The Black Sheep Interviews: Lower Dens
- Written by Jessica Sommers
- June 18, 2012
Jana Hunter’s latest project, Baltimore-based Lower Dens, refuses to be placed in a genre. Recently dropping their well-received sophomore album Nootropics, Lower Dens have been busy traveling the US and abroad, trying to stay sane by watching plenty of Nic Cage films along the way. We talked to bassist Geoff Graham about the fun challenges of playing an outdoor festival, and the importance of tequila.
The Black Sheep: How did Lower Dens come to be?
Geoff: In 2008 Jana Hunter had recently moved to Baltimore and asked me to go on tour, which she thought was going to be one of her last. So I toured on guitar and Abe Sanders was the drummer, and we were playing Jana Hunter songs. By the end of the tour we were invited to do another. We realized that the three of us really enjoyed working together, and Jana had a few songs she wanted to try arranging and performing as a band.
TBS: What are you most looking forward to about playing at Pitchfork?
Geoff: I’m looking forward to playing in front of a large crowd that is known for having an audience that has really discerning taste. It’s not just another beer festival, the standard of music and performance is supposed to be pretty high there.
TBS: What are some challenges you face playing at a big, outdoor festival versus playing at a small venue?
Geoff: It’s been a bit of a challenge, not with the crowds so much but with the technical issues. The thing about playing at a small, intimate venue is that you have time to figure out how the sound is going to work. You have time to set up and get the sound right. At a festival you’re kind of rushed to the stage, you don’t have the time, you’re outdoors and it’s hard to know. You have to figure out what kind of songs you’re going to play that will work in that setting. You have to think about what time you’re going on, like if it’s 3:30 in the afternoon, people are in a certain mindset and they have a lot of other music that they’re looking forward to seeing. I like challenges like that. I like being a performer and entertainer, and figuring out what’s going to work.
TBS: You guys have been touring a lot. What are some things you do to keep yourself from going crazy while you’re on the road?
Geoff: That’s a good question. We try to keep ourselves sane. We find excuses to crack up about things, find ways to make each other laugh. Getting into things like Nicolas Cage action movies, watching those on the drives in between shows. Knowing what makes each other laugh is the best thing, it’s a good stress reliever and it keeps us all on the same page.
TBS: If you were stuck in an elevator for 24 hours and you could choose who you’d be stuck with, who would you choose?
Geoff: Paul Verhoeven, because I’ve been watching a lot of his movies recently. I think he’s a great blend between someone who takes on these serious ideas but then doesn’t take them seriously in his movies. He’s the director behind RoboCop, Total Recall, Showgirls, just to name a few. I would want to come up with a movie that we could both work on. At first he, like, wouldn’t want to hear it, but then I’d have 24-hours to wear him down. And even at the end, if he didn’t want to make the movie I came up with, at least I tried and at least I could’ve picked his brain. But I really think something good could come out of that.
TBS: Drink of choice?
Geoff: Corzo tequila… I think that’s what it’s called. I was already pretty drunk when I was drinking it. I like tequila, it’s an important drink.