Last spring, it was widely reported (well, it was reported by BrooklynVegan, at any rate) that guitarist Will Adams had quit Lower Dens due to “exhaustion”. And indeed it was Indian Jewelry’s Brandon Davis, not Adams, who manned the six-string on Lower Dens’ subsequent tour with Cass McCombs. Reached on the road somewhere between Washington, D.C., and Raleigh, North Carolina, Adams clarifies that he was never officially out of the band, but he says he needed a few weeks to recover from the near-constant touring Lower Dens had undertaken in support of its 2010 debut, Twin-Hand Movement. The buzz for that album built slowly but steadily, leading to more and more tour invitations, which the group invariably accepted. By the time Lower Dens came off the road, Adams had simply had enough.
“We had had a pretty insane couple of years leading up to that, and it was nice to step back for a little while,” he says. “I think we got a new little burst of energy in the band after that. We had kind of run ourselves into the ground a little bit, on account of the slow pace that our first album took finding its way to an audience, I guess.”
Lower Dens should find its fan base growing even more, and hopefully at a faster pace, on the strength of its new LP, Nootropics. Critics have lavished praise on the record, released in May, for its dreamlike sound. Although certain tracks, like the hypnotic single “Brains”, tick along to Krautrock-indebted beats, much of Nootropics is slow-burning and atmospheric, with frontwoman Jana Hunter’s unperturbed singing nestled at the centre of a haze of nu-gaze guitar and synth drones. The melodies are more immediate and the songs generally more accessible than those on Twin-Hand Movement. Adams says that Lower Dens wrote much of the material on Nootropics without relying on a lot of the effects—like reverb and looping pedals—that drove the direction of the first album.
“I’m really glad that we didn’t just make the same record again, and we found ourselves working in ways to avoid that,” the guitarist says. “We approached it vastly differently, between the way we wrote it and the way we recorded it, so as not to do the same tricks and the same process that we had the first time.”
Geography also played a role, with band members collaborating via the Internet. At one time, all of Lower Dens was based in Baltimore, where keyboardist Carter Tanton and drummer Nate Nelson still reside. However, Adams now lives in Brooklyn, Hunter has returned to her native Texas, and bassist Geoff Graham has announced that he’ll be relocating to Berlin.
“I actually think it’s great,” Adams says of the situation. “I think that there’s a lot of focus, and a lot of purpose to the time we spend together, because we have to get buses or airplanes to get together to work on the band, so it’s real serious work time, and I think that we get a lot done that way. I actually prefer it.”
Here’s hoping the arrangement keeps the guitarist from getting too burned-out this time around.
Lower Dens plays the Media Club on Saturday (July 7).