Low Flying Owls are one unabashedly psychedelic band
The music industry may not be ready for Low Flying Owls, but Low Flying Owls are coming anyway. With teen pop and nu-metal ruling the day, one of the most interesting bands to emerge from Sacramento in recent years is talking about revolution.
“What we’d really like to see is a change in the industry,” says Jared Southard, the quintet’s singer and guitarist. “It’s kind of sad when the biggest-selling albums are by people like N’Sync and Britney Spears. It’s like one guy writes the music [for both of them]. That’s not art.”
When rock musicians talk about “art,” it’s usually either a red flag for pretension and egotism gone mad or prog-rock inclinations. With Southard, however, the story is different. He and the other Owls—guitarist Andy Starlite, drummer Sam Coe, keyboardist Matt Guyton and bassist Michael Bruce—produce pop music as gorgeous as it is catchy, as engaging as it is energizing. They produce, in a word, art.
And, given the music world’s current prefabricated mainstream, nothing could be more revolutionary than a little genuine (and genuinely pop) art.
Together about a year, Low Flying Owls have been turning heads (but not all the way around) on the Sacramento scene; a recent show at Juliana’s Kitchen packed the house, despite nearly nonexistent promotion. The Owls recorded a four-song demo CD with Jeff Saltzman, their former manager, and it sounds spectacular—the production quality is very clean, and the songs are instantly accessible and dangerously hypnotic.
The songs on the demo betray an intelligent range of influences. The Owls cite a variety of sources of inspiration, but they have a hard time coming up with unanimous favorites. When one says he loves a certain band, another invariably makes a sour face. This eclecticism only strengthens the Owls.
Just as telling are the words they use to describe the music they love. “Very spacey, drugged-out, mellow,” Coe explains, describing Spiritualized, a favorite of his (and a band that Bruce, incidentally, can’t stand). “Desperate, lovesick, melodic, melancholy,” Southard ardently amplifies. The same emotions and attitudes color the Owls’ own semi-psychotropic rock, infusing the intricate and involved songwriting with powerful effect.
That effect doesn’t appear out of thin air, either. The songs are the result of a painstaking group effort, says Southard. “We’re not afraid to scrutinize each other, and that’s a good thing.”
“We add layers and layers,” Bruce adds. “We’re really picky about all the sounds that go into it. The overall thing that guides us all is knowing what the song is about, the lyrics that Jared writes. And then we try to enhance that, help tell the story.” (Bruce recently wrote and directed a 30-minute film, The One Dollar Girl, which he describes as “a romantic Twilight Zone thing.”)
The Owls recently recorded another, rougher four-song demo to send out to record labels that have expressed interest. “We are so ready to record an album, it’s almost depressing,” Southard confides. “That’s what we need to do; I think that’s what we all have formed together for, to do something really artistic and expressive. We’re hoping for a bite.”
When the bite comes, the band will certainly make the most of it, if the strength of its live show is any indication. When the Owls are at peak form, the interaction between musicians and audience becomes palpable.
“I love capturing the personality of each song, the atmosphere and the form,” Southard says. “You bring it to the stage, and you’re pushing it out there—and you look at people, and you see that they’re getting it. It’s the most amazing thing, besides being in love.”
“It is being in love,” Guyton says.
“Yeah,” Southard nods.