The Mormon band known as Low was created in the spring of 1993 by husband and wife duo Alan Sparhawk (guitar and vocals) and Mimi Parker (drums and vocals) from Duluth, Minnesota. As of 2008, the band has added Steve Garrington as the bass guitarist.
The band is categorized as an American indie rock group, and their music is characterized by slow tempos and minimalist arrangements. With their genre consisting of indie rock, slow core, and dream pop, the striking vocal harmonies of Parker and Sparhawk represent perhaps the group’s most distinctive element. They have recorded music on such labels as Vernon Yard, Kranky, P-Vine, Sub Pop, and Rocket Girl. Prior to forming the band, Sparhawk had been playing in the Superior, Wisconsin band known as Zen Identity.
The band’s debut album, I Could Live in Hope, was released on Virgin Records’ Vernon Yard imprint in 1994. It featured John Nichols on bass, though he was replaced by Zak Sally, who joined for the recording of the band’s next album Long Division. Both I Could Live in Hope and Long Division were produced and recorded by Mark Kramer, known professionally as Kramer (born Stephen Michael Bonner in New York City in 1958), a musician, composer, record producer and founder of the New York City record label Shimmy-Disc. The album Long Division was followed by the 1996 release of The Curtain Hits the Cast which established the band as “critical darlings” allowing them to do extensive touring which helped them garner a highly devoted fan base. The single “Over the Ocean” from that album also gained momentum as a hit on college radio.
By the time Secret name was released in 1999, Low had begun recording for the independent label Kranky. In between they released several singles and Eps. Also in 1999, the band collaborated with Dirty Three, an Australian instrumental rock band, to record an In the Fish Tank session for Konkurrent records. Allmusic referred to the six-song disc as “some of the best material either unit has produced.” Of particular note is the disc’s lengthy cover of Neil Young’s “Down by the River.” In 2001, the band released Things We Lost in the Fire, and the following year, the band released Trust, their final full-length album on the Kranky label. In the years following, Low has continued to entertain audiences worldwide.
Low are known for their impressive live performances. Rock club audiences sometimes watch the band while seated on the floor. Their shows often feature drastically reinterpreted cover versions of famous songs by the likes of Joy Division and The Smiths, in addition to their own original material.
Sparhawk and Parker have two children, and are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sparhawk was born into the Church in Seattle, Washington, and lived in Utah for some time before moving to Minnesota at the age of nine. He also attended Brigham Young University for a short time. Parker is a convert to the Church. They perhaps stand out in the music world because of their ability to allow their faith to inspire their music prowess, but not control it. Their latest release Ones and Sixes is a testament of that.
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