Singled Out: One Hundred Thousand's Low
While our band generally tries to write together, every once in a while our drummer, Kurt Wubbenhorst, will show us something he's been working on, ask what we think and tell us not to work on it; he'll finish the instrumental version himself. This was the case with "Low." The determination of the melody in the chorus, the cold loneliness of the verses, the modal bridge section that comes like sunshine through clouds -- all of that came from Kurt.
The music told a story on its own. So when it was time for words, all I wanted to do was express what the notes already seemed to convey. One of the great things about music is that it can be interpersonal communication, as long as the artist is open to it. One of the most rewarding things about writing music is hearing people interpret our songs back to you. So while what inspired "Low" was a solid concept, I shy away from saying that's what the song is about because its meaning is up to the listener. But, hearing an artist explain a piece can enhance someone's enjoyment of it. So what I write next is just what was in my mind as I put "Low" on a page. What it all means is up to you.
When Superstorm Sandy hit our area in October of 2012, it knocked out power to almost the entire New York/New Jersey region and then some; many people were without electricity for weeks, but that wasn't the worst of it. Sandy flooded nearly every neighborhood in New York and New Jersey that was within a mile or so of a body of water. I'm grateful to say that the members of One Hundred Thousand and our immediate families were marginally affected by Sandy. But thousands of others weren't so fortunate. Our friends Erica and Louis were engaged when Sandy hit Brooklyn, New York. As you may have heard, Sandy brought with it a storm surge unlike any this region has seen before. Erica and Louis' home was in the water's path.
I wasn't there when Louis and Erica evacuated. I don't know how they reacted when they realized the storm was worse than anyone anticipated. With "Low," I just tried to imagine what they felt when they first looked at their house after the storm, torn apart by a flood and covered in muck and grime from who-knows-where. What do you say to your partner when you realize you have lost everything but each other? Where do you start to clean up when everything is a mess? "Low" is an exploration of those private moments. Just as much as I wrote the words for the music that was already there, I wanted it to be for Louis and Erica and the people close to them, who helped them get through probably greatest hardship of their lives.
But here's where the beauty of interpretation comes in. We released a music video for "Low" not too long ago. And without ever discussing concepts with me, our director Mike Lowther put forth a narrative that almost explicitly depicted the themes I explored as I wrote the lyrics: two people trying to find themselves and each other in the face of a tragedy that they are only beginning to understand.
As artists, we're always sweating the minutia - worrying about a note here, a word there - is this too long, is that too short, will anyone like this but us? I can't even say I felt super confident with "Low" when the rest of the band gave my lyrics the thumbs up, or even after it was recorded because I know how proximity can affect perception. But that's what's been so gratifying about the response. When the Rise EP came out, people immediately singled out "Low" as a top track. People like Mike Lowther took the song as their own and gave that passion back to us.
It makes all the hard work and anxiety completely worth it.