LowRay are another in the long line of Trans-Atlantic musical partnerships. For his part in the duo singer and guitarist Dan Fowlds (Bump, Pill Hill) looked east to David Bowie, Black Sabbath and The Rolling Stones alongside his Americana influences while growing up.
Please list all of your band members and their roles in the band.
Dan Fowlds - Guitar and Vocals
James Irving - Drums
For starters, what bands were you guys a part of prior to LowRay? How long has the band been around?
James: We were both the stereotypical jaded musicians when we met. Dan had been playing music for 20 years, playing in Bump in that time but initially from his teenage years. He had stopped playing for a long time and was just dipping his toe back in when I got the chance to mix a solo record he had put together pretty much on his own just for the fun of it - to play music without being in a band. I was just coming to the end of things with the 22-20s after 10 years of solidly trying my hand at being a full time musician.
I had actually sworn music off, sold my drums, the whole nine yards and it took 3 years to even want to come back. When I did it was at Dan’s insistence and really that’s where Lowray started. That was perhaps 3 years ago and from being a jam band, then a studio project to now just a full on band. You can’t escape.
Dan: We played our first show in 2017 after our EP came out. I don't think either of us knew where any of this would go when we started making music together and I am enjoying the ride.
What’s the origin of that name and have you changed the band’s name before?
James: I suppose we came a little out of the ashes of Pill Hill which was what Dan’s solo project had morphed into. Originally we had ‘Laurence Ray’ as a name - our middle names, but after some long deliberation and my insistence that Laurence Ray was a terrible name for a band we ended up with Lowray.
Dan: It wasn't terrible, just horribly wrong for us.
Who writes your songs? What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs and do you think these topics will change over time?
Dan: The songs have always started with me bringing in an idea in different stages of completion. Sometimes near complete and sometimes just a few ideas that need to be worked out together. For this album we did demos of approximately 20 songs and ended up recording and mixing 11. Only 10 made the album. We try to distill it down to get to the good stuff if possible. Sometimes it can be hard to let go.
I like to play with rhythmic themes and deliver something melodically that I have not done before with vocal lines. Friends and the fakers verse is a good example of an unusual vocal pattern. I am drawn to lyrics that draw me in emotionally and tell a story. Sometimes with a sense of humor often times influenced by something that has happened in my life.
What bands are currently inspiring the music that you’re making?
James: I’m definitely more open to everything now then when I was younger. I try to take it all in where I can. A great hook or a great sound can be found anywhere. I think for this record The Cars was a definite starting point. Just how the energy and dynamics comes from the guitars with the drums kinda sitting back and keeping out the way. A lot of those amazing 80s records are built that way and we just ran with the concept. It left a lot of space for Jeff Victor to come in on keyboards and make some really unusual additions to the songs.
Dan: We were on an 80's kick for sure during this record which was fun. The Pretenders were mentioned a number of times how clean and powerful Learning to crawl sounds. We obviously sound very little like the Cars or The Pretenders but it was inspiring.
Was there a particular band/artist or concert that inspired you to start a band?
Dan: Jim Croce and Elton John were my first albums as a kid. We had a bunch of 45's but I didn't want to play music until I got hooked on MTV in the early 80's. It was MTV that made me want a guitar not one specific band. Michael Jackson, Prince, Def Leppard, David Bowie, Billy Idol, Blondie, Ozzy Osbourne, Devo quite the mix of influences for me that gave me the bug.
James: For me it doesn’t feel like there was a moment. It was just always how it was going to be. From as young as I can remember it was the path I wanted to take. Nothing else interested me for the first 30 years of my life.
What do you do to prepare for a show?
James: It’s an interesting dynamic for us because the core of the band is Dan and myself but we’re out playing as a full band. Sometimes that’s Ian Allison on Bass and Jacques Wait on guitar, sometimes Jacques is on bass and Blair Krivanek comes in on guitar. We just play with who’s able to play which keeps things really fresh and exciting. Neither of us is a slave to rehearsal anymore and all the people who come play with us are incredible musicians so there’s always the chance that something unique will happen.
Dan: I want to live in the moment on stage and create something special and unique. Now that we have more shows under our belts together we are starting to play with more spontaneous moments on our tunes live and I find the improvised jams or dynamic experiments exciting and rewarding. When you have experienced players who really listen to each other on stage you never know what can happen.
What has been the biggest highlight of the band’s career so far?
James: I think just finishing this album is a highlight. To be able to record a full album at the Terrarium in Minneapolis and have the musicians I mentioned involved and then be able to work with people like Jim Scott and Ian Davenport on the mixing is a luxury that we’re really lucky to have access too. It’s all been on our terms, total freedom to make the album and that’s not a combination that a lot of people get to experience.
Dan: I agree 100%
If you could tour with any bands, past or present, who would they be and why?
James: For right now I’ve been watching a lot of Stevie Ray Vaughan live videos so I think to be able to open up for him and then get blown off the stage every night is something I could enjoy for a few weeks. It changes all the time though.
Dan: The Stones to hang with Keef
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Dan: Yes. Adam Dunn did a great job with our new Friends and the Fakers video check it out! We are excited to have our new album come out on opaque banana yellow vinyl it is going to be delicious. Also we have a killer show in Mpls for our album release at the Hook and Ladder Theater Nov 10th and we will be doing some touring in support so stay tuned! Thanks to Mike Buenting at Old School Booking and MGMT!