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Interview With LOWLIVES' Lee Downer

West Coast-based rock quartet LOWLIVES will be releasing their debut album, FREAKING OUT, on May 31, 2024, via their new label Spinefarm Records. Shortly before the release of their anticipated debut record, the band's frontman Lee Downer spoke with me to talk about everything about the album and more.

Press shot for the rising rock band LOWLIVES.
Photo courtesy of Will Foster.

How do the ten songs on your debut record, FREAKING OUT, differ from anything you've ever released with your various previous projects and the couple of the past LOWLIVES EPs?

Lee: We haven’t taken a major step in a different direction, to be honest. There’s definitely poppier elements in there, but we still retain our heavier sound.

How was it working with music producer Adrian Bushby at Chapel Studios on this record?

Lee: It was a fantastic experience. We went right in the middle of the pandemic, so we just lived in Chapel Studios for two weeks. It actually made the whole process way better as we had no outside distractions and we could just focus on what we were there to do. It’s probably the best time recording all of us have ever had. Ade was super easy to work with too. He’s super laid back which helps.

How stressful was it to entirely self-fund the album?

Lee: That was pretty stressful, to be honest. We wanted to do it off our own backs as it was such an uncertain time in the music industry with the pandemic happening. No one knew what anything would look like coming out of COVID, so we just somehow made it happen. Sold some guitars and a lot of belongings… Luke even sold his car! Dedication!

In your own words, how would you describe the band's music to someone who has or hasn't discovered it?

Lee: Big guitars, big drums, and pop hooks to boot.

You guys have an assortment of influences on the album from Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Alice In Chains, and Weezer, to name a select few I see listened here. However, you still create a rock sound that's authentic to you, which I don't feel sounds like a complete rip-off of any other acts out there.

Lee: That’s good to hear. We definitely wear our influences on our sleeves, but somehow we still make our music sound like us. We all grew up worshipping those bands so I guess no matter what we write those influences will still shine through in our work.

When did you all start writing for, FREAKING OUT, and in any way, how did it help shape the record?

Lee: We started writing the record quite a while back... Maybe 2019 or 2020. "Damien" is an older song that we finally got where we wanted it to be. The majority of the songs were written in the first initial pandemic lockdown, which kind of explains the lyrical content of them a lot.

How did the four of you all first connect to start the band?

Lee: Myself and Luke had been Instagram friends for a while as we were both Brits living in LA and both share a love of old BMWs. He messaged one day asking how my band The Defiled was doing, to which I replied, "I was done with it." At that time, I had a couple of demos that I was working on that I sent his way. After his old band ended, he was done with music but took a listen to the songs and loved them. We both knew that we could play, so we met up in a pub to see if we would get along first over some pints. We got on like a house on fire so we started meeting every weekend to write songs. The songs started coming really quickly and we realized what we were making was really cool so we decided to see if we could get a band together to play some shows. Luke had known Steve for a while whilst filling in for Steve’s old band Nightjacket. Steve is super laid back and is a kind soul…we just clicked. The three of us then went in with our friend Beau Burchell to record "Burn Forever." We had intended on being a three-piece but quickly realized we really needed that extra layer. At the same time as we were recording "Burn Forever," Jaxon was also doing a record with his old band with Beau who had said he was a total shredder. He messaged me on Instagram one day saying he had heard Beau mixing the song and loved it. I replied saying, "Well actually, we are looking for a guitar player if you are interested?" After playing just one song with him, we knew we had all the pieces in place.

What do some of these ten songs cover subject-wise? I would, and I'm sure some people eagerly awaiting the album, might want to hear directly from the source what some of these songs touch upon? If you're willing to share, of course.

Lee: There's no major theme to the record, the album title kind of reflects what we and most people were going through over the past few years.

"Loser" is a love song about a self-proclaimed ‘loser’ who has fallen in love with someone they also see as a misfit outcast like themselves. "Damien" is a song about a teenager who was a similar age to me on the Isle of Wight that disappeared. It became a huge story in the UK and still to this day no one knows exactly what happened to him.

A lot of the other songs touch on just general pain, misery, sadness... you know, all the fun stuff.

Do you have a profound moment from writing or tracking FREAKING OUT that still sticks to you to this day?

Lee: The only moment was realizing I should have brought a Les Paul guitar over to England with us to track with!

What are some of your favourite tracks on the album?

Lee: My fave pick from the record is "Swan Dive," which has an Alice In Chains vibe to it, "Lair," and I really love the last song, "Vertigo." We wanted the song to be super stripped back, just acoustic guitar, vocals, and cello, so we had Nick Trygstad come lay down some cello on it. I think it turned out really cool.

Any that stick out to you that you can't wait to test out on a live audience?

Lee: I’m excited to play our new single "You Don’t Care." We’ve not played it live ye,t but it’s gonna be fun to shred a guitar solo for once.

What do you hope people can take away from your new music?

Lee: We are just making music that we love and I just hope people can connect with it the way that I connected to albums as a kid.

I suspect you guys are going to hit the road this year to tour the debut album?

Lee: Yes, we are off to Europe next month for Download Festival and some shows with our friends in Atreyu. Then another tour straight after that with Alkaline Trio, which I can’t wait for as I’ve loved that band for a long time. After that, we will have some US shows around Louder Than Life and Aftershock Festival.

Are there any more plans for the rest of the year besides the album and tour?

Lee: Just to stay financially afloat!

Thanks for taking the time to talk about the album! Before you go, is there anything you would like to add?

Lee: I just to say thanks to everyone who has preordered the record and has been spinning the singles. It feels great to finally be releasing these songs so we hope everyone is enjoying them.


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