Directed by Matthew Gamlen
Camera by Hannah Gregg, Rodrigo Melgarejo and Mike Elliott
Audio by Miliken Gardner
Words by Matt Stangel
When I arrived at local creative agency Instrument, Sunday morning was turning into afternoon and Low Roar had set up their equipment in front of a pair of teepees. The room was a mixture of concrete floors and exposed beams, cubicles and wide-open space. Under a barreled ceiling, we drank mimosas. A crown of windows ringing the building let in light from above.
Low Roar played a tune called “Just A Habit”; featuring an electric guitar fingerpicked melancholically against Casio garnish; Thom Yorke-flavored melisma draped over a lover's apology for hitting the bottle: “If I slur a bit/It's just because I'm confused/Don't think much of it,” goes the verse, “My days belong to you/And if you're kind/My nights can too,” lulling into the chorus, “It's just a habit.”
I couldn't make out the words at first, but lead singer and songwriter Ryan Karazija was happy to fill in the blanks. He says the intent behind the song and the self-entitled debut record is very personal-- specifying a few biographical benchmarks that influenced its creation.
He recalls moving from San Francisco to Reykjavík, Iceland in September of 2010, after his previous project Audrye Sessions split up.
“A lot of different things came into the whole move,” explains Karazija. “There were people I was really close to... and I was leaving... and I felt like they might've felt betrayed by me or something.”
It was in Iceland-- culturally isolated, financially strapped, and with fragments of Audrye Sessions on his shoulders-- that, through the songs he was writing, Karazija tried to explain his actions to those he left behind. Meanwhile, he began developing the minimalism of Low Roar; experimenting past previous full-band arrangements.
He says the songs were written and recorded very quickly, at a track-per-day pace with little re-writing. Just laying things down in Garageband as they came. “It was really simple,” says Karazija, as if surprised by the ease of the project.
But it's not all that surprising. Low Roar exudes simplicity and effortlessness-- a combination that musicians can't really set out to create, and therefore rarely pull off. It's an attractive pair qualities that I could see carrying the band for albums to come; through all the apologies and explanations for self-growth that Karazija could need to make.