Lower Dens - Interviews - Soundblab

Lower Dens

by Steve Rhodes Rating: Release Date:

Deep in the bowels of Manchester Cathedral I meet Jana Hunter, the lead singer and guitarist of up and coming Baltimore band Lower Dens, shortly before their sold-out Manchester date supporting Beach House.

This is your first European date on your current tour with fellow Baltimore natives Beach House. Are you excited about playing with them as a full band?

Yeah, we're very excited; they're friends of ours. Our bassist and a couple of their members go way back and we've played a few shows with them here and there. We really admire them and like their music a lot. So we're pretty excited to be doing this part of the tour with them.

How's the tour being going so far? Twenty-nine European dates in just over a month is prolific, anywhere you're particularly looking forward to playing?

I always get excited about Spain and Portugal. The culture there is exciting to me and also Spanish is the only language I have kind of grasp of besides English, so we're excited to use that.

How does it feel to be playing in a cathedral?

It's always a little bit intimidating as a raised Catholic, so I always have a little bit of self-consciousness about the words that I'm singing and the way I present myself. I'm not practising but I have a fear of embarrassing myself before the church.

Are there a few risque subjects or lyrics in there you think?

Yeah, maybe not so much with these current songs, but I used to do quite a few songs that were kind of about questions of faith.

What inspired your band to form and how did it come together?

I performed solo for a number of years but never really enjoyed the solo performance. The material I wrote was pretty intimate and always felt a little foreign in front of a crowd, so I decided to stop writing music and formed a band to do a final tour around the US, to get it out of my system and to see people I hadn't seen in a while. I just found that I really enjoyed playing with them. We still have two members from that group and I decided to write songs for them and form a concept that would work in a band setting. They've helped develop it as well and it's become something that I'm more excited about than everything I did previously.

I can hear a lot of Yo La Tengo meets the atmosphere of Cocteau Twins in your work - do you cite either as an influence and what other bands have influenced you?

Well those, actually, not that I dislike either of those bands, I like them, but I've never listened to them very much, though they do come up a lot. I generally cite Joy Division - it's funny saying that in Manchester - Wire, Television, early Velvet Underground, and Patti Smith was someone I listened to quite a lot when I was working on these songs.

What do you think of the dream pop tag, that has been lumbered about for a lot of like-minded artists? Would you consider yourself comfortable under that label, or how would you desribe yourselves?

I feel not entirely at home with that label, not entirely in opposition to it, but I feel like it undercuts any sort of real tension or real conflict in what you are presenting, which to me is a very important part of music, like struggle, conflict, that sort of thing. So I'd rather not have my music as a dream, but at the same time I know that most people no longer really take genre names all that seriously. It's a description of a more than anything else, so I don't place a whole lot of value with it either.

Your EP and LP came on on Devendra Banhart's Gnomonsong label. How has the relationship with the label been?

Good, I've been working with them for a long time, they put out my solo stuff. They're a small label, they're very laidback and I've known Devendra and Andy, from Vetiver, his partner, for a long time, so it's still for me an honour to be associated with them.

How did your album come about? How did you record it?

We recorded the entire record in two weeks. We recorded it for the most part live in our friend's studio basement in Baltimore.

What else in the Baltimore scene is there to get excited about?

One person that we always mention is DJ Dog Dick, the project of a man named Max Eisenberg. Sometimes he raps, he does a lot of work with electronics, but he just presents himself in a bold and exciting way. It's very different and very confrontational.

What other bands are you listening to right now? Are they similar to your influences?

Right now there's a group I like with two artists, Asa Chang and Junray.

I like them. 'Hana's a really good song by them

You do. Yeah I got that record and I previously had their other record for a long time, I've just found their other one, so I've been listening to that pretty much non-stop in the car. We've been listening to Gong quite a bit and Salem is a newer group from America that I like a lot. They do a style that people refer to as witch house. I'm not sure if that is entirely appropriate either, but I like them a lot.

After this tour, you've got some American dates with The Walkmen. Apart from recovery, what are your plans for after this?

We want to start working on the new record pretty soon. We're trying to work on right now, we're wanting to do a series of singles, the first one of which will come out pretty soon, but we want to do about four singles before the next record comes out. Touring this much has made me really want to spend a lot of time writing, so I think at the beginning of this year we'll start working pretty hard on some new material and then we'll tour to kind of develop it as the year goes on.

Are you likely to be back on these shores, hopefully again quite soon?

Yeah, we've just confirmed a support tour for Deerhunter and we'll be here pretty sure for some of those dates.

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