If the ambient folk music of Lowland Hum sounds relaxed and peaceful on the duo’s self-titled sophomore album, those melodies might be a reflection of the musicians’ offstage life as husband and wife.
“We have been performing together for about four years but began collaborating more fully and writing together just after we got married a bit over 3 1/2 years ago,” says vocalist and songwriter Lauren Goans from the couple’s home in Charlottesville, Va. “Of course, it is not without tension, but neither of us can rush off to work in the middle of a dispute. We are together literally all of the time, and our performances often act as a deadline for any disagreement. We don’t perform well when we aren’t in unity, so we have to work things out by the time we get onstage each night.” Lowland Hum brings its close-knit performance to The Grey Eagle Sunday, Oct. 25.
Goans and her husband, Daniel, make music infused with a style similar to that of The Weather Station or Sixpence None the Richer. They create an almost ethereal sound that Lauren calls “very forward folk music.” It comes across as both therapeutic and starkly personal.
“While Daniel’s background is rooted in music and story, mine is in visual art,” Lauren says. Her work includes designing the band’s album covers, posters, merchandise and even some music videos. “I handle all of the visual aspects of our operation. I also designed the lyric books we pass out at shows, and we have an illuminated, layered fabric forest we set up whenever the venues have space for it,” she says. “Our hope is to offer audiences different ways to interact with our music in the live setting.”
Lowland Hum’s sound also offers the listener a dreamlike sonic experience — appropriate considering the band’s genesis. “The name came to me when I was sitting up in bed one morning,” Lauren says. “We had been considering a lot of different names, but when those two words popped into my head side by side, neither of them were words we had previously thought of. A lot of what we write about is mysterious and hard to nail down, such as dreams, memory and identity. When we sat with the name for a while, we realized it felt consistent with the themes in our music.”
Those themes got the attention of NPR last year when Lowland Hum was added to the network’s “First Listen,” “Tiny Desk Concert” and “World Café” programs. Around the same time, the Greensboro natives were offered an arts residency with the nonprofit New City Arts Initiative, working with arts education programs in Charlottesville, which necessitated a move to Virginia.
Though Lowland Hum is a small outfit, it’s a busy one. “We just finished a five-week tour across the country and back with our dear friends,” Lauren says. Seven-piece Greensboro act The Collection backed the Goanses onstage, and the collaboration proved successful. “They will be sharing the stage with us at The Grey Eagle,” Lauren says. “Though we haven’t been apart for long, it will undoubtedly be like a mini-reunion.”
But while she’s looking forward to playing music with her hometown pals, the female half of Lowland Hum says she and her husband have very few predictions about their return to Western North Carolina. “We try not to go into shows with expectations,” Lauren says. “Rather, we try to have open hands and just receive the night as it comes. Life is a lot more peaceful that way.”
She continues, “We believe, at a performance, the artist brings something, and each person in the audience brings their thing, and it all mixes together to create a night that cannot be replicated. Those who come out [to The Grey Eagle] will play a huge role in the way the night unfolds.”
WHAT: Lowland Hum with The Collection and Josiah Early
WHERE: The Grey Eagle, thegreyeagle.com
WHEN: Sunday, Oct. 25, at 8 p.m. $12 in advance/$15 day of show