A Chat with The Low Fog (30.11.2021)

Sweet acoustics, moody synths and raw guitars await us in the self-titled debut album of The Low Fog. The Low Fog brings the unique flairs of spontaneity to wandering and alternating melodies. The album also brings the styles of Tom Chandler (guitars, bass, synth) and Brett Swain (guitars, bass, drums) together in a way that perfectly highlights who they are as individual musicians and as a duo. We had the chance to chat with Brett Swain about their debut album, self-producing, creative processes, live gigs and much more!

OSR: You have been making music together on and off for many years, but how did you first come together?

Swain: We initially met at a McCoy Tyner concert in the late-nineties through a mutual friend.  At the time I wanted to learn more about music theory and reading and Tom has a music background in those things.  I took a handful of lessons from him before giving up, but we remained friends and have worked together on and off over the years.

OSR: As you have been making music together for a while, how do you feel your sound has evolved over time?

Swain: It has become increasingly layered with guitars!  When we have had the opportunity to play with other musicians it has typically been a couple of electric guitars, bass and drums.  Tom and I also traded 4-track cassette tapes for years and that tended to be softer and more in line with what we have going on today.  But we have definitely trended toward a more ambient and meandering feel.  Most of the drum tracks utilize brushes these days, but when compressed and brought to the forefront, it can still make the song feel like a rock song.  The addition of synth has also been a game-changer. 

OSR: Your self-titled album The Low Fog was released in September, is there a backstory or theme to the music?

Swain: Tom recorded several cover tunes at the beginning of the pandemic that I added instrumentation to over a six-month period.  That batch of tunes changed our overall sound and approach. Many of my tracks were recorded while juggling my child’s online school.  I had to play at lower volumes on both guitar and drums.  I loved the sound though and eventually, we fell back to swapping our own tunes, which is something we had been doing with 4-track cassette tapes for years before the pandemic hit.  I think it is easy to listen to the songs through the lens of a pandemic and identify elements of isolation, but our music has always thematically embraced marginalization and isolation. 

OSR: While the album is entirely instrumental, you are able to get the meaning of each song across through a balance of sound. Was this something you find easy or difficult to achieve?

Swain: It comes relatively easily most of the time.  We’ve been doing this for so long that it just happens.  You might try an instrument on a track and find it doesn’t work and pick up something else.  We try to live by a less-is-more ethos, but it is easy to get carried away. 

OSR: The album was completely self-produced, what was the biggest challenge you faced with this?

Swain: I can’t speak for Tom, but I will say that mixing was the biggest challenge for me.  I don’t have the gear, ear or patience to mix.  I’d much rather be working on something new. In a perfect world, I would leave the mixing to someone else.  Also, the whole process of learning how to self-release music in the modern age has been a learning curve. 

OSR: While The Low Fog is currently a recording project only, do you have any plans for live events in the future?

Swain: That’s a great question.  It isn’t a focus at this point, but we are open to it.  It would be a challenge given the number of guitars on some of the tracks to make it sound like the recorded version, but we could probably take the overall theme of a song and make it work.  It would be great to get our friend Eliot back into the mix.  I have historically gone back and forth between guitar and drums in live settings so it would be a challenge to decide where to land. 

The Low Fog
Photo Credit: Tom Chandler

OSR: There is a sea of sounds throughout the album from raw guitars to brooding synths. What was your creative process for the album that allowed these sounds to meet?

Swain: I wish I could admit to some thoughtful approach, but it is usually whatever instrument is plugged in or close at hand.  I’m pretty lazy that way myself, but of course, when you receive the initial track, with maybe a guitar or two, you can sense a vibe and build from there.  There isn’t a lot of instruction going back and forth between Tom and I, so it is always fun to see where each other takes the other’s song. 

OSR: If people could listen to only one track from the album, which would you recommend and why?

Swain: It would depend on who is asking!  Some of my friends are more into rock, so I might go for a haunting tune like ‘Windows’, but to others, an acoustic tune like ‘Old Friend’ would resonate more.  There’s something for almost everyone on there.  I’ve asked around for a “single” recommendation, but I get a different answer almost every time.  What would you say?

OSR: What do you feel has the largest impact on the music you create?

Swain: The ability to swap files remotely has had a large impact.  Even though swapping 4-track cassette tapes is great, like when you come home to find a cassette tape on your doorstep, the ability to layer and mix more tracks without bouncing has upped our game. 

OSR: What else can we expect from you in the next 12 months?

Swain: We already have another album’s worth of material so we will release more music in the next year.  We also have a back catalogue of tunes that are under consideration for release.    

Thanks to Brett Swain for chatting with us! You can find more about The Low Fog on their Spotify.

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