Exposure: Retribution Gospel Choir
Retribution Gospel Choir is a musical project featuring members of legendary Grunge-era minimalists, Low, including Vocalist/Guitarist Alan Sparhawk. Taking a considerably louder direction this time around, the band will be embarking on a short UK tour in May, on the back of their self-titled debut - produced by Mark Kozelek (SunKilMoon/Red House Painters) - which includes a slot at All Tomorrows Parties, as well as a date at The Captains' Rest in Glasgow. In the meantime, here's Alan Sparhawk with a few words.
What inspired the decision to form Retribution Gospel Choir?
Originally, it was to fill a slot at the Duluth (Minnesota) Homegrown Festival that Low had to cancel at short notice (May '05, I think). I had known and played with the other guys in the group, so we put together a set of covers of Duluth bands. It went well, so we did a few more shows and started writing originals. Over the years, I've formed several loose groups with other musicians from town, but this group seemed to have roots and wings.
How does it feel to cut loose and make a lot more noise this time around?
There is, for sure, a primal satisfaction that comes out of making a giant howling/screaming noise, but by now rock and roll has been doing that forever, so it can be a challenge to find your own voice and contribution to the pile. Low has always worked right on the edge of tipping into noise and chaos, so in some ways it's a very short step away. There are some interesting things that happen once a certain volume is reached - you feel like you're riding the guitar instead of playing it. Like surfing instead of swimming.
You often incorporate alternative versions of Low songs into the live set - is this because you simply like the songs or do you enjoy the freedom of being able to change them around a bit?
I like changing them around. Especially this last few years, with Low's Drums and Guns and now RGC, I've had the means to try songs in different settings and formats. It really helped my writing and i think made for better songs. At this point, 15+ years into this, you need to work hard to keep stepping over the cliff.
What has been the most memorable show/moment so far?
The Tanned Tin festival last year was a great moment for us. It was the first festival we ever played. Usually when we do soundcheck, the crew gets very worried about how loud we are on stage. At tanned tin, we played a couple songs for soundcheck, we stopped, I asked the crew if it was O.K. and after a short silence, the very big, young, heavy-metal-looking monitor guy says - in broken english - 'to me, it is the best sound of the whole festival.' I knew then that it would be our greatest show so far. The other memorable show was in Fargo, North Dakota. We were very high - complete white noise and red blood for 38 minutes.
Retribution Gospel Choir play Captain’s Rest, Glasgow Mon 11 May