Success has Low riding high

By Emily Hadfield

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Dec. 16 2010 3:00 p.m. MST

While Low frontman Alan Sparhawk describes his band as "just a typical American rock band," one would be hard pressed to find one as atypical.

The story behind the trio's unique melodic rock is filled with music, marriage, faith and, as of December 2, Grammy nods by way of Robert Plant. Yes, the Robert Plant.

For most indie rock bands, the probability that a rock legend would (1) be a fan, (2) record two of their songs and (3) receive two 2010 Grammy nominations based on their work would be slim to none.

However, the Minnesota-based band, is three for three.

Plant received the Grammy nods for his fall release, "Band of Joy." His version of Low's "Silver Rider" is nominated in the Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance category. The second nomination is in the Best American Album category for the album that features "Silver Rider," and Plant's version of Low's "Monkey."

"The fun started of course when we found out that Robert had put a couple of our songs on his record, and that was big news and pretty exciting," Sparhawk said. "It's great. When we found out he had done the songs, it just hits like you like a bag of bricks.

"He's talked about us a little bit in interviews here and there, and apparently he's a big fan," Sparhawk said. "It's hugely flattering. He's probably one of the greatest rock singers right now, and he's definitely forging forward and doing interesting stuff. It's a huge honor."

Formed in 1993, Low features Sparhawk on vocals and guitars, his wife, Mimi Parker, on vocals and percussion, and newest member, Steve Garrington, on vocals and bass.

Throughout Low's history of touring and recording, the band has accumulated acclaim from critics, musicians and fans worldwide.

And their sound? Visit the Wiki page for "slowcore" and Low is pegged with the start of the genre. With a solid body of work starting with 1994's debut, " I Could Live in Hope," Low's sound ranges from the austere to richly drenched tapestries of reverb, showcasing lush harmonies between Sparhawk and Parker, and avant garde yet accessible soundcapes.

"We're a rock band, but we're mostly very slow and very quiet. Mimi and I sing harmonies together a lot. So that sort of is how to describe it — a quiet and slow rock band with two singing voices. One look at us and we're obviously not Diecide or Septultura, but we're a rock band, just a typical American rock band," said Sparhawk.

Sparhawk and Parker met in the fourth grade in rural Minnesota, and their relationship developed from their love of listening to music.

"Mimi and I have known each other since we were nine, and we're married so that sort of puts a certain dynamic to the band."

"I think being in a relationship and being in a band is another really bizarre, extreme collusion in certain ways. Mimi and I always kind of wanted to do something together, and we always liked music. Our relationship is sort of built around the soundtrack of listening to music we liked," said Sparhawk. "I have to admit it has probably saved us as a band; there are definitely things about being in a band that are very stressful and hard. I'm sure there would have been times if we were not married we probably would have been, 'Why am I working with you, this is ridiculous?' In the long run it works well, and I think a lot of our sound has to do with that in a certain way."

Sparhawk finds that personal experience has influenced Low's music.

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