TIDAL Rising: The Lowest Pair
The Lowest Pair is an old-timey banjo duo based out of Olympia, Washington.
Best understood as a variation of indie folk with string-based nods to a bygone era, Kendl Winter and Palmer T. Lee first met at a 2009 bluegrass festival in Minnesota where the future cohorts were both performing. They joined forces (and banjos) as The Lowest Pair in 2013 and released their debut album that same year.
Called “one of the best under-the-radar Americana duos today” by Paste, the highly prolific duo has recorded five albums in their three-year run, having just released their latest two full-lengths, Uncertain As It Is Uneven and Fern Girl and Ice Man, on the same day last month. While the former is a stripped-down beauty summing up The Lowest Pair at their most elemental, the latter is more adventurous affair, reconciling those high-lonesome tendencies with their fresh, shimmering take on modern folk.
We had The Lowest Pair’s Kendl Winter introduce the band so we could get to know the up-and-coming outfit a little better.
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Who is The Lowest Pair? Can you introduce yourselves?
Hi there, we’re two songwriters and banjo/roots music enthusiasts that met around a campfire on the Mississippi River. I’m Kendl Winter and he’s Palmer T. Lee.
When did you first get into music and how did you come together as a band?
I grew up in Arkansas and my folks were both classically trained musicians and teachers. I had music around me all the time, but I remember really finding a personal connection to it in my teenage years. There was a small but mighty counterculture scene where I lived that kind of opened my mind up to the idea of making my own music.
Palmer grew up in Minnesota and was very much shaped by the amazing musical community there. We met at a festival when we both played banjos with bluegrass-ish projects and then years later he had the idea to collaborate and The Lowest Pair was formed. I wasn’t so sure about the double banjo thing, but I think because we both like to explore sounds and value the song itself that we kind of get away with it.
Who are your musical idols?
John Hartford, Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, Townes Van Zandt, Bruce Molskey, Lucinda Williams, Bruce Springsteen, Bela Fleck, Iron and Wine, the list is kind of endless…
Name an experience that changed your perspective on music?
I remember this time with a friend playing some old-time tunes camping and all of the sudden some young kids came over and were dancing. Then an older gentleman came over with a harmonica, and before I knew it there was a circle of people, strangers, making music together from all these walks and generations of life. It was cool just to have a common thread with these random people and a reason to interact. It showed me the power that music has to pull people together and inspire.
What’s an unlikely influence that inspires your music?
Running. I spend a lot of time just daydreaming on trails and I think that’s a huge influence on my writing and melodies.
You have been remarkably prolific over a short period of time. What inspires you to create so profusely?
I kind of look at songs as chapters in our story and we are kind of always just experiencing the story so we write about it.
Can you explain how you came to release two albums at once?
We began one last winter and by the time we were able to get back and finish it we already had another albums worth of material. We thought all the songs were relevant and liked the idea of having a large library to draw from for our live performances, so we just decided to put them all out there.
Would you say they have different personalities or stories?
I think they have really different personalities. Fern Girl and Ice Man is more moody and we enjoyed exploring some amp distortion and larger production. Uncertain as it is Uneven is a little more rootsy and pretty stripped down, like past releases.
Recommend another rising act you believe in.
Last Revel is one of our favorites from Minneapolis. Rachel Hanson too. Dead Horses from Wisconsin. The Pine Hearts from Olympia.
What’s next for The Lowest Pair?
Lotsa road time.
Looking one year ahead, what was the best thing that happened to you in 2016?
We made it.
And finally, if your music was a food what would it be?
Mashed potatoes on an ice cream cone. Not bad, just not exactly what you were expecting.
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