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Metaphorical Drugs Inspire Baltimore Band Lower Dens

Published: Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 15:06

Lower Dens

Shawn Brackbill

Nootropics are drugs used to enhance memory or other cognitive functions.

They have everything – and nothing – to do with the latest release from Baltimore’s Lower Dens.

Lower Dens makes music shrouded in mystery and musical fog, and its latest record, Nootropics, is quite the concept album.

The group also became rather resourceful working on new songs while on the road. Lower Dens opened for Bear in Heaven, The Walkmen, Beach House and Deerhunter, which means they’ve played around 200 shows in the last 12 months. They just returned from Europe and were ready to leave for a headlining tour when College Times caught up with bassist Geoff Graham to dish on metaphorical drugs and shooting music videos.

College Times: Why did you choose Nootropics as the album title?

Geoff Graham: The inspiration behind a lot of the songs on the album were kind of questions. We were asking questions about the way technology is being developed by humans and what they should be for ... We’re going to really, really radically be able to alter not just our environment but ourselves, our own bodies, through technology. We kind of wanted to write an album that was inspired by that idea. The title, Nootropics, we’re kind of referring to them as a symbol of the concept or metaphor that we decided to name the album after.

From what I understand the album didn’t come together so easily.

The album kind of came together in specific stages. There were the conversations that we were having while on the road that inspired some of the song ideas, and then there were the songs that came together in the van while we were traveling, and then it turned into an intense period of fleshing the songs out as a band, making them into complete songs, and then there was the time we had in the studio where we had access to a lot more instruments and equipment so we were able to take songs a whole lot further by being in the studio and having the producer with us.

If your album was a person what would it be like?

I think if Nootropics was a person, this person would have a lot of depth to them. I think they’d be a thoughtful person. I think they would maybe surprise you. They’d be somebody worth getting to know over a long period of time. They’d have an excellent taste in movies. Like if you go over to their apartment, or whatever, they’d have all these movies that you’d never heard of, and they’d be able to explain everything about it, too. They’d be a cinephile.

You toured nonstop last year. Is it fun or does that take a toll on you?

It sure does. We have gotten better at. We’ve put a lot of effort into making it work for us. It really has become our lives about half of the time so we’re trying to make sure it feels like a complete life and everybody is getting what they need. It isn’t really a natural way to exist. People don’t typically live that way; it takes a lot of work. I think if you’re determined enough and the band is decent enough you can figure out a way to make it work.

You guys posted weird athletic pictures online this week.

Yeah, we had a video shoot. We’re shooting a music video for “Candy.” The video is going to be definitely pretty bizarre but also I think really awesome. We went out to a ropes course yesterday with the band, myself and Jana, and then kind of a larger cast of people from Baltimore including a couple of drag performers and some other folks. We basically filmed ourselves doing the ropes course and exercising and all kinds of stuff. That will be the basis for our music video. It was a really fun work day. It was one of those days where it’s like, “This is a pretty cool Monday compared to what most people’s lives are like on Monday.”

Lower Dens w/No Joy, Destruction Unit, Widowspeak, Alan Resnick, Sail Inn, 26 S. Farmer Avenue, Tempe, 480.966.9565, June 28, 8 p.m., $12

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