Scents and sensibilities

Hum along: Husband-and-wife duo Lauren and Daniel Goans, aka Lowland Hum, say their shows are “all about creating an atmosphere in which people can be present with the music."
Hum along: Husband-and-wife duo Lauren and Daniel Goans, aka Lowland Hum, say their shows are “all about creating an atmosphere in which people can be present with the music."

Although husband-and-wife duo Daniel and Lauren Goans, aka Lowland Hum, is based in North Carolina, the couple have spent much of the last two years logging miles up and down the Eastern Seaboard. “For the most part, we have gone where people reach out to us,” says Daniel. The Goanses love touring, and recent national coverage by the likes of PopMatters has helped to build a burgeoning fan base, but they also have a soft spot for their home state. “We love North Carolina and want to be connected with communities here,” says Daniel.

So the indie-folk outfit mapped out a “North Carolina Love Tour,” with 15 dates across the state. They’ll play Asheville on Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 6 and 7, at a house show and at One Stop, respectively. “Asheville was going to be one of the first stops back in August,” Daniel says of the band’s release tour for Native Air. That show didn’t work out, which was especially sad for Daniel, who counts author Thomas Wolfe among his creative inspirations.

In a happy turn, the Asheville shows will be that much more special, incorporating the duo’s multi-sensory production. Infusing music with multimedia presentations (live painting, projections, backup dancers) is not new, but the Goanses have added their own touches. They work in lyric books, an art installation and scents. “Smell is the strongest memory trigger,” says Daniel. “It's all about creating an atmosphere in which people can be present with the music.” In venues that allow it, the couple sets out up to six essential oil burners with mixtures like lavender and cedar wood.

“Our goal is to remove any barriers between us and the audience,” says Daniel. Lowland Hum also opens the floor, at points in the concert, for comments or questions. “The audience brings so much to the experience,” Daniel says. “I think it can’t be superhealthy when every night you’re the main event. It’s wonderful to have other people give their thoughts. We’ve learned a lot from people.”

Visual and aromatic aspects of the live show began as an opportunity for Daniel and Lauren to make use of their individual strengths. Lauren comes from a visual art background — she “experiences things in totally different ways,” says Daniel. “A lot of the multisensory ideas evolved from conversations about what it means for us to make music together and how we can do it so one of us doesn’t get diminished by the collaboration.”

That shared project has led Lowland Hum to engage more deeply in art and interpersonal relationships. “Our music has a lot of tension in it, lyrically and also melodically,” says Daniel. “On this record we just released in August, we’re unpacking lots of questions and confusions about identity. Our identity as people, but also as married people trying to create together.” Daniel says that his instinct, in working on music, is to involve others. He describes the process as a “communal artifact,” noting that a song often ultimately communicates something different from its original intent.

The recording process for the Goanses has been as experimental as their performances. Before the formation of Lowland Hum, Daniel tracked his solo album, BrotherStranger, in a library overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. “I have not had tons of control over the spaces, but the spaces ended up becoming an integral part of each of the different albums,” he says.

For Native Air, the couple set up a makeshift studio in Daniel’s parents’ basement. “It’s very quiet in there and it sort of felt like going back to the start, to discover this new identity as a band,” says Daniel. After all, Lowland Hum is a young group, and the album resulting from those basement sessions was a debut. Daniel says, “It felt appropriate to record in the house where I spent my young years.”

— Alli Marshall can be reached at amarshall@mountainx.com.

who: Lowland Hum with Emmett Williams
where: One Stop
ashevillemusichall.com
when: Tuesday, Jan. 7, at 8 p.m.
$2

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts writer and editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs.

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