I guess when the next album is out.

And with that I shake hands with Jana and Will before they go and catch up with the rest of the band for a bit to eat at Nando's, enjoying no doubt a little relaxation time before the excitement of tonight's show.

www.myspace.com/lowerdens
www.gnomonsong.com/lowerdens 

Interview & Photo by Phil 30/03/11