Danish quintet builds an enchanting labyrinth for listeners on debut album.
The music of Lowly is delicate, melodic and wholly engrossing. With each piercing piano key and accompanying flourishes, the quintet expands the reach of atmospheric indie pop. "We want our listeners to build whatever world they would like inside their mind when they listen to our music," says percussionist Steffen Lundtoft. The group manages to walk two worlds at once, marrying organic texture with electronic elements for an elusive, yet entirely natural sound that draws listeners in to its labyrinth.
Come February 10, the Danish group will release its debut album Heba. We spoke with Lundtoft and Lowly singer/guitarist Nanna Schannong about their upcoming album, English lyrics and what's ahead.
Hometown/Homebase: Aarhus, Denmark
You were all at the same music academy, but pursuing different studies there. How did you initially come together to form this band?
Steffen: We came together quite randomly. I think it was Nanna and Thomas who had been writing some songs together (they played in Nanna’s solo project at the time) and thought it would be fun to play those songs with Soffie, Kasper and I, who they knew from our other bands/projects, but had never played with. So some of us literally met just minutes before making our first song ever, "Daydreamers."
What inspires your lyrics?
Nanna: Because almost all of us write lyrics and we get inspired by many different things, we don’t really have one source to where our lyrics come from. But we do get inspired a lot by the people in our lives — lovers, friends, family, and therefore many of the words are actually very personal. We also seek inspiration from literature, e.g. the lyrics for “Prepare The Lake,” which were inspired by the writing of Gertrude Stein.
How does a song take shape for you as a band? What roles do you each fulfill and how long does it take for a song to go from idea to finished track?
Steffen: Nice question. One song differs from the previous, obviously, and it’s very different how rich a song appears when presented in the rehearsing room. But most often we write together in pairs (or solo) and present the ideas for the others afterwards and things tend to get pretty messy (but also really fun) before we get to the core of a song. There’s a saying in the band that most of our songs are ballads with really chaotic drums underneath, haha! But I think we’re trying not to be too stuck in a certain role to fulfill, so that our music can develop constantly, although we’re beginning to know which buttons to push and beats to play to Lowly-fy things a bit.
What was the recording process like for Heba?
Steffen: The recording process itself was very fast and probably one of the most intense things we’ve ever done as a band together. We did 14 songs in 15 days in a row in a (very!) small studio in Aarhus in January 2016 , but the writing, arrangement and production of the songs stretch all the way from summer 2015 to spring 2016, when we finished the album. Most of the songs on the album were part of our live sets just before we went in the studio, and some of the recording process felt a little like a live session at some points before we (and Anders Boll, who recorded, co-produced and mixed the album) started to get creative in the production process.
Do you have a fun story you can share from the recording sessions?
Steffen: Haha, well, the problem with a small studio space is that when you’re together in such a small room for such a long time, you begin to know the smell of each other’s farts, which makes it impossible to hide from the shame!
How did you decide on the title? What does it mean?
Kasper: Heba is the name of a Syrian woman we know. She moved to Denmark to live with her husband and escape the war in Syria. We recorded the album while thousands of people were fleeing and getting killed because of that war, and a couple of the songs reflect that. We needed a name for the record and met Heba at the same time. Her and her husband’s story was both a story about pain but also about love, because they managed to go through all that shit together. And because there are also a few love songs on the album, we thought her name would be fitting.
You sing in English. Was that a conscious decision or did it just naturally end up that way?
Nanna: We actually never discussed it, but I guess when we started we were more used to writing lyrics in English than in Danish, so ironically enough that was the most natural thing for us to do.
What's it like to be a musician in Aarhus/Denmark at large?
Nanna: It’s great! I wouldn’t mind if style and image played a smaller part in how the musicians are talked about in the media, though.
You're on the cusp of releasing your debut. How do you feel?
Steffen: Pretty good and really busy arranging and rehearsing for our very special concert with Copenhagen Phil (Danish Symphonic Orchestra) in Copenhagen on the day of the album release (February 10). We’re so honored to be able to release the album like this, and we’re looking so much forward. We will play the album in it’s full length (plus a few more) and it will be a one-off experience for sure!
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