Melbourne’s Lowtide are a band that takes their time, but boy has it been worth the wait. What started as a bedroom project for guitarist Gabriel Lewis in 2008 has blossomed into a four-piece band with a strong live reputation and now a debut album in the bag; and what a fine debut album it is. While shoegaze is the label that will be slapped all over these nine songs, there’s a lot more to sink your ’90s-cut teeth into. The band seem to know the perfect time to drift out of focus, as on ‘Still Time’ and ‘Yesterday’, before returning sharply into view with crisp pop single ‘Held’ and darkly primal ‘Autumn’. First single ‘Blue Movie’ could be ripped from a Lynchian dream sequence, whereas the chugging bass rhythms on ‘Wedding Ring’ provide a more forward-looking approach. Top marks have to go to singers Giles Simon and Lucy Buckeridge, whose poised vocals provide constant highlights on most tracks. Unfortunately, such fresh beauty often causes music reviewers to roll out plum old phrases like “melodic textures”, “aural layers” and the worst of all, “sonic soundscapes” in failed bids to capture the grandeur of this music in words, but crap like that doesn’t do it justice. Whether you want to call it shoegaze, roogaze, dream-pop, indie or whatever, this is simply a classy piece of work that should feature in everyone’s end of year best-of list. (Lost & Lonesome Records)
HAVING EXISTED in various forms since 2008, yet only releasing their debut album this month, Melbourne shoegazers Lowtide aren’t a band you’ll catch making snap decisions. Blame their perfectionist guitarist and all-round nice guy Gabriel Lewis.
“Yeah, it has been ages actually,” he says. “When we recorded it there were lots of overdubs and returning to things. I sort of decided how my guitar was sounding in the studio sessions wasn’t as up to scratch as I’d like, so I overdubbed everything and broke everything down separately, just to get full control over everything and its sound. Otherwise, I think we’d played too much all at once and it got a bit choked. I really like doing that sort of stuff, because the idea is always there when I’m performing the songs, but I know that I don’t have enough fingers to be able to play all the stuff that I’m thinking of. So it’s kind of cool to flesh it all out and to see it realised in a way that we hope to be able to do.”
The quartet’s eponymous debut may have taken an age to see the light of day, but consistently strong live performances have paved the way for its arrival and reception.
“To begin with, we were so relieved just to have it done,” Lewis says. “But now it’s really exciting; the response we’ve had from the single so far has been really amazing. Live, there’s always a pretty strong response. The good sign is that you can’t hear too much talking going on in the room, which is nice. Especially with the quieter songs, people tend to lose attention and be chatty or whatever, but it seems to hold, so I think that’s a win.”
The first single is ‘Blue Movie’; a sparse slow-burner, although any future writing may come about in a different way, or so Lewis hopes.
“When we started there were a lot of songs already written,” he says. “[They] sort of just slotted into place in the band. More recently, we’ve had a few jams and a few ideas started from the two bass players doing parts over each other, then I’d come along and do stuff over that. I’m hoping to do more of that in the future. Everything I’ve written is really kind of taxing as far as performing goes. When we play shows it’s non-stop for me, and everybody else gets to have a bit of a relax now and then (laughs).”
Shoegaze’s original wave of popularity might have peaked in the early ’90s, but Lowtide are just one of a number of new bands taking the genre in a new direction.
“I’ve battled this for a long time in my head,” Lewis says. “You kind of don’t want to knock off what everyone’s done in the past, and if it works so well then why re-invent the wheel? Then there are a lot of bands classed as nu-gaze or whatever, adding their own edge to it to try and stand out from the crowd. I find that generally weakens the concept, and I guess if you look at blues or rock – there are standard ways of doing them, and it’s the same with shoegaze. Shoegaze is a fairly independent or off-the-radar thing, so maybe that’s why people feel that they need to try to make something else of it. But I think it’s now establishing itself, and the sound is still popular, even if it’s still linked to the ’90s because that’s when it first blossomed. It keeps coming and going as well; there have been ups and downs, and it’s just coming up at the moment, which is really exciting.”
As humble a musician as you’ll probably find, Lewis is happy take one thing at a time for Lowtide.
“At the moment we’re just focussing on the album launch,” he says. “[It] is on the 25th of July at the Tote, and after that we’ll be touring to Brisbane, Sydney and over to Adelaide as well. Then we’ll take it from there, I guess.”
LOWTIDE IS OUT NOW.