Gig Review – Low Roar at XOYO

‘I thought it was gunna be a happier record but it ended up being the opposite’

Low Roar is an American post-rock, electronic band fronted and founded by Ryan Karazija based in Warsaw, Poland. Previously based in Reykjavik, Iceland, the band established themselves with two albums: the self-titled ‘Low Roar’ and ‘0’.

To label them would be unfair. They are a unique blend of atmospheric synths; shoe-gaze influenced guitars and folk led songs, layered in soundscapes creating a cinematic texture. Their music holds despondent lyrics and a sombre tone that carries you on an emotional experience, guided by a whirlpool of drifting sonic qualities.

The band are currently on tour after releasing their third album ‘Once in a long, long while’ which was recorded in Shoreditch, London, just down the road from where I caught up with Ryan after their show at XOYO. Ryan’s journey of preparing for tour was a stressful three weeks of arranging the set from scratch with a new band. After travelling with the same band for over a year and a half Ryan comments on his anxiety of not being good enough with his newer, not as rehearsed band; ‘I don’t wanna go out and sound bad’. ‘Especially if people come back to see us for a second time and think… ‘That wasn’t as good as last time’. ‘So, I was stressed about it’. They started their tour in Mexico, travelled all through Canada and America as a supporting act, and are now in the U.K headlining. Their set definitely doesn’t portray any signs of uncertainty. It is like a continuous wall of sonic purity with minimal breaks, allowing you to immerse yourself in the euphoric sounds.

Over the years Low Roar’s music has developed through the access to more technology. ‘When I did the first record I had nothing really but an acoustic guitar and my electric guitar and a small midi controller’. Now, with more technology and choices available their sound has evolved. However, having more options isn’t always a good thing. Its something ‘you have to be very careful with it. You can over blow it’. ‘I had good people around me to help me with that’ states Ryan. ‘But definitely you wanna do something different each time cause you don’t wanna create the same album over and over’. Similarly, the band makes a conscious effort to deliver something unique within their live set, which is tailored to have more of an edge in comparison with the record: a grittiness that is found within the manipulation of instruments and the interpretation of the new band members. I personally found an interest in the guitar playing in the set. The instrument also took role of mimicking the strings on the album with a bow as a tool, highlighting the influence of bands such as Sigur Ros. Ryan comments that ‘yonsi from Sigur Ros uses it as this massive instrument and sings a lot of the lines that are being bowed. We just try to mimic the strings that are on the record. There are a lot of staccato strings’. The guitar was also used in replacement of synthesisers, drenched in reverb and delay, sounding like anything but a guitar, a delicate touch that filled out the sound with colour.

Lyrically, the band has also developed. Whereas in previous albums the lyrical themes have been about the loneliness and isolation of moving to Iceland, the new album’s lyrics are inspired from post-divorce life. ‘I thought it was gunna be a happier record but it ended up being the opposite’. Through the negatives however, the positive to take from these experiences is the muse that inspired a new lyrical direction. ‘I mean I have to relive it every day. And sometimes I don’t notice when I’m singing the songs we’re playing but there’s occasions when I’m singing and I know what it’s about and then it’s like, agh, I can feel it again’. These heartfelt moments bring an honesty and real-ness to the music: a depth to it. And live this is experienced as an intimate and personal connection between audience and band.

The bands emotive capacity and cinematic soundscapes makes their music perfect for soundtracks. Their song ‘I’ll keep coming’ won them an appearance on Hideo Kojima’s game ‘Death Standing’. Ryan explains that this came about through a chance encounter when Hideo heard them in a record store in Reykjavik, Iceland. ‘We were on tour years ago and Sony messaged us saying… we wanna use this song for something. We cant tell you why, we can’t tell you who for… but we can offer you this. Do you wanna take it? And I was on the road and just woke up and my manager called I just said yes. Let’s just do it’.
Adding that the band would love to do more soundtracks ‘but no ones really asked me. I plant the seeds and then, I have to be asked’. With their new album dwelling in immersive filmic textures I wouldn’t be surprised if more opportunities like this arose.

The band will continue to tour throughout Germany and finish their last three dates in Poland. And resume their tour after a six-week break.

Words by Daniel Hole

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