From David Bowie to Charles Mingus...
Lower Dens

Lower Dens are a fascinating proposition.

Across the series of albums – the latest of which, 'Escape From Evil', dropped in March – the band have fused left field influences with pop, experimental whims with a keenly felt melodic sense.

Set to support Belle & Sebastian on their forthcoming UK tour, Lower Dens will be able to allow the material from their latest album to breathe.

With that in mind, Clash asked singer, front woman and creative force Jana Hunter to outline some of the Influences at work.

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David Bowie - 'Let's Dance'

A great song about little else besides dancing with a lover from a time when mainstream radio could get away with better music. The sounds on this song (and the album it’s on), the synthetic-seeming horns (though I think they’re real), the kind of plastic 80s nature of it, were important to me. This’ll be true of several of the songs on the list, but this might be the one that had the greatest personal relevance when I was growing up.

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Julie Cruise - 'The World Spins'

This and the Bowie song as have not dissimilar sound palettes. “The World Spins” is definitely more purely synthetic. I don’t know exactly why that’s important to me. I suppose it could be because in both cases they’re saying something really simple and true in the context of music that’s wholly unnatural. That seems true to life as I see it. This synth bass was one of the things that I formed the ideas for our production around.

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U2 - 'With Or Without You'

For me this is entirely about how Daniel Lanois thinks about a song like this. There’s so much clarity and so much space, and he has an approach to simplicity that was crucially similar to ideas we had when we started writing this album.

I hadn’t listened to this record in years, but I firmly believe that songs like this were what I was subconsciously referencing (this song was huge for me as a kid) when I conceived of the simple nature of the palette on this record, when I thought about building sounds from scratch using two or three instruments to seem like one. I wanted space like he’d made it.

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Madonna - 'Holiday'

'Holiday' is crucial to my understanding of how a pop song should be composed and how it should make you feel. I used a variation of the chord structure when I wrote 'Société Anonyme' and then added what I thought felt like a Johnny Marr riff. People crack on ripping things off but they don’t know how often this happens (see if you can hear what 'To Die in L.A.' from our new album and 'The One Thing' by INXS have in common) or what an important tradition it is in music. Nothing is entirely original. Even when you’re innovating, you’re starting where somebody else left off. This is obv not to excuse theft of form and/or overall structure, but that ain’t what I’m talking about.

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Charles Mingus - 'Myself When I Am Real'

I listened to this almost every day for several months around basic tracking and overdubs. It’s my favourite piece from his solo piano album. The title was a reminder to be true, but what I also like about it that, if you’re not Mingus, hoping to write like this is an impossible aspiration.

I’ll never sit down and improvise something like this, but how can I not think about how things as beautiful and sacrosanct as this exist every time I sit down to write music? Hadn’t I ought to do my best in a world where this exists? It’s not about competition, but about seeing where the bars are set so you know what to aim for.

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Catch Lower Dens at the following shows:

May
3 Cardiff St. David's Hall (w/ Belle & Sebastian)
4 Bristol Colston Hall (w/ Belle & Sebastian)
5 Portsmouth Guildhall (w/ Belle & Sebastian)
7 Cambridge Corn Exchange (w/ Belle & Sebastian)
8 Norwich Open (w/ Belle & Sebastian)
9 Brighton Green Door Store
10 Birmingham Symphony Hall (w/ Belle & Sebastian)
11 London Westminster Central Hall (w/ Belle & Sebastian)
12 London Westminster Central Hall (w/ Belle & Sebastian)
13 London Brixton Windmill
14 Manchester Albert Hall (w/ Belle & Sebastian)
15 Manchester Albert Hall (w/ Belle & Sebastian)
16 Newcastle City Hall (w/ Belle & Sebastian)
18 Buxton Opera House (w/ Belle & Sebastian)
19 Leeds City Hall (w/ Belle & Sebastian)
20 Nottingham Bodega
21 Edinburgh Sneaky Pete's
22 Glasgow Hydro Arena (w/ Belle & Sebastian)

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