Local sounds: Happy coincidence out West leads Record Low to Chicago

Rockers release record Friday at Subterranean

By Andy Downing Special to the TribuneAugust 21, 2009

North Carolina native Robby Haynes, one half of the Record Low, appears to approach major decisions with all the thought of someone throwing himself headlong into a swimming pool to check the water’s temperature. When the guitarist dropped out of college, citing a need to get away from it all, he set his sights on the former silver mining town of Telluride, Colo. At the time, all Haynes knew about the mountain locale was that it was remote — the perfect place, he figured, to decompress and gather himself while plotting his next move. And if he had a chance to play some music, well, all the better.

What he didn’t plan on was meeting someone who would become both a friend and a musical conspirator for the better part of six years. But that’s what he found in front man Henry Joseph. The pair, who also happened to live in the same building, met after Haynes found a flier hanging in the lobby of his apartment complex: “Looking for musicians.”

Within a month, the upstarts had persuaded a local businessman to give them a weekly gig at his restaurant — a cabinlike structure decorated with wood carvings of mountain animals. “It wasn’t even a real venue,” says Haynes, sounding groggy after an early-August dental visit led to an unexpected extraction of wisdom teeth. “I think we were the only band that played there.” As winter wound down, the two made plans to relocate to Chicago because, says Haynes, “It was a totally new thing.”

“I didn’t know anything about the city,” continues the guitarist, who planned the move with nearly as much thought as his relocation to Telluride. “I was like, ‘How does this work? Am I going to live downtown?’ I didn’t know what to expect.”

Once settled in Chicago, the group expanded to a quartet and recorded an album of bruising rock, “Here To Stay.” The title proved misleading; soon after the record’s release, a confluence of circumstances again left Haynes and Joseph as the band’s sole members. Nine months of soul searching followed as the duo holed up in their modest Eckhart Park studio and attempted to redefine their sound. They absorbed experimental bands like Suicide (who inspired the pair’s use of the drum machine) and recorded as many as 20 variations on every song. Fortunately, the work paid off.

Even in unfinished form, the moody “Till It’s Over,” off the group’s upcoming self-titled record (tonight’s show doubles as a release party), impresses, marrying lush, mossy guitar textures with the cold, steely click of programmed drums. That said, not even Haynes knows what the duo’s music will sound like moving forward. “I might like the way things sound now, but a little [time] passes and then you’re someone else,” Haynes says. “And our music is a reflection of who we are. It changes constantly.”

No Harm, No Foul

No Harm, No Foul’s hilariously stripped-down bio reads, in its entirety, “No Harm, No Foul is a two man project comprised of two individuals.” But there’s nothing simplistic about the duo’s music. “The Fact of the Matter” (streaming at myspace.com/nhnfm) spins acoustic guitar, ramshackle drums and an elegiacal keyboard coda into a rootsy pop nugget, while “On Top of the Word” finds the pair dabbling in basement funk.

localheroes@gmail.com

The Record Low

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Copyright © 2009, Chicago Tribune

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