Photo Credit: Donavon Smallwood
From Shakespearean namesakes to exploring the basic social needs of human beings, Balmorhea dug deep for their 2023 release, ‘Pendant World.’ We talked about the record that drops on June 16th with their own Rob Lowe and even got some insight on a film venture, live music appreciation, and much more in this back-and-forth exchange.
Kendra: A lot of things went into the new album, ‘Pendant World,’ including a very humanistic need, and that’s friends. You all wanted to just be back with your friends making music. Was that because of the pandemic that you’d been apart from them for some time?
Rob Lowe: The last few years were a time of considerable change for all of us. Michael and I also experienced some major life changes in addition to the wild state of the world. I became a father in 202, and Michael moved from Austin to Los Angeles. We both emerged from that era with totally new lives. After making music together for so long, it was challenging to go through those changes and not be able to turn to a foundational part of what makes us click: creating music — something that for us is best done in direct collaboration.
Kendra: You also borrowed a line from Shakespeare for the album title. Are there any other literary elements on the new record?
Rob Lowe: There were a few books that informed the thinking and writing for this album. First was ‘Heaven’s Breath: A Natural History of the Wind’ by Lyall Watson. That book is where I discovered the Shakespeare quote included in the artwork and sparked further thinking about the metaphor of “the wind” — which we started exploring with our previous album.
We were also both reading a number of terrific books by Eliot Weinberger (‘An Elemental Thing’ and ‘Karmic Traces’). His books are an incredible crossover between poetry and non-fiction that we both find incredibly moving and that in some transverse way relates to the music we have been producing these past few years.
Kendra: With that, what literary character do you think would pick up a copy of ‘Pendant World?’
Rob Lowe: Port Moresby from ‘The Sheltering Sky’ by Paul Bowles.
Kendra: It’s been noted that you find it difficult to visually portray your music because there are no lyrics, but then I thought of how the score of shows like ‘Westworld’ nailed it on the head. I felt like the music was often a character on the show. Do you think scoring film and TV is a path Balmorhea will ever travel down?
Rob Lowe: We just finished our first feature film score in a few years, it’s a really great project, but can’t share any details just yet. We do hope to collaborate with more filmmakers making interesting work in the near future.
Kendra: Fans are going to hear “Step Step Step” and more this summer because you’re doing a string of shows in the UK, and then you’ll be in NYC in October for a show at Le Poisson Rouge. We’ve talked about missing friends, but it’s safe to say those of us who love music – be it artists or just fans – we missed that a lot because live events were some of the first things taken off the table a few years ago. Do you think that made people appreciate live music a lot more?
Rob Lowe: It’s difficult to say. In some ways, people seem to have really yearned to reconnect with live music since the pandemic has ended but in others, people seem less inclined to leave the comfort of their own homes. I think larger pop acts are reaping the benefit of this while some artists who tend to perform to more niche audiences are having a more difficult time putting together proper tours. All I do know is that we are really excited to be back out in the world performing again this summer and fall. We hope to do much more of it moving forward.
Kendra: Time for a side note: This month I’m asking everyone for a song they listen to when they’re feeling a little lost creativity and are in need of some musical inspiration…
Rob Lowe: This changes for me from time to time. Right now, listening to the album ‘Mary Lou Williams’ by Mary Lou Williams is helping me stretch my brain and heart in new directions every time I listen to it. Also, Mahler’s 5th Symphony and the White Album!
Kendra: Lastly, with Pendant World out on June 16th and some shows already on the books, what else can fans be on the lookout for as we roll into summer?
Rob Lowe: We have been working closely with a filmmaker collective called Odd.One on some films for the album. So far, we have released two in the series and we think they are well worth time to sit down and watch. They are truly unlike any visuals we’ve ever seen and exist in an interesting space between 1940s Disney and something completely contemporary. They are painterly and graphic and stylish and mysterious and fun. We are hoping that some of these visuals find their way into our live shows.