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Lowland Lakers: Local folk-pop act gets personal on new LP

The Lowland Lakers originally met in Duluth.

The Lowland Lakers originally met in Duluth.

When your first gig involves a ceremony to honor people who donated their bodies to medicine, things can only go up from there.

The Lowland Lakers  — Nate Case, Haley Rydell, and Matt Donoghue — will celebrate their debut album, The Mississippi Is Between Us Now, Friday at the Dakota Jazz Club. The new record cuts a uniquely deep groove from the start — high and tight, bright and shining.

Some bands bash their songs against the rocks through over-complication. The Lowland Lakers, on the other hand, let the subtle complexities speak for themselves, allowing their folk-pop songs to soar. 

CP: When you started performing together, was having three-part harmonies something that you decided to incorporate, or something you realized worked well between you all?

Nate Case: Our first gig together with our current lineup was a ceremony honoring the people who donated their bodies to the U of M School of Medicine. Matt, being the doctor-in-training in the group, landed that gig.

Haley Rydell: Since Nate and I have known each other for so long, singing harmonies with each other has become really natural. Then Matt started learning our tunes. Occasionally in practice he would start singing a third harmony in just the right places, and it was like, "Oh, damn — I think we have something here."

Matt Donoghue: As with most things in my life, I find two people who have something good going between them, then I foist myself into the middle.

City Pages: Tell me about the Barn Recording studio where you made the album. 

NC: Michael Morris who runs the Barn has been a good friend of mine for the past few years. Michael approached me about the idea after the release of our EP in December of 2014, and all the pieces fit so we pulled the trigger and made it happen.

It's not actually a barn, the space is an apartment in downtown Northfield, but it most definitely has a very cool barn-like quality to it, and Michael has all the right gear to make incredibly good sounding recordings.

CP: What was the process like writing the introspective "Time to Move Along"?

HR: "Time to Move Along" is a pretty personal song for me. I wrote it a few years ago during a fairly intense part of my life. I was living in my hometown of Fargo and in a marriage that, emotionally, I couldn’t be in anymore.

At the time, I was playing in a band based out of Denver and flying back and forth, and suddenly the opportunity arose to move there and play music full time. I knew that was what I needed to do, so I made the decision to go. I felt so much negativity coming from the people I loved, telling me that I couldn’t do it or shouldn’t do it. I almost felt like if I went, I could never come back.

CP: Any other songs that stand out to you on this album?

NC: They mostly all have a little bit of a personal story to tell, besides the cover of Megafaun's "Longest Day." My songs — "Different Kind of Right" and "Wild Wind" — are sort of a coming to grips with reality and how we can shape it to an extent, and yet we inevitably have to roll with the punches. I'd say Haley is the best at getting to the point.

HR: Thank you? No, that's kinda true, though sometimes I wish I wasn't so transparent. I once had a friend who was also a bandmate tell me, "Haley, I never have to wonder whats going on in your life, I just listen to the most recent song you've written and then I know." But I digress ... Besides "Time to Move Along," the last song on the album, "Last Chord," is one that I'm really excited about. I get tears in my eyes every single time I listen to it. 

CP: What was your goal with the record?

NC: My personal goal with the record was to make the best sounding tones come out of the best written songs that we've composed, compiled onto one album. It's a vague answer because it's all been done before, and I'm confident we did that and then some. Overall, I think we exceeded my goal of making a record that we can all be proud of. There's also a part of me that's always looking for Neil Young's approval.

MD: For me, the challenge of being in the studio is trying to capture the nuances of a song that has been played a dozen different ways, grabbing all the pieces that you like from those renditions and bottling them up, while leaving some space to breath. It is always tempting to add another instrument, another vocal line.

CP: What are you excited to share at the album release show?

NC: I'm excited to share the songs and hard work we've put into it all, also excited a few of our good friends, Ian Vaver (mandolin) and Dave Mehling (keys) will be there to have our backs and fill out some of the more complex layers that exist on the record. I've also got a few new jokes I'm excited to test out.

HR: I'm really excited to hear Nate's new jokes. I also just love album release shows. I've been thinking lately about how some bands don't do album release shows. They'll just put out the album and all of a sudden it's available to buy and that's it.

We spent a whole year recording this album, so many weekends away from our families, sleeping on floors, and barely eating because we just need to do that one thing a little better. I'm just so thrilled to share with everybody what we were able to make.

Lowland Lakers

Where: Dakota Jazz Club.

When: 10:30 p.m. Fri., May 13.

Tickets: $7; more info here