Usually you would expect to need an excess of five band members in order to create a sound that is dynamic and rich with texture. This expectation is set to be broke by the Greenwood brothers, Leigh and Adam who are the Sheffield double act, Low Duo. I caught up with them at the White Lion on Sheffield’s esteemed London Road to discuss the past, the present and the future of Low Duo, an act that creates such an intense, flavoursome sound that it might just make you salivate.
This is the story of how Low Duo came to be.
The first question to ask is where did they come from? Originally part of a band called Dark Sparks, they eventually fell out due to extensive line-up problems and individual differences. Leigh admits that at times he had to “teach people the whole set” leading them to become frustrated with their current position. After the band collapsed, previously booked gigs still needed to be played. This led the Greenwood brothers to play them solo with a brand new set list. Leigh told me of how they “had a couple of gigs booked that we had to do in really interesting places, one was actually a fetish club”. It’s easy to say their origins were clad in rubber.
After finding success in this seedy venue, they went on to perform as part of Tramlines. Here they explained how they played a dead end gig at Penelope’s. After playing this gig they were approached by an onlooker who said “I saw you play at Penelope’s, you were really good”, whilst the barman pitched in and commented on their brilliant performance. After ruminating on this, Adam and Leigh decided that this was as good a sign as any to continue with what they were doing, and it was, in Leigh’s words, “just as organic as that”.
Now Low Duo are chugging along smoothly. This can be accounted for due to the chemistry and honesty that exists between two brothers. When I asked them ‘Is it easier or harder working together as brothers?’ the immediate joking response was ‘definitely the first one. Just because we can just say what we think without feelings attached, because we hate each other already.’ They told me about how manageable they think it is with just the two of them, not having to contest with five conflicting egos and opinions. A band can waste a lot of time on a bad idea, Low Duo believe they sidestep this due to their unburdened honesty with one another. Leigh explained to me a situation where they demonstrate this quality: ‘today he was playing the guitar I was singing something and he just laughed. I was like, “what are you laughing at?” and he said “I just don’t like that melody.” I thought, if that wasn’t your brother, you’d think, “Why are you fucking laughing at me?”’.
Also, after playing and practicing together for so long, Low Duo believe they are ‘in tune with each other musically.’ They have seen each other’s development and in some way, moulded their own development to suit each other’s progression. This is where the chemistry comes from; two brothers who know each other from the inside out. They explain how they now know whether to pursue an idea or not: ‘I think now we know quite quickly if a song is going to be good or if it’s worth working on’.
They pin their musical inspirations to bands such as The Smiths and Radiohead. Adam explains that like themselves, they like bands that ‘think about each component’. I noticed at that moment how Leigh’s voice at times could sound like that of Thom Yorke’s, a comment he has heard a few times before. But they award the inspiration for their music mainly to their experiences beforehand with Dark Sparks, as it highlighted that the two of them were much more efficient than with others.
‘you know that feeling when you listen to something and you laugh and think ‘that’s really fucking good’ I want people to listen and go away thinking, that really speaks to me.
I get the impression that a great degree of creativity spawns from Low Duo as they tell me about their writing process. Leigh explains how they ‘sit in a room and Adam will play guitar at completely random. I will just sing whatever pops into my head and then one line will sound really good and then I will craft a song around that line.’ So it is valid to say that Low Duo’s song crafting is much more spontaneous than systematic; giving all their time into what feels right rather than what they can force to sound right. They explained how ‘Adam will create the music, and I will fit a song around that and manage it’.
Now that we know who Low Duo are it’s time to find out what they’re up to. They have just released their third EP entitled The EP of Truth and Regret. I asked them if they thought it had been successful so far, and they believe it has been, Leigh saying ‘Sheffield has got really behind it.’ Adam then contributed, explaining that.’ It has really enhanced our credibility in Sheffield.’
Evidence of its success is explained by Leigh: ‘I’ve felt with this one, people have heard of us now. So I think this one has been successful in that sense. It has been played on XFM and we got an email from Tom Robinson. We sent him Ambulance and he just sent an email back saying this is ‘fan-fucking-tastic’. He said he would try and play it on the next show. It’s been played a bit in France on some random French show… called Le Fuel Radio.’
Low Duo believes their first two EP’s; The EP of Hope and Despair and The EP of Fear and Failure were about establishing themselves as a musical act in Sheffield. With their roots now placed, their latest EP was purposed with consolidation, providing their fan base with new material and making sure their ears were still theirs and sure enough, it seems they are.
You would expect that with just releasing their third EP, they would take a minute to regain their breath; but no. The development of EP number four is already underway with a song already nailed down. Leigh tells me ‘As soon as we finished that we were writing for our next one. That’s what we do. I think that’s really important, that you don’t get to a stage where you think “we’ve got a really good set of seven songs and just keep playing them songs and someone will spot you eventually.”’ Low Duo believes this is how you make it. They believe a band needs to keep developing and flourishing rather than remain stagnant with a proven set list. Exploration rewards those willing to try.
Low Duo’s EP titles can easily be credited as interesting. They seem to embrace the darker side of human emotion, having the themes of hope, despair, fear, failure, truth and regret. I asked why? Are they just a morbid and depressing type of personality? From what I gathered, they are light-hearted jokers with good intentions, so I doubt this is the case. When asked if this theme would be continued, the short answer was no. They believe that working in trilogies may be the direction Low Duo will take. Leigh explains how their latest EP is would be ‘the final of the first trilogy and then we could change our style. Instead of it being ‘The EP of’ we thought about changing it to one word EP’s. So if we change the style of the artwork or something people might think “ooh this is different”’. Leigh then went on to joke that the only thing Low Duo are doing is ‘repackaging their look’.
The dynamics of the band are simple. Adam is the sonnet and Leigh is the songwriter. These roles are what Low Duo believe makes them work well together. With a lack of overlapping roles yet constant criticism from one another regarding them, they can produce good songs quickly. Leigh told me how ‘I think about the song. Adam thinks purely about the sounds and it works for us.’
I asked Low Duo what reaction they want from a listener. Adam wants intrigue. He wants people to think ‘I’m curious about that melody’. Leigh wants a reaction that I think only his words could describe: ‘you know that feeling when you listen to something and you laugh and think ‘that’s really fucking good’ I want people to listen and go away thinking, that really speaks to me.’ So this is what Low Duo wants of you, curiosity and an appreciation of the music rather than just your time and attention. Emotional attachment outweighs the exposure their songs get.
Now what of Low Duo’s future? What have these brothers got planned for the rest of the year? The instant answer was ‘definitely another EP’ hoping for a summer release. Also they have been confirmed for Tramlines, well they are on the confirmation page, but nobody has approached them about playing at the Sheffield inner-city festival… strange. They summarised by saying ‘more of the same. We will be doing more live gigs but maybe even organise more of our own.’
But hopefully Low Duo would like to fill more of their ‘piggy banks.’ Leigh told me how whenever they are playing live, a piggy bank is left out and people can pay whatever they like for Low Duo’s material. How much they pay shows how much people like their stuff and thus they can measure themselves against it. They explained their method as such: ‘We have an EP, we would really like you to take it away and if you want, you can give us a bit of money.’ It is about the connection with the listener rather than trying to bleed their pockets dry.
My final question was not about the music, nor was it about them, but about what advice they would give the nation. Adam opted for the ‘Do what you love’ approach rather than be stuck in a meticulous situation whilst Leigh uttered the strong words ‘Get off your arse Britain! If there is a problem, solve it rather looking for the nearest excuse.
So that is Low Duo, two brothers who continue to rise on the Sheffield scene filling piggy banks and nailing down tracks in darkened rooms waiting for thoughts to pop in their head. From what I gathered, they are spontaneous, they are eccentric and they are focused on the emotional side of music. Let us see what the future holds for the dynamic Greenwood brothers.