We chat with Low Girl about their upcoming EP, their musical influences, past and present, and how the band has evolved over time
Low Girl are a brilliant indie-pop group who are in the process of releasing their third EP. ‘Uh Oh’, the follow-up to ‘Big Now’ and ‘So Cool’, is a lush, winding indie-pop EP that sees the group pulling from various influences and exploring more sounds than should be possible in such a small amount of time.
Fronted by Sarah Cosgrove, whose quiet voice comfortably navigates the EP, the band are tight and clearly very familiar with each others’ tastes, talents and capabilities.
I spoke with Sarah and bandmate Toby about the EP, where their sound originated from and what Low Girl looks like in this specific moment.
George: For anyone not familiar with you guys, how would you describe Low Girl? Is it more of a solo project or a band project or something that has evolved?
Sarah: It was under a different name before and it was more of a solo project with assistance, but now I’d say it was a group project. We have a good system in place with the songwriting where I’ll write the song, I’ll bring it to this guy (Toby) and we all bring our own strengths to it.
Toby: We’re definitely all doing a lot more than we used to in the past. It’s definitely a band thing now.
George: How does the songwriting process work? You mentioned it was more of a group thing now so is it more writing to studio to release or is it more experimental in the studio?
Sarah: I’ll write the song and then I’ll bring it to a band practice, and we’ll all jam out a few ideas. It gets pretty crazy sometimes! I don’t think we use everything that we jam out.
Toby: I do pretty much all the synthy, electronic elements, and because we want to save money in the studio, I just do all my parts at home and then do all the stuff that needs to be live recorded in the studio.
Sarah: We can’t record drums or vocals very well, we’re pretty bad at that!
Toby: We’re trying but it’s really hard!
George: Can you talk a bit about the name Low Girl and why that is now the identity of the band?
Sarah: I think the boring answer is it wasn’t taken. I do think that it pertains to the fact that even though it is a band effort, it’s all still my narrative and my story so it’s still from my perspective, hence ‘Girl’. The sense of melancholy in the songs is where the ‘Low’ came into play.
George: So, this is your third EP?
Sarah: It is, which is weird!
George: So, do you feel this shorter format suits your sound better, or is it just what’s happened so far?
Sarah: I think it’s just down to being cost-effective. That’s so boring but I think we would love to make albums instead, it’s just so expensive.
Toby: And albums are kind of daunting. I always feel like they’re a big thing; it all has to sound cohesive. It’s one thing I want to try, where it all flows. I’m a big album person. With the EP, we have a few songs that are hopefully good, and we can kind of compile it. It still sounds like they all belong together because they were all recorded at a similar time.
Sarah: It’s also a nice little bookmark of how we’re doing at that time. ‘So Cool was a specific era and now ‘Uh Oh’ is as well. They’re very different chapters.
Listen/watch ‘Uh Oh’ here:
George: This new EP does sound more like a complete project rather than a series of songs. Was this something you were trying to do? Was there an effort to make it sound cohesive?
Sarah: I think so. ‘Foxtrot’ was the first one we recorded on the EP and that set the tone. Going into it, we knew we wanted to do something a bit darker and really push my vocal style. It’s weird because ‘Uh Oh’ and ‘Foxtrot’ are really dark while ‘Knees’ and ‘Bored’ have really dark themes, but they have the upbeat, jovial balance there as well.
Toby: It’s a lot more percussive as well. Except the last song, which has no percussion!
George: I want to talk about the cover of the EP. I really love it, it’s just so out-there. I wondered if you thought that reflected the sound of the band in the moment and why that decision was made?
Toby: The photo was taken by Tom’s (the drummer and Sarah’s brother) girlfriend George. She’s a photographer – shout-out George. She took a bunch of photos and then we settled on this one. We did a lot of editing with it, and then redid the background. We got an insane number of photos of lightning and storms.
Sarah: It’s definitely meant to be a foreboding album cover, because obviously you’re not supposed to swim during a thunderstorm! All of the songs feel like they are about to fall apart. Even with the happy ones, they feel like they’re about to fall apart and are just holding on until the very end. That’s really there with the lighting: something is coming that’s not good.
Toby: At first it seems like a lively, happy thing, but there’s darkness underneath. That’s like the lyrics compared to the actual music.
Sarah: Wow we’re so deep!
George: That was a great answer! I thought you were going to say it just looked cool. Each cover is completely different and gives each EP its own personality. Would you say the sound does this too? If so, what makes Uh Oh’s personality different from the previous ones?
Sarah: I think ‘So Cool’ definitely has its own personality. ‘Big Now’ was a bit more incohesive because that was pulling stuff from another time together.
Toby: With ‘So Cool’, the colours are a lot more natural sounding because there was a lot more analogue recording. We recorded ‘So Cool’ in pretty much a week because that’s all the time we had.
Sarah: They do have their own personality. I can really feel the difference between them, the different mood and the different time in which we made them. So much has changed in between those three EPs.
George: Can you talk a bit about how you all got together?
Sarah: Well, as Tom always says, “we met each other when we were born!” He’s my brother, so we’ve known each other for a pretty long time. We always used to play music together as kids, but he was really big into Radiohead; he would only want to do Radiohead songs and I wasn’t allowed to transpose them because that would be an insult to Thom Yorke. We are pretty in tune with each other musically just because we have always played bass and drums together. Drum n bass, you might say.
We both went to Lincoln university, where Toby was my randomly assigned flatmate in first year. We hit it off straight away, we listened to Alt-J’s new album. It’s how we bonded, we both got fresher’s flu together!
Tom met Brad on a night out.
Toby: I think they were both talking about the Star-Wars prequels.
Sarah: They’re both very opinionated guys. I had a house party and Tom decided he would bring six people even though I said he could bring one. One of those was Brad. Even when it was a solo project, we were all working together for a few years. Then, it was just me and Toby for a while and it took us a long time to all figure out the sound again.
My comfort zone was doing the folky stuff because my voice is quite soft, and it was all I really knew in terms of how to present my songs. But Toby, Brad and Tom really pushed the boundaries of what a song I wrote could be and it really evolved just from us working together. There’s a lot of respect between us about ideas.
George: We’ve talked about how you guys view the sound. Do you ever think about a target audience?
Sarah: When I’m writing the singles, there’s definitely an element of “I do need to get to the chorus pretty quickly” or “It needs to have some kind of hook” but for the most part, I’m not really thinking about appealing to a specific audience. I think I’m just writing about how I feel and hoping that somebody feels like that too.
Toby: I don’t think about the audience that much. It just needs to sound cool or interesting. If you worry too much about losing a certain audience, it pigeonholes you; you get stuck doing a certain genre.
Sarah: That being said, it’s always nice when you’re doing a show and the Gen-Z kids turn up.
Toby: The youth! They like it!
George: On the topic of live shows, is there a dynamic change between being in the studio and playing gigs?
Sarah: That’s probably been the biggest challenge for us: translating things to live shows. I’m certainly not the most natural performer. I feel very confident in the studio, but when you’re playing it live, you think “how do I communicate what the idea was in the studio?” in all of its enormity. That’s why we use backing tracks a lot of the time. My voice is really quiet, and we have to find ways to make it sit just above the music. When you’re doing stuff that’s slightly poppy, the vocals sit the highest of all so that’s always a bit tricky trying to get that balance.
Toby: We’ve got better and better. With the tour recently with October Drift, we played eleven shows, and we could see a few things we could do to get a bit more energetic. Brad is always good. We’re all so quiet and Brad is boisterous. He’s too confident for his own good.
George: Do you get a chance to see a lot of gigs? Are there any bands you’ve seen recently that influence you or that you would like to work with?
Sarah: We’ve been resolving to go to a lot more shows. I’m seeing Jockstrap, Death Cab for Cutie and Slow Pulp next year. I was very inspired by October Drift too.
Toby: They’re very good!
Sarah: They’re insanely good. If you ever get a chance to go to one of their shows, they’re so well crafted.
Toby: They had it down to the second.
Sarah: But it doesn’t feel like that, it feels natural. I saw Regressive Left recently. They are insanely good live – scarily good. That’s been inspiring too because a lot of their sound is electronic, but they still find ways to make it feel in-the-moment.
I’m always too scared to collaborate. I always say we’d love to collaborate with Rostam.
Toby: Jockstrap would be great.
Sarah: They’re too cool for us though.
Toby: And Black Midi’s too crazy for us… Maybe someone like Clairo or Phoebe Bridgers.
Sarah: Or Mitski! But I don’t think she does collaborations.
George: Maybe you should put it out there!
Toby: Can you add Mitski to the call?
George: Yeah, just give me a sec. When you were first starting out, were there any other bands that really shaped your sound?
Sarah: I think, particularly at the start, a lot of what Metronomy and Sales did was quite dry and in your face. That made me think “oh I don’t have to be a concerto pianist to be able to put my music out there”. It can be quite simple and vibey, and more about the mood of the song than how complicated it is.
Toby: Radiohead and it’s gotta be Sufjan Stevens for sure. He’s my favourite guy. In Sarah’s early days, it was definitely Paul Mccartney.
George: So, your EP is coming out in January. Do you have anything planned around the time of the release?
Sarah: So, we are shooting a music video this weekend for one of the singles, which is going to be a big part of the release. It is probably the highest budget, ambitious thing we’ve done yet.
Toby: High budget, but free.
Sarah: Also, we are going on a co-headline tour with Sarpa Salpa in February. We got to a good point of playing and now I don’t want a really big gap where we lose our confidence again. I think we’re playing it a bit by ear by how each track goes.
George: Are there any specific moments in the next year that you’re excited about?
Sarah: Right now, we’re actually writing the next two singles because our manager is like “I need you to have them ready!” That’s where our heads are at now, we’re thinking about the next thing so there will inevitably be something else next year that we’re working towards. We never really know what’s going to happen. I think we’re just riding out the wave. It’s nice to make things we’re proud of and I think we’re most proud of this EP.