Dark and moody, yet beautifully poetic – like city, like band Low Spin shares a few things in common with their home base, Vancouver, BC. With their quick-paced, danceable beats matched with head-bobbing, not overly poppy hooks, and sultry, goose bumps-inducing vocals, Low Spin can warm you up from the seemingly never-ending grey and dreary Vancouver winter. Turns out, the dead of winter is when the band is most inspired. Go figure.
Facing the challenge of reverting back to a three-piece band, Rene Botha, Jessie Robertson and Jen Foster have been working hard modifying and revitalizing their material. October 27th, 2012 will mark their return to the stage to showcase their newly revised line-up and set. Mark your calendars because this is a show not to be missed. Until then, read about what Low Spin had to say when they sat down with us to talk about Shirley Manson, tattoos and never auditioning for a reality series – ever.
What have you guys been up to since the last performance in November of 2011?
Jessie: We have become a three-piece as opposed to a four-piece, so we’ve been rewriting a lot of our songs, making them show-worthy – to be the sound that we want to be.
Jen: It’s been really cool because we’ve had to become multi-instrumentalist and more familiar with the tech end of things. As a drummer I didn’t even know how to plug in a lamp [laughs]. It’s really cool getting all this new gear and writing and recording everything ourselves, just the three of us. Three is a good number. Sometimes when you get beyond three, it becomes too many cooks in a kitchen.
You’ve not only become a three piece, but an all-female three piece. What’s that like?
Jessie: Well, we started out just the three of us and then we decided, “okay let’s try to get a fourth member.” We went through three different fourth members and by the time our third ‘fourth member’ didn’t work out, we decided maybe we should just go with how it’s been thrown at us. We just need to see how being a three-piece works. We’ve all been good friends for a really long time. We know we can work together. It was just a matter of picking our chops up a bit and seeing what we can do instrumentally to be what we want to sound like.
Rene: It seems like the universe just wanted us to be three. I think that things feel right. The chemistry is there. We have a new challenge working with samples, so we’re challenged as musicians, which keeps things interesting.
It’s kind of like that movie, This Is Spinal Tap where you keep losing a member.
Jen: Totally! Our fourth member blows up after every show.
It’s very inspiring for young women seeing other women on stage, rocking out. How did each of you get into your respective instruments and the music scene for that matter?
Jessie: For me, my dad is a musician so I just grew up with it my whole life. He’s a bass player, so I was just drawn to it because of that. I was taught quite young.
Rene: I lived in a small town in Saskatchewan. In high school, I felt really isolated in what I wanted to do with my life. My escape was music and the people who inspired me were woman like Dolores O’Riordan from The Cranberries, Shirley Manson from Garbage of course. Having those role models inspired me to pursue music. Those women were really powerful for me because they were alternative. It wasn’t just the pop stars. It was like, “oh, I can do music as well. There’s a place for me.”
Jen: I grew up in a very musical household and took piano lessons or some kind of lessons from when I was a kid. I’ve always loved music and always got into a lot of female fronted band like Joan Jett, The Pretenders. Going back to Shirley Manson, what sealed the deal for me was seeing Garbage at The Vogue, May 4th, 1996. My head fell off. I was just so blown away.
Did you see Garbage just this past year in Vancouver too?
Jessie: Yes, we all went.
Jen: We hung out with her afterwards and she’s super awesome.
Rene: Yeah, Jen and Shirley go way back.
Jen: I finally met her in early 2000. I email her once or twice a year just to see if she’s forgotten about me. She claims she hasn’t. It’s really cool meeting one of your idols. You almost don’t want to because it’s like, “oh man, if she’s a dick, my life will be over.”
Rene: Everyone is always a groupie. There’s always someone else you look up to.
So far the world has only had the privilege of hearing a handful of Low Spin songs from one EP. When do we get more?
Jessie: Hopefully a full-length album. We don’t have any immediate plans to get into the studio, but this EP that we did last year, we’re still just trying to get it out there. We are independent so we’re trying to do it all ourselves. We have a ton of other songs that we want to get recorded, but you know, sometimes money is an issue so we still have to focus on this one a bit. We’re doing videos and we have a few other things planned – playing more live shows.
For the songs that didn’t make it on the album and any of your new material, does it fall in line with your signature dark pop sound?
Jessie: I had not really thought of ourselves as dark pop before. It’s really hard to put yourself in a genre because when you’re writing it, you become attached to it and of course we all have different influences that we pick and choose with our styles, but it was our producer, Howard [Redekopp] that said that we’re a dark pop band. It kind of clicked that that made sense. We don’t write to be dark pop, but it kind of ends up in that pocket.
Jen: It was almost one of the biggest compliments when we first met him and we were just sending him some demos to see if we could work together. He was really into it. He was like, “when I heard the first song you sent me, the place I went to was when I was young and a friend gave me a mix tape. The first song was ‘A Forest’ by The Cure and that’s where I instantly went with your stuff”. That was awesome.
Vancouver has such a diverse music scene. How do you picture Low Spin fitting in and contributing?
Jessie: Vancouver is this sort of dark and rainy city a lot of the time. When a friend from Calgary, which is where I’m from, had heard us, he said, “Oh, you’re so Vancouver.” And I didn’t know what that meant, because at the time I had been so immersed in it.
Rene: That’s the cool thing about where you live – every city has a sort of mood and that mood will generate creativity and that’s why I like the dreary winters in Vancouver. They drive me insane and by February or March I want to kill myself because I’m so depressed, but those write good songs!
Jen: In summertime when Rene is at the beach everyday, she doesn’t write any songs.
Jessie: We need these rainy winters for our musical careers.
Rene: Vancouver is a really good platform for you to build your music career. There’s so many talented people, so many amazing studios here, so it’s such a good place to really write, record and then you’re ready to take the show to other places. That’s exciting for us now because we want to go down to the States, and Europe and see how we’re received in those places.
The band is very much a DIY band. Do you have plans to seek out labels, maybe audition for a reality show [laughs]?
Rene: I can guarantee you that I will never be on a reality series. We’re definitely looking for record labels if they’re right for us. We want to do our band justice and yes, we want to get our music out there. Sometimes it is working with a label that will help that happen – if we want to go down to the States or Europe for instance. We’re not opposed to that, but we want to make sure it’s right for us and right for the band. Because we are, I don’t want to call us ‘mature’ [laughs] because we’re not old, but we’re older. We have been in bands for at least ten years of our lives. We do it because we love it. We’re really focused on why we do it – it has to fulfill a certain part of our lives and I don’t think we want that taken from us.
Jessie: Headlining your own tour across the country, we’ve all done that countless times and sure you play for four people in Thunder Bay sometimes. It’s fun and you still have a great time, but it is time-consuming and costly and there’s better ways to get your music out there now.
Jen: Once you’ve been doing it for awhile, you get a better understanding of it – like maybe us taking money from the band fund, having to pay five grand to tour across Canada when nobody’s heard of you, maybe that’s not the best financial decision.
Rene: That’s another part of our music that I like – that we have dancey, poppy beats, but we still get to express the dark gloomy side in the lyrics. And so, we just want people to have fun at shows and hopefully people share that. That’s what we want out of the whole experience, to make that connection.
Jen: It’s called ‘cry-dancing’.
And seeing that this interview is being held in a tattoo parlor, who has what tattoos?
Jessie: We have a lot. This is going to be another hour.
Rene: My favourite is a leg sleeve that the owner of [Liquid Amber Tattoos] did. It says, “day of the dead girl.”
Jen: I have part of my sleeve on my left arm, a moose crossing sign. That’s my favourite part.
Jessie: My favourite, I have a sleeve on my arm. It’s a space scene with a spiral, a nebula, a grid and exploding planets.