Baltimore-based indie pop band, Lower Dens, was born out of front person Jana Hunter’s emergence from her own solo work. The band’s first two albums – Twin-Hand Movement (2010) and Nootropics (2012) – garnered critical acclaim for an experimental sound described by many as “equal parts reverb-drenched folk and swirling ambience.”
A difficult period of band turmoil experienced during recording sessions in early 2013 ultimately led Hunter and bandmate Geoff Graham to discuss the group’s direction going forward. The result was their latest release – Escape from Evil – which a listener might be tempted to interpret as a therapeutic release of sorts, given the album’s newly-infused positive, pop influence. With that said, it’s still far from a pop record. The album is raw and honest, with confessional lyrics delivered through an 80s synth-pop sound.
G—You worked with John Congleton (St. Vincent, Cloud Nothings) during the early stages of making Escape From Evil and mentioned in another interview that you came out of those sessions knowing you wanted a different musical direction for the band. Was that a process of hearing the playback of those sessions after it was done?
Jana Hunter—We enjoyed working with him a lot. He has a signature sound. He has a lot of really cool equipment. He’s very energetic, and obviously very experienced. We made a lot of interesting sounds. It’s just [that] when I got back home and he sent rough recordings through, it was at that point that it’d occurred to me that we wanted to go with a different aesthetic and direction.
G—You went on to work with Chris Coady (Future Islands, Tobias Jesso Jr.) following those sessions. Did you feel a renewed clarity working with him?
JH—I had a clearer idea of what I wanted to do and Chris was somebody who I had had so much experience with. I knew he’d be willing to give me a lot of my own room. I needed to work with someone who was technically proficient and skilled, but also someone who was going to also let me call the shots and feel comfortable doing so despite the fact that I’m not a studio engineer or a producer.
Chris is an old friend and colleague at this point so we worked really well together. I’ve never really had to explain things. He knew where I was going from the beginning.
G—With the band’s shift in musical direction, was there a point that you simply felt like you wanted to challenge yourself?
Both in the music’s aesthetic and composition, I wanted to make things simpler and clearer. With Nootropics we had more complex compositional ideas than we’d had with our previous record. And though they were fun, and though I feel accomplished in them, I feel like we kinda started to lose something in what we were beginning to make available for people.
JH—Yeah, both in the music’s aesthetic and composition, I wanted to make things simpler and clearer. With Nootropics we had more complex compositional ideas than we’d had with our previous record. And though they were fun, and though I feel accomplished in them, I feel like we kinda started to lose something in what we were beginning to make available for people. It started to become more obscure in both its sound and composition and I wanted to see if we could simplify things in terms of writing and clear away the haze.
G—I read that you had some key conversations with your bandmate, Geoff, during the recording of Escape from Evil, about defining your new sound, as well as discussing a shared feeling of a dark period within the band early on in recording. Were those difficult conversations to have?
JH—No, the conversations between Geoff and I are typically of the resolution conversation. The band will be going through something murky and difficult, and Geoff and I will meet to discuss how to get out of that. We’re usually already on the same page from having been in the band together for a long time and going through the same stuff. So when we talk, we’d just find a better way of dealing with or doing things.
G—The initial musical idea for your first single, “To Die in LA”, started out as a very different song than what ultimately ended up on the record. Was it a process of experimenting to find out what sat right in your ears?
JH—No, it was entirely based on that conversation with Geoff. The song in its original incarnation was really dark and we had enough internal darkness that we didn’t need our songs to reinforce it. So, we had a conversation about writing songs that did the opposite. And so, I went and wrote that keyboard part and changed it to major. Like, immediately – I had that conversation while smoking a cigarette and then I went inside and then I changed the song.
G—Do you feel a bit of levity playing the new record live?
JH—Yeah. These shows are really our first shows together where we feel like we’re in command of these songs, and we know what we’re doing with the stage. And they’ve been just flat out joyful. I’ve never really had that kind of experience before, I don’t think. It’s pretty amazing.
A few years ago, Danielle McTaggart was ready to throw in the towel on her music career. Now she and her husband, Drew, make up the powerhouse duo known as Dear Rouge and have two full-length albums and a Juno to their name. Known for their hook-driven tracks—and being “the nicest couple in Canadian music”—Dear Rouge just dropped their sophomore LP, Phases. The record recounts a season of emotional extremes for the couple, including winning the 2016 Juno for Breakthrough Group of the Year, and losing a loved one. We caught up with Danielle over the phone to talk about finding joy in music again, and the personal and public significance of Phases. G—On your website, you describe your style as “sinewy, hook-driven indie rock”. Where did that particular style evolve from? DM—I was always very into hook-y music with beautiful melodies. I grew up listening to The Carpenters and they have beautiful melodic parts, but I also always loved harder music and really rock-driven music. Bands like Metric or Yeah Yeah Yeahs or St. Vincent were hugely motivating for me, and I loved that these frontwomen were powerhouses. They’re very confident and trying to push the boundaries while
What do you get when you combine the start of a worldwide tour and the release of a highly-anticipated album on the same day? Ask Lord Huron’s founder and frontman, Ben Schneider, and he’ll say a pretty damn exciting journey ahead. The band’s third album, Vide Noir, released April 20, is already receiving accolades for its raw, lyrical storytelling from songs like “Wait by the River” and “When the Night is Over”. To engage fans at a deeper level, the band plans on creating immersive experiences that elevate the album’s narratives. Lord Huron’s tour includes a stop at Toronto’s Sony Centre on July 25, and at Osheaga in Montreal on August 4. Schneider spoke to us about his love of storytelling, Raymond Chandler influences, and what it was like working with Flaming Lips’ producer David Fridmann. G—You grew up in Michigan. Is that where your interest in music began? BS—There was always music on at our house, and I remember imagining the people the songs were about. The storytelling of songs is what’s always captured me most. As time went on, I was able to convince my parents to let me play bass in the orchestra, which led to me
Morgan Saint was born into a creative life. Upon growing up in Mattituck, NY with a family of musicians on her mother’s side and parents who worked in interior design, Saint graduated from Parsons School of Design in Manhattan, where she has lived for the past six years. With a major in illustration and a focus on photography and graphic design, Saint has executed a clear vision of her musical artistry. In 2017, at the age of 23, Saint released her debut EP, 17 Hero, on Epic Records. She is a storyteller at heart, combining all of her talents to reveal her narrative as truthfully as possible, one vignette at a time, as seen in all three of the EP’s videos, “Glass House”, “You”, and “Just Friends”. She co-produced each glossy, beautifully choreographed, and high-definition clip with Nathan Crooker, but the lyrics are all hers. They come from personal places yet are vague enough to be relatable. Her electronic pop is lo-fi, but you’ll most likely find yourself snapping your fingers to it. As Saint prepared for a sold-out show supporting Missio in Austin, Texas, Georgie connected with her to discuss coming into her own as a songwriter and