Our local artist spotlight for the month of October features Low Man. The four piece 'stoner rock' band has just released their debut EP this month. The band is made up of members Alex Byers, Luke Rifugiato, Jeremy Zerbe and Derek Krystek. Jeremy (bassist/vocalist) was kind enough to answer our normal range of questions of how they formed, favorite venues and advice they would give to other local acts. Below you can find their EP streaming and their sites where you can download the album.
How did the band come together? Were you all friends that went to school or?
In about 2007, I met Luke and Byers when their band The Fingers played the Live Show at WPTS, the University of Pittsburgh's radio station where I worked. Later that year, I asked them to play a house party with my old country-punk band The Bad Faith Compromise in South Oakland, and Luke and I became friends.
Both bands broke up, Luke and Byers started college and I did some traveling after graduation, but when I moved back to Pittsburgh in 2009, Luke and I knew we wanted to start a new band. We started writing songs in my attic in Lawrenceville, not knowing where it would lead. He had been jamming with Byers again, and we started the band together with a drummer named Evan Flaherty. We played together for almost a year before taking a hiatus, and then came back with our new drummer, Derek, who we had met while he was playing with his other band, Sleepy V. It was a match made in heaven.
How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you?
Stoner punk or desert rock. We play punk songs too slow and metal songs too fast.
The other three guys are all from Pittsburgh and its surroundings, but I'm originally from Lancaster County and came out here for college.
Do you all create music full time or is this more of a part time venture?
I would say we're as full time as we can manage. Derek still plays in Sleepy V and has his own solo work as well. Byers actually has a music engineering degree from Duquesne and is looking for work with that. Luke and I have kicked around starting a second band but finding a drummer who doesn't already have one thousand projects is tough to do.
Do you have day jobs?
Derek works for a medical supplies distributor, Byers delivers pizzas, Luke works at Uncle Sam's in Squirrel Hill (go say hi!) and I work downtown at the William Penn Hotel, lugging around boxes of potatoes and the like.
How do you create your music? What is the song writing process?
It sort of depends who is the main writer of the song. I am obsessive about my music and will often come with a nearly complete song with ideas for the drums and guitars and how the whole thing will be structured, but I try to keep an open mind about changes (I've gotten better at that). Luke is better writing as a group, trying out riffs and mumbling over them, seeing where they are going. Lately though, we've been writing everything together with everyone suggesting parts and building the songs really organically. It's the first time I've ever done that and it feels amazing to be that in tune with the rest of your band.
What are your goals for the band? What would you like to accomplish? Are you trying to get signed to a label?
Our immediate goal is to get some out of town dates scheduled for November and do a few little weekend tours. We just put out our new EP and so we finally have something to take with us on tour, and right now we're just trying to get awesome blogs like this to help us get it to the ears of people who might like it. Sure, we'd love to all quit our jobs and make music for a living, but we're also pretty realistic. We just have to shift our schedules around to accommodate for our love.
What advice would you give to local acts trying to make it?
Be nice and talk to people. If you've got an opening slot on a show, listen to the other bands. The locals might want to play with you again, and the out-of-towners might want to help you play gigs in their cities in the future. You wouldn't believe the number of bands that just peace out after their sets.
Have you all toured nationally? Or do you usually stay more regionally?
The weekend tours we're scheduling right now stretch up to Providence and out to D.C., but if they go well, we'll be heading west and south as well. It's hard to get enough time off work (and take that kind of hit to your income) to do a full tour, but if the opportunity ever comes, we'll see you in Seattle.
Being in the Pgh area, do you find it more difficult to try and succeed?
Pittsburgh is really centrally located in the Mid-Atlantic region, so if you want to tour beyond it, it's really easy. Detroit and Philly are only 5 hours away, and there are plenty of other towns around them that are welcoming to music, whether it's Cleveland or Lancaster or whatever. Even New York is only a few hours more, easily a weekend trip. So the geography of the city is not a problem.
What are some of the obstacles you face trying to create some 'success' in Pgh?
There is always a lot of music going on in Pittsburgh, so it can sometimes be difficult to draw new people to your shows. If their favorite localband is playing the same night as you down the street (as they often are), you probably won't see them venturing out to try something new. I also personally wish there were more house venues. It's great to know people like Manny Theiner (Garfield Artworks), Bengt Alexander (Howlers) and Sean Cho (The Smiling Moose) because they bring a lot of great acts through town to play with, but our favorite shows to play are sweaty, cramped basements where the floor is covered in beer. There used to be a big culture of house venues here in South Oakland, but most have dried up as the University has changed in the last decade. It breaks my heart, but there is always somewhere new. We're lucky to have an established place like 222 Ormsby, but we could use more right down in the heart of Oakland so we can party like it's 2001.
What are the positive benefits of being in the area?
The best thing about Pittsburgh is how cheap it is. Having day jobs might suck, but at least we each only have to have one. I can't even imagine being in a band in New York, trying to make rent on your two back-to-back shifts and then still scraping together enough cash for a practice space a couple times a month. There is also such an amazing family of music here. We have made so many friends and met so many great bands because Pittsburgh is a small town at heart, and that's awesome for a band just starting out, having friends to support them and bands that want to play with them, even just in a living room somewhere on a Friday night.
Is there a venue you have enjoyed playing more than others in the area?
We love playing at Howlers and Garfield Artworks, because they're like home to us. I can even walk to them from my house. We have also played at Mr Smalls which was a total trip. The first time we ever had lighting effects. But honestly, the best places to play are those basements all over the city, wherever you can find them. They're essential to this city's music scene, whether the city knows it or not. They've shut down house venues we've played in twice, but they'll always come back somewhere else, because that's where music needs to be made. There's no sound guy to pay, there's no cover charge. The guy with the classical guitar is just as welcome as the power trio with full Ampeg stacks. I love it.
You can find more information about the band at these sites: