“I was just done with desert,” explains Low Culture singer-guitarist, Chris Mason. “For me it was more of a personal move. I was feeling pretty alienated and it was difficult to find people who I felt common ground with and really connected with.”
This alienation is the bedrock on which the band’s sophomore album, Places To Hide, lays on. On it we become accustomed to the brain-pickings of Mason’s isolation and frustration, but also his newfound liberation, post moving states.
Low Culture formed in New Mexico, where they recorded their debut LP, Screens. Two and half years later, the band relocated to Portland, switched up their bass player, adding Jay Castaldi (MOTO) to the lineup.
Instead of all being in the same zip code and writing together as a band, the new album was sculpted in a more scattered sense: Mason recorded a song on a drum machine, then sent the demos around to the rest of the crew to learn and practice.
“In some ways it was more fun this time around,” says Mason. “Joe [Ayoub] has a few songs on the record that are his, then there are the ones I brought to the table, so with three of us in Portland and Joe being in El Paso… we had to work bits together… basically this could have gone either way, luckily it wasn’t a disaster, I hope.”
Fans of their inaugural full-length will find common ground on Places To Hide, but the band seems to have shifted gears from pop-punk towards more of a garage-punk sound, with vocals now smoking behind gutting guitar haze. Still, a dulcet fervour still echoes throughout 14 songs. The pen to paper writing came naturally, says Chris, with him writing three songs (“Heart in a Blender,” “Defective Brain,” “Take and Take”) in one day.
Mason grew up listening Rancid and Green Day, and recalls his youthful days picking up Maximum Rocknroll to search for new acts. While he’s still all about buying physical records, he’s a big fan of Spotify, and with new music mediums so readily available, he finds himself “listening to music in a different way as a result.”
On Places To Hide, songs like “Evil” harness the inner angst and disparaging confusion Mason once felt, while songs such as “Shake It Off” remedy the previous and provide an outward looking hopefulness. Many of the songs spark from conversations he’s had with others, good and bad.
“’Evil’ came out of a conversation I got into with someone, and as soon I told them I was an atheist they looked at me as if I was the most hideous person,” he explains. “It went downhill from there, because they didn’t want to speak with me anymore because essentially they were looking at me like I was evil—that song is about living and let living.”
“Shake It Off” was not paying homage to Taylor Swift, and Mason didn’t even think about the connection until at first. In fact, he was gunning for “Taylor Swift” to be the title, which stirred a couple of snickers from bandmates.
Low Culture are back on the road, but unfortunately won’t be making it to Canada on this tour. Not that it stopped Mason from expressing his love of Ottawa. Screens was mastered by Dave Williams (Steve Adamyk Band, Crusades) in Ottawa, but Mason also confesses his admiration for Ottawa Explosion, which he’s performed at multiple times.
“I love Ottawa, and that festival is a really good time. So many people from all over coming to play. I’ve always enjoyed being there.”
Places To Hide is out now on Dirtnap Records.