YOU CAN USUALLY count on solo artists to eventually give in to their primal urge to ditch the acoustic guitar and stool (plus all that preciousness) for the reckless abandonment of a full band. Then again, people in bands seem to inevitably go solo—I guess the grass really is always greener.
Jana Hunter belongs to the former grouping. Sort of. After moving to Baltimore in 2007, the Texas-born vocalist/guitarist spent a few years playing solo as part of the zany, music-writer-coined "freak folk" movement. But her decision to form a band was purely incidental. Lower Dens came together last year after Hunter began the search for musicians to join her on a solo tour—she hasn't played by herself since.
"I guess we clicked enough that we decided to write some new songs with the band in mind," explains bassist/vocalist Geoff Graham, the only member of Lowers Dens to call Charm City home his whole life.
Lower Dens have since settled nicely into an impressive, tight-knit music community that includes Beach House, Dan Deacon, and Wye Oak. The foursome's tour eventually led to their debut LP, Twin Hand Movement, a lush yet gritty dream-pop album that finally sets Hunter's vocals to noise. "Tea Lights" and "Truss Me" mix coffee-shop folk with loads of echoey jangle. But not every song plods along at a sad-bastardish clip. "Two Cocks" and "Hospice Gates" are jauntier numbers, kept icy by reverb and Hunter's low-register vocals.
In interviews Hunter has consistently cited Wire and Joy Division as bands that have helped shape Lower Dens' music; Graham, on the other hand, points to disco as a major influence on his arrangements. Twin Hand Movement won't necessarily make you want to dance, but it will definitely move you.
With a record in the can, Lower Dens are again out on the road where it all began a year ago. Of course, it wouldn't be a tour without bringing along a piece of home. The band will play some UK dates with Baltimore brethren Beach House in November.
"It's like a big family/collaborative/never-ending party," says Graham of their home base. "It would be hard to be a musician there and not become part of it."