Bad Reputation

Low hopes its slow-and-depressing label was one thing Lost in the Fire

Another recent change in the band -- thanks to the Gap and its use of Low's version of "Little Drummer Boy" (from 1999's Christmas) in one of its ubiquitous ad campaigns -- is that Sparhawk's family doesn't think he's wasting his life anymore. Or, at least, not wasting it as much. It figures that six years of well-received albums and a spotless live show would be no match for the people who brought you the $20 pocket tee.

To middle America, though, Magnet is something you stick on the refrigerator, and Alternative Press is the way your aunt irons her clothes. Appearing in those publications is slightly better than placing an ad in the classifieds. But the Gap is still the Gap, and television is God.

"This notion kind of creeps over you, that, you know, there's eight million people listening to your voice right now whether they're paying attention or not," Sparhawk says. "Not that everybody's like, 'Oh, wow! What's this music?' The sound of two million people walking to the fridge to get a sandwich, while somewhere in the background, I'm singing, is really freakish. Every day, it seemed like, we'd get a call from somebody we knew. 'Hey, wow, I saw your commercial!' From what I could tell, someone played it at least once a day. That was kind of neat.

Low: From left, Mimi Parker, Alan Sparhawk and Zak Sally.
Daniel Corrigan
Low: From left, Mimi Parker, Alan Sparhawk and Zak Sally.
The world's best Low cover band: Low onstage, scrambling.
The world's best Low cover band: Low onstage, scrambling.

"I always compare it to something like if you're reviewed in Rolling Stone," he says. "Something you could tell just about anybody. 'So, what do you do?' Like aunt so-and-so, who knows that you're in a band, and who probably on the side, sort of thinks it's kind of silly and what the heck are we doing doing this. It's one of those things where you can go to them and say, 'Well, we're on TV.' 'Oh, really?' Kind of like, 'You know Rolling Stone?' 'Oh yes, I've heard of that.' 'Well, our record was in there.' And they wouldn't know it if it was in a fanzine or . . . 'Yeah, it was reviewed in Magnet. They did this two-page article on it, and it was really great.' 'Huh?' 'So have you played with any famous bands?' 'Well, the Swans . . .' 'Who?' It was nice to have a little something that you could universally point to and say, 'See? We're not wasting our lives. We did something that people who do this, do.' If we're gonna be in a commercial -- which, generally, seems like a daunting thing to us -- that was probably about as close to a tolerable commercial as I think we would possibly be involved with. One, it was a cover, and two, it wasn't . . . beach volleyball." He laughs. "Or beer, or something like that."

Or caffeine-free Pepsi.

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