Alt.country and Western is one of the most honest genres to emerge from America within the past couple of decades. As popular country music continues to dissolve into the shimmering, surface froth of “just pop,” the alternative remains immersed in vast landscapes, organic production and sincere articulations. The listener gets a traditional kind of music rounded out with a modern vibe.
Now a resident of Los Angeles, Lee and company recorded the band’s third album, Further/Free, when he still lived in town. This week that recording sees the light of day (or night), as Lowlights reunites to celebrate its release and drummer Noelan Ramirez’ 30th birthday. Lee explains via e-mail how he orchestrated it all.
Why did you relocate to Los Angeles? Any plans to pick up and move again?
Well, interesting question. Los Angeles seemed to call out to me. I saw the city in a dream. It was beautiful. The canyons, the ocean, the billboards, ha, ha ... but seriously, I wanted to continue my music career, play with new folks, DJ, produce. It just seemed like a logical move. My heart will always be in New Mexico. As to your second question, yes. I've already been the road a ton this year with various bands. To wander is the true nature of my being. I'm a rambler, a rounder. You know?
How did you assemble the recording?
Well, when we recorded the album I was a resident of Albuquerque. We spent the better part of a year recording. I was working a construction job during the week and mixing and overdubbing on the weekends—a labor of love, really.
How is this album different from your others?
Further/Free is a special record. It's the first Lowlights record to be made in New Mexico by New Mexicans. It has a great Southwestern vibe to it. We took a more organic approach in the studio and recorded the basic tracks live. We also did a lot writing and improvising on the fly. It's the first time I really let the band take its own natural direction.
I understand Lowlights has always had a rotating cast of supporting characters—is there anyone new this time around?
Yes! Thanks to Noelan we have assembled an outstanding group; Ryan Martino—who engineered/
What are you getting Noelan for his birthday?
A crystal beaded medicine bag.
Are any more Scared of Chaka reunions in the works?
You never know. It could happen.
If you had to replace your skin, would you rather have birdlike feathers (but you'd be flightless) or reptilian scales?
Well, since I love the Eagles, I'll go with feathers!
What was your favorite band in junior high?
What's your guiltiest pleasure, music-wise?