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Success has Low riding high

Published: Thursday, Dec. 16 2010 4:20 p.m. MST

Low will play Kilby Court on Dec. 17. Doors open at 7 p.m. (Sara Kiesling) Low will play Kilby Court on Dec. 17. Doors open at 7 p.m. (Sara Kiesling)

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.

"You kind of have to admit that everything is influencing you. Personal things, of course, whether it's the way you grew up or where you grew up. We grew up in rural Minnesota, and it's cold and dark through the winter, and you learn to entertain yourself sitting in the basement by the fire. We grew up listening to underground music, punk and different things, so it came from that tradition of trying to make new music, to make something human and original."

For Sparhawk, he and Parker's LDS faith is not a deliberate part of the band, yet it organically is part of what they produce.

And while faith and spirituality are a part of his music, he doesn't deliberately force a song around those themes, he said.

"It's sort of always been there. I've been fairly confident from the beginning with letting that language be part of what I do. Spirituality, what I think, what I believe — it's all part of what I am going to create. So let's not overthink it and let what's going to come out, come out.Definitely certain themes and iconography, so to speak, of the language that's in the LDS Church or even in scripture comes out sometimes in what I write. I have been very comfortable with letting that stuff come when it wanted to without feeling like I had to second guess it," Sparhawk said.

The trios Kilby Court shown will support the vinyl reissue of their 1999 "Christmas" album.

The show will feature Christmas tunes and new material from the band's upcoming third release for Sub Pop records.

"We did this Christmas album 10 or 11 years ago and we're finally getting it issued on vinyl," Sparhawk said.

"We'll play a bunch of the Christmas songs, most of the record, a couple of new ones. We just turned in a new record that's coming out in April, so we're probably going to play a lot of that because we're excited about it."

And just in case somebody pulls the rock show cliché of yelling "Freebird!" at the upcoming show? Sparhawk is ready.

" 'Freebird?' I'm going have a long, dark, sort of trying to be funny argument with them and then we'll play something else. I love when people yell 'Freebird' I can talk down 'Freebird' at a drop of hat, man, so once someone yells 'Freebird' I'm going to give them a show." he joked.

What: Low

Where: Kilby Court, 741 S. Kilby Court (330 West)

When: Dec. 17, 7 p.m.

How much: $15 and $17

Web: www.chairkickers.com

e-mail: features@desnews.com

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