Alt-country may not have been the hugest draw this year but, as is evident in the popularly of Antony and the Johnson's, sadness sure was. I found it in Dameon Lee's the Lowlights. Hailing from a small Northern California town, the Lowlights craft a dark but impassioned brand of alt-country. Following this year's release of their second album, Dark End Road, I caught up with Lee by email during their current tour.
IW: How much of a collaboration is Lowlights or is it mainly a vehicle you're your songwriting?
DL: Mainly the band has been a vehicle for my own songs and ideas, but when you play with other talented musicians you can't deny that they add elements to the songs that you yourself might not have thought of. For this tour in particular, the band and I have worked together to try and re-interpret the songs for a live audience.
IW: How is the tour going?
DL: (chuckling) Well we're only about a week into a five week tour but so far it's been both well received and a lot of fun. We're also keeping a tour log and posting it on the band's myspace page. We have a page at www.myspace.com/thelowlights that has songs from the album, pictures our drummer Ray's been taking and a tour diary written by our bass player.
IW: How many people play with you on tour?
DL: This latest Lowlights incarnation is a four piece made up of some talented gentlemen. We have Ray Johnson on drums, Deric Mendes on guitar and Matt Jackson on the bass. Another cool element of this lineup is that all the guys can sing backup harmonies.
IW: Where are you from?
DL: I was originally raised in rural northern New Mexico, however I've spent the last six years in a little town in Northern California.
IW: How much does your environment contribute to your sound?
DL: I would have to say that growing up in the southwest has definitely taken my songwriting in a certain kind of desert country direction. Also my time on the foggy redwood coast has contributed not only a lot of indoor time to write but some depressing subject matter as well.
IW: Are there many other bands from the area you're in Northern
DL: Well I've played in a few other bands there before but right now I'm only involved with the Lowlights, But right now there some great bands in the area playing a lot of different kinds of music. There's a website called humcity.com where you can find links to a lot of cool acts from behind the redwood curtain.
IW: Who do you consider to be your musical contemporaries?
DL: (laughing) good question, I have no fucking idea!
IW: Do you listen to any metal?
DL: hell, yes! I've listened to metal since I was in the fourth grade and no matter what I seem to always have those wonderful Dio albums right by my turntable.
IW: Other than Dio, what else sits close to your turntable?
DL: Eagles greatest hits (of course), a lot of stuff from the Harry Smith archive, Red House Painters, the Beatles, and the Highway 61 Revisited album from Bob Dylan.
IW: Do you consider yourself much of a record collector?
DL: Not really, I go through waves of buying and selling a lot of my albums but mostly I care about having the music instead to what format it comes on. I do have a soft spot for looking for old 60's garage rock albums but I'd never call myself a collector.
IW: What do you listen to when your writing songs?
DL: I actually avoid trying to listen to anything. Not to say that I'm not inspired by certain songs but I think that in order to really try to keep your voice when writing a song you have to cut your self off from certain things that might influence the process.
IW: What artists do you find inspiring?
DL: Oh god...so many. I admire the work ethic of artists like Will Oldham, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. Not only are they all prolific songwriters but fiercely dedicated as well.
- Stephanie Haselman | 2005-12-13