Baltimore band Lower Dens might sound similar to another Cali fave (and fellow Maryland musicians) Beach House, but they're about to make a name for themselves on the West Coast come this weekend. Their newest album, Nootropics, blends sweet guitar swirls, crisp drumming, and frontwoman Jana Hunter's deep and haunting vocals into dream-pop perfection. These tunes might just encourage late-night cruise up PCH!
Simultaneously trippy and enchanting, songs like "Brains" and "Propagation" sound like they were meant to be listened to while sipping a cocktail in a dark, crowded concert venue. And, come Saturday, you'll get the chance to catch the band in action when they hit the Troubadour. We caught up with Hunter before the band embarked on its first-ever U.S. headlining tour to ask her some questions on her inspiration, style, and what she needs to stay sane on cross-country road trips.
How would you describe a Lower Dens show? What’s the atmosphere like?
"Well, we’re not very dramatic, theatrical performers for the most part. What we put the most work into and try to highlight is the sound. In particular, we like the live show to be very loud and kind of envelope the listener. To the extent that — I hope — it isolates people from their surroundings and lets them feel removed from the world that they’re in. Basically, we want to be able to turn the music up loud enough to where people don’t have to think about anything other than what they’re listening to."
So who are some of your musical influences?
"I’d say if there’s any one band, it would have to be Red Crayola. Musically, we sound pretty different from them, but I think that their spirit and intention is something we aspire to and admire to a point of an obsession."
Where has your favorite stop been on tour so far?
"This is kind of a hard question for me to answer because there have been a lot of places that have been a lot of fun. I kind of had particularly good nights in Brighton, England, and Hamburg, Germany. Both of those nights we played just kind of like shitty, filthy rock clubs, which are definitely environments where I feel very much at home. The crowds were moving more like a swarm than like a group of people. The air was just thick with sweat and foul odors [laughs], and for me that’s a great place to make music in."
Doesn’t sound like it!
"I know! But it’s part of my genetic makeup or something. I remember going to see bands in the late '90s in places like that and it’s something that just really ingrains itself. It’s almost like it speaks to more your animal self than your human mind."
When you’re in L.A. are there any places in particular you guys like to stop by?
"I really like Origami Records. I think we’re trying to set up an in-store there, which I hope we end getting to do. I don’t end up really going out in L.A. because I have a couple of really old friends that I like to spend time with. I end up in some strange experiences with them! I associate the city more with them than I do with streets or anything like that."
What are some must-have items you take with you on tour?
"Two pairs of headphones and an iPod. One pair of headphones is for writing music, the other pair of is for just listening to music. Oh, and a good book. And snacks are crucial!"
What’s the coolest thing that you’ve picked up or been given while on tour?
"I have a very close, old friend in Portland, whom I met through music, and always has rooms piled high with weird odds and ends. Every time I go and visit him on tour, he disappears into a certain corner and comes back with something. One time, he came back with this amazing, ancient guitar pedal that he found at a yard sale for $10. Another time, he came back with something that a friend built that was essentially a flashlight that had circuit boards and keyboard modifications in it. So you could use it as a flashlight or you could use it to make the weirdest, most blood-curdling noises on stage. It was stolen, though!"
"Yeah, it's gone. I went on tour immediately after and someone broke into our van and stole all of our stuff! And out of all of the things I lost that was the most difficult because I can never get it back. Now, all I have now is the ghost of the noise-making flashlight."
It’s always haunting you in your memory.
"[Laughs]. Yeah, it’s always keeping me company. It’s like the angel on my shoulder."
Photo: Via Ribbon Music