Lowest of the Low have released 'Do The Right Now', their first record of new material in 13 years. They play Oshawa Music Hall Friday, December 8 2017. There have been line-up changes with co-founder Stephen Stanley leaving the band, but there is still something very Lowest of the Low-y about the songs. They are still pissed-off, still intense, still having fun playing, still writing great bright melodic post-punk power pop but with the hindsight of three decades. Slowcity.ca asked co-founder Ron Hawkins what the lowdown on album making is for the Low these days.
Slowcity.ca - When building the Lowest of the Low album how did you make it “right now” - and not just a tribute act to your former incarnation?
"Well, the “right now” was a lyrical philosophy and a concept for the album that grew out of my growing sense of wanting to live in the moment and try to be as present in my life as possible. It became a comment on the kind of societies we’ve seen grow out of social media culture and the internet. People on subways glued to their phones in small isolated clusters. And, more ridiculously, hundreds of people at music events watching a passionate spectacle unfold before them, but choose to have it translated through the tiny view screen of their phone/camera. So I wrote Do The Right Now, which became the title track because it seemed to most truly sum up the subtext of the songs. But there is also Minuteman and lyrics scattered all through the album that address this theme.
And I guess musically there was a culmination of things I’ve learned working with the Low, the Rusty Nails, The Do Good Assassins and on countless solo albums."
Slowcity.ca -- I can pick out Costello, Bragg, Strummer, power-pub-rock influences on this album - they also float around the early LOTL records of course, its been 30 years - are you still drawing from that same well or is there another wellspring of musical ideas you have been going to in the interim, I would be interested in links too if the answer is yes?
"Well yeah that’s the bedrock - The Clash, The Beatles, Bragg etc. Those are the people I originally went to school on. The Beatles musically - their sense of song structure and harmonies and desire to experiment. And because I came to music as much through political interests as strictly musical ones I was freed by bands like the Clash and Billy Bragg to realize that you can invest your rock songs with themes more intricate and imbued with meaning than early rock bands did. I listen to alot of styles of music and find something in everything that intrigues me. In fact I don’t really think of genres so much as I do just “good” and “bad” music. If it resonates it’s good… if it doesn’t it’s rubbish. I’ve been listening to people like Margaret Glaspy, Run the Jewels, The Milk Carton Kids, Jake Bugg, Kurt Vile, Weaves, Big Thief, White Reaper etc. on and on. All you have to do is look around and you’ll find thousands of great bands. There is more amazing music out there now than you will ever have time to listen to. And it all inspires me in one way or another."
Slowcity.ca -- You have always been such a considerate lyricist - words matter - whose words matter to you lately and have how those writers informed the album?
"I find inspiration in a lot of places. One thing that the bands I mentioned previously have in common is that they all have a deft ability with lyrics. And they all approach writing them, and the worldview they express, from a totally different angle. That’s the great thing about humans in general and writers in particular is we find ways to communicate all the love, the pain, the frustration whatever… and a lot of people are able to put a very personal stamp on it. I will admit though that I find it hard to find someone these days who really resonates with me politically. I’m not sure where to put my political energy when it comes to rock n’ roll. Sometimes it all seems like so much posturing and naval gazing, but I think this planet is so fucked up and the western hemisphere is on some precipice that could get even more ugly and dangerous. I guess I can’t believe that a revolutionary spirit is not bubbling to the surface and exploding. I mean what would it take?!
I guess the lyrics on this album are mainly engaged in the idea of being present. Like if I can’t focus long enough to watch a rock show how can I affect change in the world. It’s like when they tell you to apply your air mask before helping others."
Slowcity.ca -- Of the tracks on 'Do The Right Now', which one reflects how you were when you started Lowest of the Low and in which one do you see yourself as you are now, - why?
"I guess I’d have to say 'Something To Believe In' represents a certain yearning and a kind of naive confidence and hope that was really palpable when we started LOTL. 'Powerlines' as well - it’s actually meant to be a little story of the arc of the Lowest of the Low’s first run from 1991 to 1994.
Maybe now I’d have to say it’s 'Do The Right Now' or 'Minuteman' or 'The Hard Way' - it’s about being a capable, alert organism ready to move through the world in a fully actualized way."
Ron mentioned some acts he has been listening to - he sent us a sample.