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Interviewed by
Danielle Street
Wednesday 30th March, 2016 12:48PM

Long-standing trio Low are returning to New Zealand for two shows this weekend off the back of releasing their 11th studio album Ones And Sixes. The Duluth act centres around the husband-and-wife team of Alan Sparhawk (guitar and vocals) and Mimi Parker (drums and vocals), who have known each other since childhood, and the pair are joined by bassist Steve Garrington.

In the lead up to their stop on these shores, UnderTheRadar had a chat with Alan about how living on the edge of civilisation has influenced their work, and how the new album deals with the juxtaposition of knowing someone so intimately, yet not really knowing them at all...

UTR: Hi Alan, how are you?

AS: Well, not too bad. My only distraction is an unfortunate skiing injury from a week ago.

Oh no. What did you do?

I have some broken ribs, so I haven't been doing much dancing or boxing, so to speak.

So, you're a skier?

Well, not much of a skier. Such a bad skier I wiped out and broke my ribs. Nah, I just ski off-and-on. Every few years I'll get the bug and I'll go up and have a go. Then I'll put the skis back it the cupboard for a few years again. But my kids are skiing now, so we went up a bit more this year. But I forget how old I am.

So you're living in Minnesota, where do you go skiing in Minnesota?

Where we are live, we are pretty northern United States, we get a lot of snow. We have a pretty cold winter. There's a few places to go skiing within half-an-hour of where we live. Nothing giant, there's no mountains here, but here-and-there there are some places.

I'm interested in the area you live in, because I've been listening to your latest album Ones and Sixes and on the Bandcamp page there is the little thing you wrote talking about being influenced by what's in front of you, and I wondered if that was talking about a specific place?

Well.... yeah, I think where we come from definitely has an influence. There is something about where we live. If you look at the map, if you go any further north from us - then basically the population sort of cuts off. We are right on the edge of where there is nothing, you know. We grew up around farmers, very rural. And there is something about that, being a little bit out on the edge of things. The isolation gives you a little bit of underdog syndrome maybe, or something about isolation gives you time to develop something without it being too influenced from the outside. And also, just psychologically, always being able to lean on that horizon where there's nothing. I dunno, maybe it's almost like looking out on the ocean or something. And in the winter, the dynamic - the hot and the cold - you know. The life threatening extreme of the cold, and then the contrast of tolerable summers like everyone else has. I don't know, yeah there's a little bit of that. That's definitely the influence of this place. You know, Bob Dylan came from here, Neil Young came form close to here. Prince comes from here. So you know, how then do you justify that diversity?

Wow, Prince comes from there huh? I didn't realise that.

He comes from Minnesota, yeah.

I read that you have known Mimi since you were nine years old, is that right?


That's amazing.


You must have an amazing relationship. Do you find you have somewhat of a psychic connection when it comes to working and making music together?

Um, it's not something we think about, or really rely on, but yeah once in awhile I guess. I dunno. Every once in awhile this question comes up - and it must be true - yeah. I mean obviously it's all we know, so we don't know any different. But every once in awhile we'll be talking, or we'll be in a group communicating, and I'll think "wow". We barely have to say anything, or even look at each other, and we are completely getting stuff done and communicating. But you have to use normal language with everyone else. Yeah, every once in awhile it kind of dawns on you.

Yeah, you must be really well in tune with each other after such a long time. I feel like any kind of friendship or relationship, you become in tune with each other and gain a new level of intimacy...

But it's interesting, because as much as there's things that become second nature, there's always a new edge of the mystery. There's always something you don't know. There's always moments where you'll look at this person you think you know, and realise you don't. That thing never goes away, there's always a new level of mystery. And as reassuring as that longevity can be, and that effortless communication you have, the flipside of that is that it's very deep and it's very heavy, and of anything goes slightly amiss, it's just as dangerous as two people who don't know each other, you know. I dunno, maybe I'm not explaining it very well.

Not at all, I think I understand...

There's a lot of that on the record. I think on this record, more so than any other record we've ever done, some of the songs kind of illustrate this juxtaposition of you know each other, and yet you don't. There are moments when you are one, and then times when you realise that there's is some depths that you can spend eternity trying to find. But that's okay, I mean, how boring would it be that after a certain amount of time it was like "well! I know everything about 'ya".

Hahah...that's true...

It sounds cool, but I think it's folly to think that's ever going to happen. You're never going to know each other. You just get better at figuring each other out, and you have to keep doing that. You have to keep doing it over and over again.

UnderTheRadar Proudly Presents…

Low with support from Mike Noga (AUS)

Friday 1st April, Bodega, Wellington
Saturday 2nd April, Kings Arms, Auckland

Tickets on sale HERE at UTR, and in store from Flying Out (AKL), Slow Boat Records (WLG) and Rough Peel Music (WLG)


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