Lowlight has played in small rock clubs at home in New Jersey and in converted Iowa barns. This Sunday, March 25, the band will make its South Florida debut at the Fillmore Miami Beach.
Opening for the Pretenders, Lowlight is the real deal, or at least Chrissie Hynde and company think so. New Times spoke with lead vocalist Renee Maskin about how the five-piece landed the gig.
“It’s the kind of story you can’t make up even if you tried,” she says. “There’s a local theater here, and someone took interest in our band. And the Pretenders were coming through. The guy was like, 'Hey, if I can get you in to open for them, would you want to do it?' And we went, 'Of course.' The night before, we got the OK and we opened for the Pretenders. They came back around to New York at Terminal 5 and they invited us to open for them again. And now they’re taking us on tour. That’s the kind of thing that happens in the movies.
“It was interesting because we got to talk to Chrissy, and she thought we were cool. Our hometown of Asbury Park is a blowing-up music scene. I think she saw that we were coming from a cool place. I don’t know. It doesn’t really make sense to me," Maskin laughs. "But I’m just going with it.”
Although their website’s bio describes them as a “synth-pop collective,” they have a better term to describe themselves: “roadhouse chic.”
“It’s a little bit of country influence meets all these sorts of lush, sparkly things meets our general attitude of having fun and not taking ourselves too seriously,” she says, laughing again.
As for the origins of their name, they simply voted on it. Still, keeping the name has created the sort of struggle that often plagues bands in the 21st Century. If you search "Lowlight" on Spotify, a minimum of four results will pop up.
“It just kind of had a ring to it," Maskin says. "We’re a democratic band. We went through a hundred names. It works for our vibe. We have a dark undercurrent with our lyrics. We also have [in the band] photographers and videographers, so it ties into the whole package together.
“It’s not off the table that we change the name,” she admits. “What’s funny about it is, with the internet, everything is so present. There are so many bands; we’re not the only ones [to have duplicates]. We’re friends with other bands [in the same situation]. There’s like ten Hotbloods and ten this and ten that.”
It’s unfortunate mainly because Lowlight crafts the sort of earthy, rambling, alternative folk rock that could keep a dimly lit dive bar jumping all night. Maskin’s smoky voice is reminiscent of Stevie Nicks' (“I get that a lot,” she says with a chuckle), but she likens it more to Bob Dylan's, albeit nowhere near as nasal.
Nonetheless, it's an apt comparison. Some songs bridge a gap between Dylan, the Avett Brothers, and the Counting Crows.
Lowlight’s upcoming EP will directly reference a legitimate New Jersey icon: Bruce Springsteen. The title of the album? Born to Run.
“Our album’s name is a little bit of a story," Maskin says. "We’re from Asbury Park, where he came up, so it’s been a little scandalous. We’ve gotten a mixed reaction.”
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“Oh, yeah. Total blasphemy — to some people. Other people think it’s fun and tongue-in-cheek and they kind of get that we’re sort of poking the bear and having fun with it. The Replacements had a record called Let It Be, and Lambchop, a band that really influences us, did a record called Thriller. We were sort of joking, if we did a record, what would we call it? And there’s a lot of running themes — themes of physically running in the lyrics. It kind of makes sense. Let’s call it Born to Run. We like a good scandal.”
In addition to being influenced by the Boss and Lambchop, Lowlight also cites a deep love for David Bowie and Willie Nelson. (“No one writes a perfect song like Willie Nelson.”)
And it seems the bandmates have learned from their heroes, especially Nelson. Ultimately, when they’re not pissing off Springsteen fans, they're writing songs that either hit people right in the heart or get them partying, which is probably how they won over Hynde and the Pretenders, and possibly how they’ll charm Miami.