Meet Omen-inspired electronic funk quartet Damien, featuring Low’s Alan Sparhawk and his son Cyrus, in our JULY 2023 issue of Uncut, available to buy here.
“I’m finding it difficult to approach music from where Low was,” admits Alan Sparhawk, understandably, following the tragic loss of his wife and bandmate Mimi Parker to cancer last November. “Whether it’s the songs, or trying to even just imagine ‘What is this? Where am I?’” So rather than inhabiting Low’s headspace, Sparhawk’s current energies
are focused on a very different project, fronted by his old friend and Ween covers band cohort Marc Gartman.
After a year’s gestation in Duluth, Minnesota, jamming and recording in Sparhawk’s home studio, Damien emerged in March with a self-titled debut single – a dream-pop love song in Flaming Lips style, inspired by the selfless devotion of the nanny who hangs herself in The Omen declaring, “Damien, it’s all for you”. The macabre undercurrent continues thoughout their first album The Boy Who Drew Cats, half an hour of psychedelic house, electronic funk, Afro-Cuban rhythms and Mario Kart electronics retelling a Japanese fable that Gartman’s father would read him as a child: a boy is cast out of his town for his obsessive love of drawing cats, only to find himself lost in an abandoned church, hiding
in a closet. “In the night he hears horrible screaming and ravaging of flesh,” Gartman explains with relish. “He wakes up in the morning and finds that the cats that he drew have come to life and saved him from a giant goblin rat. It always kinda kept with me.”
Damien also features Sparhawk’s son Cyrus on bass, the pair having already honed their chemistry in funk band Derecho. “Having family to still be musical with was a pretty powerful line to have through the last couple of years,” he says. “It’s really great when you’re trying to find the groove, you’re trying to find this elusive thing, because it’s all very unspoken. When you finally go, ‘There it is’… to be able to look across the room and give him a little bit of a grin, it’s a real joy. Mim saw us play a couple of times and she loved it. Her son playing music and having fun with his dad, it was really powerful.”
Sparhawk has found it personally beneficial to explore poppier and more danceable styles, while allowing Gartman to take the lead. “It’s nice to still come to music without it being ‘OK, what do you have to say now?’ There’s an ability to focus on other parts of the music and let it go through you without it having to go through certain gates in your mind.”
He is writing songs again, but doesn’t plan to revive the Low name. “Low was definitely Mim and I,” he says, subdued. “I’m still not sure what I am without Mim. It’s disorienting, and I’m really grateful that I have some ways of still playing music. It sounds kinda like a cliché, but definitely music is saving me. It’s proving to be one of the few things in the universe that I can go to somehow and it’s still just what it is. There’s parts of it that are untouched, but there are also parts that will never be the same. I guess at some point I’ll figure out my place in that, [but] I’m pleasantly surprised at how resilient music is.”
Damien’s The Boy Who Drew Cats is out now on Bandcamp and major streaming platforms.