Artist Spotlight: Löwin
Löwin is Sara Houser (keys, vocals, guitar), Michael Sanders (guitar), Chris DeGeorge (drums), and Nathan Ribner (bass). This month, the band is celebrating the vinyl release of their latest record, Heavy As the Sun, with an in-store performance at Waterloo Records on April 30.
Last week, we hung out with Sara and Michael at Buzz Mill to talk about their latest record, how working with different producers helped develop their new sound, and what’s next for the band. Check out the full interview below!
First of all, congrats on being Artist of the Month! The first question we normally ask everybody: What does being recognized as AOTM mean to you?
SH: Oof! A lot of things. In Austin – there are just so many awesome bands that are all working really hard, and any time we get a feature or recognition, it feels really special to me. There are so many people out there that are working just as hard as we are, and creating awesome music, so the recognition feels great.
MS: It’s really nice – we’ve been working on this record for going on 2 years at this point – and I’m just happy that people listen to it, let alone acknowledge you as an Artist of the Month. It’s fulfilling.
S: It makes all those times when you’ve been emailing for four hours and doing a lot of the backend work worth it. You realize that reaching out to your community does pay off.
You guys just released a new album in February, Heavy as the Sun. Can you tell me a little bit about the recording process and the creative process that led you here?
S: When we started, we recorded a handful of songs with our friend Carey McGraw (Modern Medicine) and what we did with him was go to his house and work on songs, without recording anything, mostly just in a room together.
M: Pre-production. A lot of pre-production.
S: And the process of doing that helped our band re-evaluate how we wanted to go about writing songs together and helped us be a little more proactive before going into the studio, in terms of finding sounds and dialing in the tones. After we worked with Carey, we went and did a similar thing with my friend Adam Mason; We recorded 3 songs with him out at Good Danny’s.
Each person we worked with helped us in a different way. Adam was really great at helping us create a lot of synth textures, that really ended up becoming a driving force behind the record. In terms of the vocal treatment, we really wanted this record to be more melodically driven. Less loud guitars, definitely more synth- & keys-driven.
And then we ended up finishing out the record doing 3 songs with Stuart Sikes, who mixed the whole record. So we did 2 with Carey, 3 with Adam, and 3 with Stuart. Stuart’s an amazing person in general, a really great person to work with, and has been a part of the indie rock scene/industry for 20 years. He’s worked with Modest Mouse and Yeah Yeah Yeah’s; He did Loretta Lynn‘s record, and a White Stripes record.
M: But he’s still really down to earth, too. He’s really established: I knew he won a Grammy and all this other stuff, and walking into his studio when I don’t have a Grammy…
S: He’s really respectful, and he’s really great with inter-band-dynamic in the studio, making sure everyone feels like their ideas are valid, but he’s not afraid to speak up, scrap something and try something new, which was really great. So we finished up the record with him and then got it all mastered and that was it!
As far as writing the songs, is that mostly you (Sara) or do you all collaborate as a band?
S: I probably write the most stuff. There are a couple songs on the record that were out of Michael’s brain. I write all the lyrics and all the vocal stuff. Definitely whenever I take a song to the band there is a level of flexibility with it. I generally don’t tell any of them specifically what to play – Michael probably is the only one that gets some of that input from me – so there is a lot of freedom. The shape of the song becomes what it is when all of us are together. And then there are some songs that I’ve completely written in my brain before I go in and I have a very clear auditory vision for the song. And then sometimes I have a verse but I don’t have a chorus, so it’s a little bit of back and forth. When we were working with Carey, he ended up helping restructure some of the chord progressions and stuff like that so we considered those to be co-written with him.
Outside of Löwin, what other creative projects do you have, and how do you think that influences you as a band?
M: I play in another band called Light Wheel, and whenever you play with another band you are exposed to a slightly different way of approaching everything – from rehearsal to live shows to how you market your band and all that stuff. I find it always helpful to see how someone other than myself would approach a creative project.
Aside from that, I have a small app company that I run, which isn’t so much a creative parallel but the organizational stuff I have to do with that business is helpful for band business. I try to act as a project manager to some degree. I don’t know how successful I’ve been yet, haha.
S: Task manager! Yeah, I play with a couple different projects – but most recently I went and recorded on The Reputations’ new record which led me to being kind of in their band, and I’ll be going on tour with them mid-May. And I’ve been touring with Golden Dawn Arkestra on vibraphone – I got to record on their new record. I do session work with random bands on vocals and keys a lot. I really love recording, so any time I get to go in the studio and do something creative like that it’s really fun. I’m just lucky I’ve been asked to do it enough times now where it’s become a recurring thing. I also teach at two different schools, I teach keys, vocals, and guitar and work with kids, and that’s really great, too.
Can you tell us more about your app? What does it do?
M: It’s called DoneDone, and it’s basically like a task-tracking, customer support, mailbox management tool. You know, especially when we’re putting a record out, we have like 3 dozen small things that we have to do and it’s nice to have something to help you organize that stuff. Otherwise, I don’t know what she’s working on or I don’t know what I’m supposed to work on.
S: It’s cool! I think one of the things that I like about it is that it allows us to have a conversation about an email that comes in without responding to the email and without having to text each other. We can both read the email and then it’s like okay why don’t you handle this, I’ll handle this.
M: And lifestyle-wise, it’s good for me because I’m always home, I’m always available to do band stuff at weird times of the day. If we ever go on tour at least I will have some money that I can spend.
S: Yeah, the rest of us will be eating ramen…
M: I try to share!
Speaking of tour, have you been out together as a band before?
S: Mostly regional touring. I think logistically doing the two-week-out tour formula only works for bands that have really hit the road hard for long periods of time. We don’t have a label that’s paying us tour support, so when we go on the road it’s expensive. The regional touring and doing weekend runs is more of my focus from a business end. I think there’s a lot of work we can do within Texas before we really dive in and go out. That being said, if some bigger band wanted to take us out on the road…
M: We definitely would not say no.
S: We would definitely do it. It’s definitely a plan, just when it will happen…we’ll see.
You’ve said you have new music ready, so what is next for Löwin, and what’s your release strategy?
S: We’re still kind of working through that. The next thing we’re doing is filming our tiny desk concert tonight (to promote the new release). Once we get that kind of stuff out of the way, I think we’re gonna go back into pre-production.
I write constantly, not all of it’s great. So I have a bunch, and then from the bunch I’m like, “Oh, okay, this and this and this could be Löwin songs.” Basically, I go over to his [Michael’s] house and we get on Logic and we hash out the skeleton of a song that I’ve got in my brain, and then send that to our bass player.
We’ll probably release one or two singles by the end of the year, maybe with accompanying music videos, depending on what our budget may be.
M: And we may still release videos for a song or two from the current record.
What is the best way for people to support you guys? How can they find your music and buy your merch?
M: You can find all of our stuff at lowinband.com, and that will link off to social and everywhere else. And if people wanna support us, buy a t-shirt, buy a record, buy a pin.
S: Buying merch is definitely the best way to get money into a band’s hands. Just buy merch! The other thing that’s really helpful is following us on social media, @lowinatx is our handle. You know, on Spotify, Facebook, all of that stuff matters in this day and age, like it or not. And tell a friend!
M: Just listening to our music on any streaming service helps because it will grow our audience.
S: And send it to your friends that have friends that work for people that can help us! I really love the grassroots aspect of social media because in a way I feel like I’m connected to all these different people. It’s like the Kevin Bacon game. If enough of your friends are working with their art, and you’re all sharing contacts, and sharing each others’ music…The rising tide carries all ships. The more all of us are digging in and sharing our stuff, the better off people in Austin will be.
M: Yeah, I’ve noticed that. I moved here from Chicago and I will say that the Austin music community is much more supportive of one another, more than any other place I’ve lived. I’ve only lived in Detroit and Chicago and its way more cut-throat and competitive up there. Whereas here, bands are friendly in terms of promoting each other’s music and putting bills together. Which I appreciate quite a bit!