Lowell: The Wavelength Interview

Purveyor of: A dance dance revolution.
File next to: CHVRCHES, St. Vincent, Glasser, Sleigh Bells,
Playing: #WL15 Night Two (Saturday February 14) at Polish Combatants Hall

“You live in a man’s world / I live in my own world.” In Lowell’s world, synths glitter and growl, beats sway and march, lyrics explore and empower. It’s a world of conscious pop that optimistically believes in the goodness of people, hoping to break down the walls between worlds while still keeping its edge in the process.

The Toronto-based artist has been quite busy over the past year, traveling the world and making videos in support of her EP I Killed Sara V. and her full-length album We Loved Her Dearly. Lowell took the time to email with Wavelength about filling pop music with feminist manifestos, her growing concern for the world (even if it won’t shut up), and plans for a Valentine’s love fest.

Your songwriting is very personal and self-reflective, often mining painful and challenging issues and memories. Do you feel an obligation or duty to share your experiences? Is anything or anyone off-limits?

I feel that I have an obligation to myself not to bottle any painful experiences inside and hide them away with shame. The more open I am, the healthier I feel. Sharing them with pride is healing for me. Real names and people are off limits. I share my own experiences because I am comfortable and feel safe telling my stories. Others have the right to share themselves in their own time without me violating their privacy. In recounting my own personal stories I have to be cautious of whom else I could be unintentionally exploiting for my own therapeutic gain.

The multifaceted nature of your music is so intriguing. It is ebullient, political, threatening, dreamy, and grounded at all once. How do you balance these qualities that are seemingly at odds? How serious is your playfulness?

I’ll do my best to explain. 🙂

When I play, I play with no rules and no inhibitions. I say what I want to say, I make the sounds I want to make, etc. Boom crash hate love BAM. BUT the magic and meaningfulness comes from the reflection period afterwards. That’s when the art becomes a statement to me. A lot of the things we do in life happen on a subconscious level. In music and art I believe that’s even more the case. The beauty in art is when you make art that is truly uninhibited and you can look back at it, observe and think WHY THE EFF did that just come out of my mouth. Holy shit I’m fucked up. That’s awesome.

Do you still write songs for other artists? How is this process different from writing your own songs?

Ya!!! It takes up a huge part of my life! Nowadays writing for myself and writing for others are practically one in the same. There was a time I would have said “writing for others is detached for me, uninhibited because it’s less representative of myself.” I don’t feel that way anymore. I think everything you give to people to indulge in means something, whether you are the voice/face or not. I slip in subliminal feminist manifestos and liberal views in society and all that political shit into my pop writing. It’s a fun outlet.

What’s the worst thing about having perfect pitch?

The headaches from off pitches. Also, it gets really hard to focus because I’m so sensitive to sound, and I hear and process everything sonically around me. My social skills fail when there are a lot of noises going on and I get crazy anxiety. Sounds in the background are often as prominent and overpowering as a conversation and people have a lot of trouble understanding why I can’t listen to their words. They don’t understand that music is like my first language and so if it’s around me, they aren’t the only ones trying to have a conversation with me. Sometime it feels like I’m fucking schizophrenic. I’m like “shut up” to the background noises that are like voices in my head. “I’m trying to do an interview you fuckers. Bug me later.” I easily lose my train of thought because of it.

I also am physically incapable of playing any sort of keyboard that is detuned because I play everything by ear so if the pitch is off I will inevitably play the wrong chord (which is actually the right chord theoretically).

What does community mean to you? Does moving and touring constantly have any effect on your relationship to certain communities?

It makes community feel like a broader word. I’ve developed less of a love for individual people, or my own community and more of a concern for people as a whole. For mankind, society and the world’s issues. Everywhere is the same. We are all people. I’m not special, and it makes me more willing to sacrifice my own self for a greater good, or my own relationships for many other ones. That has its pros and cons of course. I’m certainly not bragging about it. It’s just a reality for me. I just can’t help but feel like we are all the same and capable of the same shit: failing ourselves, achieving greatness — we just don’t all get the same chances.

How is the current recording process going? Is there an overarching theme or concept for your next album?

I’m just plugging away. I have tons of new songs and I’m super fond of all of them. It’s all about packaging them in a certain way, and yes there will be a theme.

What can the audience expect for your Wavelength show?

Probably just an all-around love fest. We are all going to bang and lose our voices by the end of the night. Matty D and I are making Valentine’s cards. They are fun. You can give them to your lovers. I don’t have a date so I will be taking phone numbers.

— Interview by Megan Jones

Tickets are still available for Wavelength’s 15th anniversary Valentine’s Day Party at the Polish Combatants Hall this Saturday (February 14)! Pick them up at Rotate This and Soundscapes or online at Ticketfly.com.