Alan Sparhawk (pictured) is one-third of the Duluth, Minnesota-based band Low, whose 1994 debut, I Could Live in Hope, quietly dismissed current rockisms in favor of intense songs played at glacial tempos, featuring high, crystalline vocals set against poignant, often minimal instrumentation. Sparhawk is the principal songwriter-guitarist for the acclaimed trio; his wife, Mimi, drums, Zak Sally plays fluid bass—they all sing like angels. On their seventh studio album, The Great Destroyer (out January 25 on Sub Pop), Low unleash more of their inner demons to the—for them—uncharacteristic sounds of thunderous guitars and drums.
1 Alan, you’ve made a rock record! What gives? If rock ‘n’ roll is about confusion, desperation, and “the moment,” then this is certainly a rock record. We just tried to stay back and let the songs go.
2 The Great Destroyer is very accessible. Were you getting tired of being misinterpreted by the critics and fans, or is it something else? When a musician has something to prove to the critics and fans, they pull out the difficult stuff, like Metal Machine Music. But if Low were to become accessible, it’d be the public leaning more our way, rather than us theirs.
3 Your new disc’s on Sub Pop. What made you leave Kranky after so many years? Kranky’s a great label, [but] it was time for us to try a new approach. Johnathan at Sub Pop has been coming to see us play for years. So when they called, things seemed to just fall together.
4 What was touring with Radiohead like? It was great to see a band who’s talented, unflinching, and passionate get up onstage and just enjoy the situation for what it was: a stinkin’ rock show. They taught me to not take myself so seriously. Despite how heavy you think your “art” is—it’s just music.
5 How’s the family? The onset of winter has been pretty exciting around here. We’ve been cross-country skiing this year for the first time—Hollis Mae [his 5-year-old daughter] even likes it. Cyrus [his son] is seven months now. He’s already been on one tour and so far it looks like he’s a natural.
Low play Bowery Ballroom Thursday, February 3.