In an exquisitely intimate soliloquy, Ryan tells the crowd the story behind ‘Friends Make Garbage (Good Friends Take it Out)’. One day, as a school boy back in California, he decided he was spending too much time on homework and not enough on the guitar. So he told his dad he wouldn’t go back to school. ‘In California,’ he says, ‘there’s a misconception on success. Success in music is making a lot of money. And if you’re not good at that, you’re shit’. At first, Ryan says, that was his mentality too. But slowly, as he watched record labels take away and apart everything his band had loved and worked on for years, he lost faith in the industry. He didn’t expect to write music again.
Fortunately for us, he did. If he hadn’t moved thousands of miles away to Iceland and started to write his first self-titled album for Low Roar in his Reykjavík kitchen, this special evening of music here in XOYO London wouldn’t have taken place. Low Roar‘s style is intimate, reaching and fearless. It’s a project unafraid to embrace its past as well as tackle its future, which reaches forward into new and experimental styles with every release.
Ryan is just the right performer for providing a wholly shifting and multifaceted experience, balancing undaunted charisma with unexpected intimacy. One moment, Low Roar’s electronic breakdowns are stretching and contorting over the venue; next thing we know, their acapella voices are weaving in and out of soft, minimal guitar notes. An acoustic break for three of Ryan’s early releases is a well-timed catharsis before the band returns to the stage for their finale.
The gentle rise and fall of his music rushes through the glitch pop highs of ‘Once In A Long Long While’, the panning and the trumpeted motifs of ‘Waiting (10 Years)’ and the rested guitar strums of ‘Miserably’. A particular highlight is their performance of ‘Bones’. Expecting female singer Jófríõur Ákadóttir’s vocals to be a recorded sample, instead we’re treated with an impressive live replacement by Low Roar‘s second male vocalist.
The versatility provided by Low Roar could easily be disconcerting, but instead it’s gripping. Their live performances offer Ryan and the band a chance to mediate between the acoustics of their first album, all the way through to their present day style of dream pop electronica. It’s refreshingly unusual to see a musical freedom as equally approachable as it is unhindered.