Lie Low (Full Piece)

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It’s a Friday night in a small suburb of Tampa, Florida. Working on a lead from a person I don’t know very well, I venture to a local hotspot to check out a band by the name of Lie Low. They’re in the middle of a four-hour set when I sit down at the bar and ready to order a mojito. It’s still summer down here, and unlike where I come from, it’s okay to wear short sleeves in November.

“What can I get you, honey?” asks the bartender.

“Can I get a mojito, please?” I ask, placing a request in the question format because to be more direct feels impolite.

My drink, the one I’ve been excited for all day, arrives in a plastic cup with not enough ice. Ambivalence is how I would describe my feelings toward the first few sips of this rum-based libation.

“How’s the mojito?” the bartender asks after a small amount of time has passed.

“It’s good,” I tell her, not because it actually tastes good, but because life is easier when I’m more agreeable. And really, life wouldn’t be that much better if the mojito tasted impeccable. I’m living under palm trees and walking around below a circle of hot gas that shines from sunrise to sunset.

Once Lie Low’s set ends and they clean up, we sit down for a conversation.

“Why are you out here tonight?” I ask the four band members, a group started a few years ago on a whim that now boasts a steady following in the Tampa area. “Like, how are you feeling?”

“Exhilarated,” says Taylor, the lead guitarist.

Then Rochelle, the vocalist chimes in. “So tired,” she says with a smile. “We played last night at a late-night smoky bar, and we play again tomorrow night, so we’re in a marathon right now.”

“It’s rewarding, but it gets to a point where you feel so drained,” says the drummer, Spencer. “And then you have to get up and go to a normal job in the morning,” he laments with a soft chuckle.

The quartet is seated on a park bench that is too small, forcing them to be more physically intimate than perhaps they’ve ever been. They can’t help but smile the entire interview, as if no matter how sore the combination of their legs, voices, and membranes might be after a long night, there is nowhere else these friends would rather spend their Friday night. Their playful sides are now coming out, and for the first time they are asked to evaluate how this all came to be.

At least on paper, one would never imagine these four forming a collective: a youth soccer coach, a contractor, a photographer, and a computer programmer. By day, they’re just like you and I, but when the sun sets, four alter personas come to life via soft melodies and a vocalist who embodies the same sound as the late Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries.

“It’s nice being away from the job,” notes the bassist Gabriel before removing himself from the spotlight, willing to let his more vocal bandmates run away with the conversation.

We begin talking about their original music, specifically “Strange Dreams,” a track from earlier in the evening that would be perfect for a rainy day, if precipitation ever did make its way to The Sunshine State.

“I came up with the progression and the riff, the trippy kind of feel to it,” Taylor says of the song. “Sent it over to Rochelle and she wrote over the chord work. We brought it to the band and they built on top of it, enhanced it.”

As Rochelle explains, “I had a month of just the weirdest dreams that were very vivid, like my parents dying, falling from a hot air balloon. Just very strange dreams, so I wrote about it, and it became the chorus.”

“How did this band come together? How do you guys Lie Low?” I ask, hitting them with a dad joke in attempt to appear funny and clever. Perhaps these middle-age quips are premature. I’m involuntarily celibate and on the brink of 28 years of existence; not exactly prerequisites for becoming a responsible father.

“Taylor and myself were in a band called The Blend. That fell apart, and I reached out to Gabe. He had just graduated from USF, and I asked him if he wanted to join the band. He was down,” Rochelle replies, explaining the inception of the group’s formation.

And then Rochelle swings her head to left and stares at Spencer, thoughts percolating in her head as she begins to diagram the troubles of finding and keeping a drummer.

“We had a few different drummers cycle through,” she says.

“Like five,” Taylor interjects with a laugh, the struggle for consistency on the back end having been a theme for Lie Low over the years.

“Spike is the only who has been allowed back though,” jokes Rochelle.

According to Taylor, “he was the most professional of them all.”

“He’s also the most talented,” Rochelle notes.

“I feel loved. You make me blush,” Spencer smiles, the streetlights above his long, wavy hair not casting enough light on his face to reveal a further sentimental reaction.

Lie Low hasn’t yet caught the attention of major labels. They’re still working on producing their first album, a process that has been slow to materialize as they assess the future of the band.

Yet, each week they keep coming out and doing gigs, hoping to reach swaths of people interested in both their music and having a good time.

“For anybody who dances,” Spencer says of why they play, also throwing in friends and family for good measure.

“This specific venue, we are here every First Friday,” adds Rochelle. “These people we have got to know,” waving her hand at the onlookers sneaking in one last pint of draft beer before they head home. “They tell us they come to see us. This is one of only a few venues where we have this kind of dynamic. It’s really cool.”

We transition into discussing how crazy people can be when they have copious amounts of alcohol ruminating in their stomachs, a subject that Lie Low has experienced firsthand.

“There was a fight at Peggy’s once, and this guy landed on my drum kit,” Gabe recalls. “It was so tightly packed, that people who were listening to us were only two feet away, and this group of guys were talking shit to each other, and then,” Gabe shakes his head like he’s back in the fracas. “Yeah, these guys, they all just start fucking fighting.”

“Poor Gabe is just getting hit,” notes Taylor.

“We have to keep the song going,” Gabe remembers thinking.

“Gabe didn’t miss a note, and the whole time he’s just looking at us, dumbfounded,” Taylor continues. “That was one of the best places we played though because there was the underlying idea that people came there to have fun and watch music.”

Sounds from the bar a block over percolate into our conversation. My mind wanders toward the idea that a more expertly crafted mojito may be in my future. Lie Low continues to laugh and joke with each other, their camaraderie not deterred by tomorrow’s commitments or my poorly prompted questions that yearn for front page quotes.

“With these guys, it’s definitely a more band-oriented type of feeling,” Spencer says after I return from my wandering hiatus and ask another round of questions.

“I like a lot of slow, melodic, pretty music. Kind of more sad or spectrum,” says Taylor. “I really like Pink Floyd, and then Radiohead, a more melancholic sound.”

Rochelle turns and explains the band’s flavor. “We all have really different tastes in music. It makes for an in interesting, original sound. I’m an R & B, soulful singer. Spencer likes heavy metal.”

“And if you weren’t walking this path, how would you feel?” I ask.

“A lot more depressed,” Taylor says.

“I’d spend a lot more time at home if I wasn’t in the band,” Gabe admits.

“Gabe is one of the most introverted people I know, even though he’s awesome in social settings. Basically, when he gets out of the house, it’s to play gigs, or to go to work,” chides Rochelle.

Lie Low hopes to find more balance between work and play in the future. Bigger gigs will certainly expedite that goal.

They are playing at the Dunedin Brewery on March 15th of next year, a set that will be an opportunity to further entrench themselves in the Tampa music scene.

“It’s going to pay homage to Radiohead,” says Taylor, punctuating my last inquiry with a sentiment the entire band is excited about.

“Okay, so, I think I have everything I need here, guys,” I then say, taking my phone that doubles as a recording device back from Rochelle and stuffing it into my pocket.

The band and I exchange pleasantries before heading our separate ways. It’s time to catch one more mojito before the night ages too far and my day next day becomes compromised.

The streets are almost barren, vacated by families of four and snowbirds living out the golden years in a state where you’re more likely to develop skin cancer than die of hypothermia.

I came out tonight with the best of intentions, breaking out of a dormancy interrupted only by morning walks to the grocery store. I prefer reclusivity because I can’t close, with people or circumstance. 95% of the evening goes great, but then I spend the last five percent masking that progress with long-winded rants of emotional vomit that serve no purpose. My need for clarity is unattractive and overwhelming, but it’s how this rendition of me communicates.

“What are you having?” asks the server at the last stop of the evening.

“A mojito, please. One more, then I’m out.”

Time to Lie Low.

***

A quick word from this post’s sponsor: 

Interested in buying or selling a home? RE/MAX agent James Eason can help with all your real estate needs.

Get in touch with him today by clicking on this link!

 

 

 

 

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