Back in 2000, Lowrider released their debut album Ode To Io on MeteorCity; an epic fusion of mountainous fuzz and dusty desert grooves. Although they were teenagers at the time, Ode To Io went on to become one of the defining records of the burgeoning stoner rock movement at the turn of the millennium. Having recorded one of the classic debut albums, Lowrider then vanished from view and went on indefinite hiatus.
It seemed as though we’d be left with just the one album to remember them by, until Lowrider reformed to play Desertfest in 2013. It was a brilliant set and, judging by the recent COVID-19 inspired series of retrospectives, one of Desertfest’s most fondly remembered. Fortunately, the band’s resurrection didn’t stop there and, in February of this year, they finally released their second album Refractions. It’s an outstanding record and a worthy successor to its legendary forebear. Vocalist and bass player Peder Bergstrand very kindly found some time, among all these pandemic shenanigans, to answer some questions.
Twenty years is a long time between albums. Why did Lowrider split up in 2003 and what inspired you to get back together again?
It’s not a long time – it’s a LIFETIME, haha. To tell you the truth, we never really split up, we just stopped rehearsing as much and then even less, then we realized it had been years since we all were in a room together. We all moved to different cities after school (we were just kids when we recorded Ode To Io) and other stuff going, work, some of us got kids – it was just a lot. And at the time, I mean, people liked Ode To Io and it was received well, but it wasn’t considered the record it is today – time passing and the love of the fans made it what it is really.
It sorta got a life of its own, and when Reece of Desertfest London asked me in 2012 if we would consider playing a one off reunion show the next year, it only took a couple of calls to have the band back together. We were always very good friends; it’s just that we live very different lives in different cities, so we really needed this to resurrect Lowrider. And getting out on that stage in 2013, in front of thousands of people… it was surreal. We never could have expected that. Truly humbled to get to do what we do and have people care this much.
getting out on that stage in 2013, in front of thousands of people… it was surreal. We never could have expected that. Truly humbled to get to do what we do and have people care this much….
How did you hook up with Blues Funeral Records?
That wasn’t really hard – it’s run by Jadd who had MeteorCity, who signed us back in the day and released our records then. This time around it was even more special though, since I (Peder) helped him build the label from day one. The label and the subscription service PostWax were both our joint efforts, Jadd handling the label and music side, and me handling the artwork and graphics for the label and record sleeves.
Your new album has been getting rave reviews across the board and deservedly so. How would you describe Refractions?
Honest, I guess the best thing I can think of ‘It’s the record we wanted to make and the record we ourselves wanted to hear’, but since no one else was doing it, we had to. For a while, we were worried to follow up Ode To Io, since it has such a devoted fan base, and didn’t want to try and please that fan base, then disappoint everybody and fuck up the records legacy. That was paralyzing for years, but it was when we finally said ‘fuck it’, let’s just go with what gives us goose bumps and what feels RIGHT. When we could be that honest to ourselves, that’s when we actually started to be able to do this record. And as soon as we decided to go our own, a new way, that’s ironically when we started to create the magic that felt so reminiscent of Ode To Io.
Which track are you most looking forward to performing live and why?
Pipe Rider, just because it means so much to me personally, but also because it’s got a little bit of everything and it’s very very satisfying when it comes back and hits for the last time.
I read that you guys got as far as recording versions of Red River in the early 2000s. How did the track evolve to become the final version on Refractions?
Oh they marinated for the longest while, some of these – and some of them still do, we have 4-5 songs from back then that are REALLY good but still need some tweaking to get just right.
Basically, the last 7-8 years have been a constant on and off recording of demo versions of all the songs, starting with acoustic demos and then slowly building and adding. Every little thing on this album has been thought through and weighed against other options. It’s been a slow but necessary process I think. But the next one will be more immediate – we’ve both learned how to record and produce in a more streamlined fashion, but also the songs lend themselves to a more direct approach. Can’t wait to get these new tracks out to people.
When were the rest of the tracks written? Were there any others that had been stewing for a long time?
The oldest is Pipe Rider – the song/idea that we built it on is from before Lowrider even. It’s from 1995 or 1996, but the Lowrider version of it sort of crystallized between 2014-2018. Ode To Ganymede, that one I have a demo of from 2013, it’s been in the works since then. The riff for Red River was a happenstance from the Ode To Io sessions actually, we stumbled on that riff and I always wanted to finish it, but even though we did a demo of it in 2003, in an attempt to start working on the follow up to Ode To Io, we never really felt it sounded right. It just needed time to grow, and so did we.
The most recent riff is actually M87* – that one came out of a jam when I was recording bass for Refractions, early spring of 2019. It was just too heavy and good not to throw in there as sort of a second half of Sun Devil, so yeah – we just went with it.
We recorded one track, got it released on the Welcome To MeteorCity compilation alongside John Garcia of Kyuss, and right after that got to share a double EP with Nebula – I mean, we got lucky like… it’s almost ridiculous…
What are your plans for Lowrider? Are we going to have to wait another 20 years for the next album?
Like I said before, we are already recording the next album, and have 10-15 tracks ready to go. And they are all GREAT.
To turn back the clock for a while, I always wonder what made stoner rock such a big deal in Sweden in the late 1990s? Which local bands really influenced the scene?
No local bands really – and the scene was SMALL. It was pretty much us, Dozer, their friends in Demoncleaner, Mustash from Gothenburg, and maybe Roachpowder and Spiritual Beggars. That was like… it. And it wasn’t really a scene, like it is now.
We did some shows here and there but it wasn’t like a wave or anything – just like now, the scene is in Germany, France, Belgium, England etc. That’s where you go to play shows and tour. That’s where the fans are. There are fans here too, but it’s not like it’s a big thing.
But we do have tons of great bands that have come out of Sweden, both in the first and second wave of bands (later bands include Truckfighters and Skraeckoedlan for example).
How difficult/different was it getting your music to a wider audience before the internet became such an everyday thing?
For us personally – we slipped on a banana peel and waltzed into the big time, at least in our scene, pretty much immediately. We recorded one track, got it released on the Welcome To MeteorCity compilation alongside John Garcia of Kyuss, and right after that got to share a double EP with Nebula – I mean, we got lucky like… it’s almost ridiculous. But sure, the level of distribution we get now via social media and streaming platforms – that has opened up to so so many more people hearing us. We literally would not have been a band today, hadn’t it been for the internet and the fans there.
Ode To Io has been recognised as a classic record for such a long time that I always think that you guys must have been huge back when it was released. What sort of reception did the album get at the time? Did you get to tour much off the back of it?
I mean, like I said, people liked it. And it got good reviews, but also some thought it sounded wholly unoriginal. Which is something that I might agree with now looking back – haha. I mean, I’m super proud of it, and I love it, but it is truly an amalgamation of a very short list of influences that I had at the time.
We did tour for a month through Europe with Dozer to support it, which felt big at the time but was very up and down – we slept in the car for half that tour I remember. In October. That wasn’t awesome. But it was a good learning experience and it showed us the hard truth of what is required if we were to do this full time, all the time.
It was a thrilling time, but it was also rough, and very different from the way we get to record and tour these days. Not that we are Metallica or anything, but we definitely don’t have to sleep in the car either.
As with most doom / stoner rock websites, we at the Sleeping Shaman are hugely into men’s fashion. My wife was very taken with the double-denim look you rocked at Desertfest in 2013 so you clearly know your stuff. Do you have any fashion dos and don’ts for anyone aspiring to become a heavy rock legend?
Ha! The denim thing really happened by accident. We all wear denim most of the time, but just felt we wanted to look like we belonged together, and said let’s play in denim – you pick whatever you want, but let’s do jeans and a denim jacket across the board. And it sorta stuck, we’re pretty far from the awesomeness that is Turbonegro, and we won’t go full Hives either, but we do want to at least look like we give a damn when we play a show.
I also like to sometimes wear something totally non-metal just to fuck with people’s perception of what bands playing this kind of music can look like, so I’ve had this 80s Minnie Mouse sweater on at shows. It always messes with people, and I love that – haha.
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, are there any final words you’d like to leave us with?
Yes, expect a lot more from us, very soon. The beast is awakened, and it’s not going back into hibernation anytime soon. Haha
Thanks Peder for answering our questions and Refractions is out now via Blues Funeral Recordings.
Interviewed by: Liam Blanc