duo LowRay, featuring singer/guitarist Daniel Fowlds (Pill Hill) and drummer
James Irving (22-20s), released their debut LP, Friends and The Fakers, on November
9. Mixed by Grammy-Award-winning engineer Jim Scott (Tom Petty, Wilco, The
Rolling Stones) and Ian Davenport (Supergrass, 22-20s), Friends and the Fakers
was recorded at The Terrarium in Northeast Minneapolis. Jacques Wait (The
Twilight Hours) engineered, co-produced and played guitar on the record, which
also features Twin Cities A-list musicians Jeff Victor (The Honeydogs) on
keyboards, Ian Allison (Eric Hutchinson, Jeremy Messersmith) on bass, and Blair
Krivanek (Sonny Knight and the Lakers) on guitar.
With such tremendous talent in the mix, Friends and the Fakers is a polished and professional affair, yet it maintains an inspired and unfussed-over vibe, befitting of the laid-back and genial personalities of the bands’ core members, Fowlds and Irving. Though the duo’s partnership is only a few years old, LowRay’s sound is self-assured and well-worn, and it exudes a timeless quality that refuses to adhere to any one style or trend.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Fowlds to discuss the album. This is what they said about the soon-to-be classic.
When did you first begin writing the material for Friends and the Fakers?
A few of the songs or at least song ideas have been around for a couple years. About half were new and written since the release of our EP from 2017. The song “Let Me Be” was written a week before we recorded the album and James and I probably played it three times before going into the studio. It was fresh to say the least. My phone has a voice memo app filled with songs, ideas for lyrics, melodies, riffs, progressions, rhythmic bits.
How did your paths cross?
A good friend of mine Ian Prince and I were working on a solo album years ago which was the start of Pill Hill and I need someone to mix it. He suggested a friend of his named James Irving who was doing recording and mixing at the time. He was living in Minnesota while his band the 22-20’s were between tours and albums. He mixed the album and recorded some of it also. We hit it off but didn’t actually play music together until years later.
The video for first single “Friends and the Fakers” is hilarious and a bit meta. Where did you come up with the story behind it?
James and I met with Adam Dunn the director at Keys restaurant which is a local favorite in Saint Paul. We explained the ideas behind the song. He had already heard it and he pitched the sitcom idea and a few others. We liked the sitcom retro concept and it seemed to fit with our criteria for the video. We didn’t want to appear in this video and we didn’t want another “dudes playing guitars and lip syncing video.” We wanted to save that for video two or three. Just kidding. Maybe. Adam Dunn actually has a cameo in the video as one of the crew which is meta funny.
Our current faves on the record are “I’m Sorry” and “8 Track Tapes.” Dan, is there a song in particular that holds a special place in your heart?
Glad you like them. “I’m Sorry” is special I suppose. Many are really. With “I’m Sorry” it’s so simple but I think that might be what makes it work. I remember writing it wondering if I needed to add a bridge or more lyrics for the second verse. I had written some but it felt better with the most simple message. I played that song for my wife at home the night I wrote it. She pretty much melted which doesn’t usually happen when I play her a new song I am working on. I connect emotionally with the lyric and that always moves me when we play live. It seems to translate to the crowd which is always a charge. The dynamics go to extremes in that one. Sometimes James is barely hitting his drums and by the end he is smashing them. “Palisade” is another since it is my father’s life story but that’s a long story.
It’s hard to put our finger on exactly why this is, but the record has such a classic Minneapolis vibe to it. It’s almost like it came out in the early ‘90s and was somehow just unearthed. Was there an intention to tap into an old-school sound or was this organic?
I was born in Minneapolis and lived here my whole life. I started playing music in the gulp ’80s. It is probably hard to take the Minneapolis sound out of me although I don’t really know what that is actually. James and I were both going through an ’80s phase during the recording. We did make some deliberate choices in production trying to capture some of what we love on the records from that era. I know it did influence the way James wrote his drum parts really minimizing the fills, working on reducing the parts down to the essentials. I think I had to talk him into a few fills. We recorded using only vintage guitars into old amps into old microphones into a Neve at the Terrarium in Minneapolis with Jacques Wait. Then our new friend the famous Jim Scott mixed it out in LA on an older Neve with a real plate reverb. With the exception of tracking to Pro tools, it was done the way records used to be done for the most part. That did color and impact the final sound.
Do you plan on filling out the lineup and touring?
We are working on some possible UK/EU dates in the spring.
What current artists are you listening to these days? Any Minnesota artists that we should be aware of?
My wife got me kinda hooked on Wild Moccasins from Texas. Earsworms for sure and the singer is amazing. There is so much talent here in the Twin Cities. Recently I caught a Kiss the Tiger show they were super fun.
What’s next in the world of LowRay?
Get this album out there so people can hear it. Play a bunch of shows and make a couple videos. Lather, rinse, repeat. In all seriousness we are proud of this record and hope it finds an audience.