photo (c) Zoran Orlic
Some days are pretty cool, you have a good day at work, you hang out with people you really like, you read a good book. And some days you get to interview Mimi Parker of Low. No big deal. (HUGE FUCKING DEAL!) Mimi’s band, Low, have been making beautiful slow jams for just about 20 years now and they’re wrapping up their world tour promoting their new record, Ones and Sixes (Sub Pop Records), this Saturday, November 21st at The Crocodile. Mimi took some time out to talk to me about touring with kids, writing songs with her husband and bandmate Alan and enjoying paella, Radiohead, and rainbows (I feel like we could be friends based solely on paella, Radiohead, and rainbows).
You guys have been around for 20 years. Wow! Can you tell me a little about the scene coming up and how things have changed for you as a band and as a person?
We were so naive when we started. Just 3 young people from northern Minnesota. I think that was the only way it would work. If we had had any real knowledge of how this business worked we might have not even tried. But we started in the spring of ’93 and we played our 4th or 5th show at the Knitting Factory in NYC in September of that year. We just started touring. We knew that that would be the only way to get seen and heard. We were not a radio band and we knew it.
Over the years, we kept touring. Alan and I had two kids that came on the road with us. Potty training in the van and all that goes on with babies, toddlers and now teenagers. I’ve learned that life is unpredictable and crazy but beautiful as well. I’ve seen more dingy backstages and stinky bars than I care to mention, but it’s playing live in front of people that keeps us going. I’m still amazed that people come out to see us but very thankful that we’ve been able to keep creating music. Each song is an extension of yourself and it’s new and alive and it might just keep me that way as well.
What’s your creative process like?
These days I usually write songs on the piano. I’m not a piano player, but somehow it works. Sometimes Alan will write a song that fits better with my voice but usually we sing our own songs. It’s pretty simple we usually come to the band with a rough version of the song and then we hash it out together. It’s great and always exciting to work on new stuff.
You’re known for having some unusual live shows sometimes and doing covers at your shows. How do you decide what you want songs to cover and what to perform as? Is there a specific reason you like to do covers?
There are so many great songs and you wish that they were yours, but they’re not- but you can still sing/perform them. So we try sometimes. It’s really random when we choose a cover. There are no set criteria, we just do what strikes us. Personally, I can be wary of doing a cover because I don’t want to shit all over an amazing song. Some songs are sacred and we would never cover them.
What have been some of your favorite bands to tour with?
We’ve toured with many bands and have made some great friends-Wilco, Slowdive, Ida, Trampled by Turtles, swans, Death Cab for Cutie, and Radiohead just to name a few. Radiohead are amazing live. The Swans are punishing but awesome.
Do you have anyone in music (be it other bands, artists, producers, etc.) that it would be a dream for you to work with? Oh man, there are so many great artists out there. Nigel Godrich, Sharon Van Etten. Etc. But we’re excited about BJ Burton who produced ‘Ones and Sixes’. We’ll see…
You’ve been on tour for a while now and gone around the world. What have been your favorite parts of this tour? It’s really a huge opportunity to see the world as a touring band. We’ve made many friends and have seen many beautiful things. As usual the best part of touring are the shows. The people/fans give us energy and hope. But we did see 3 rainbows in one day as we traveled thru Spain a couple weeks back. I know what’s at the end of a rainbow now!
What have been some favorite memories from past tours? The rainbows, Istanbul, the Parthenon, eating paella with friends in Castellon, being on the Jools Holland show with Cee-lo Green just to mention a few.
Your sound has remained pretty consistent throughout your career, how do you make albums in 2015 but stay true to your original sound?
Throughout all these years, there have been some constants. We’ve remained a 3 piece. We’ve kept it pretty minimal sound wise, and Alan and my voices have been a feature. With those basic elements, we can experiment with production/ other things but still remain true to our sound.
What music do you share with your family? Is there anything you were so excited to play for your kids and either they loved it or they hated it?
I’m always excited to play our new stuff for the kids. Our 15 yr old daughter told me the other day that she’s been listening to our new record and she likes it. You can’t hope for anything better than that.
What influenced you and inspired you the most in the early days of Low and what inspires and influences you the most today?
The idea of making minimal beautiful music has always been my inspiration. The nakedness of it becomes addictive. I think it still holds true today for me.
What does the future hold for Low? What are you going to do when the tour is over?
At this point, we have no set plan. We have a few little tours still ahead of us. Honestly, touring can be draining. We would love to be able to stay home and work a little. Maybe soundtrack work. That would be perfect. But I think we have a few more songs in us.