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Low's 'Hey What' Finds The Duo Strong And Forever Searching

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Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker of the indie rock band Low have been making music together for nearly 30 years, and married for even longer. "Honestly, if it hadn't been for the marriage, for the family ... we never would have survived this long as a band," Parker says in an interview with NPR's Lee Hale. Sparhawk adds with a laugh, "And it's not to say 'The band is just horrible, but we're keeping it together because we're married.' But I think we were able to weather difficulties. We were able to have a certain kind of unified vision ... despite being two [very] different artists."

The pair says that, even after all this time, they're still finding their sound — which often stomps, with a whispered intensity, around the boundaries of harmony and dissonance.

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That particular alchemy makes HEY WHAT, their 13th studio album, a particularly fitting soundtrack for the times. On "Days Like These," the pair touches on the precarious balance required of living in the present moment. "When you think you've seen everything / You'll find we're living in days like these," they sing. Sparhawk says the track's meaning varies from person to person, but for him, it's about his life being "[this] toss between despair and absurd hope." But, "At the end of the day, I've got to land on the side of hope," he says. "I've got to land on the side of whatever it is that's moving us forward."

Listen to Lee Hale's interview with Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker of Low in the audio player above, and stream HEY WHAT below.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk of the band Low have been making music together for nearly 30 years, and they've been married to each other for even longer.

MIMI PARKER: Honestly, if it hadn't been for the marriage, for the family, well, I don't think we ever would've...

ALAN SPARHAWK: Yeah.

PARKER: We never would've survived this long as a band.

SPARHAWK: Yeah.

KELLY: Low recently released their 13th album. It is called "HEY WHAT."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL NIGHT")

LOW: (Singing) All night you fought the adversary.

SPARHAWK: And it's not just to say that necessarily, like, oh, the band is just horrible, but we're keeping it together because we're married. But I think we were able to weather difficulties. We were able to have a certain kind of unified vision and despite being kind of very two different artists.

KELLY: Parker and Sparhawk say their career and their relationship have been balancing acts and that after all these years, they are still, in a way, trying to find their sound. A heads up to our engineers - the distortion coming up is intentional.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEY")

LOW: (Singing) Told me that I never could contain. Went back and wept in the car beneath the shade.

PARKER: I have been pushing towards the beauty, and I know Alan sometimes focuses on...

SPARHAWK: Chaos.

PARKER: ...The chaos.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEY")

LOW: (Singing) Maybe that's the last thing you should say.

PARKER: It's been a challenge to blend that together. And I guess, that's maybe what we've been trying to do this whole time.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MORE")

LOW: (Singing) I gave more than what I should have lost. I paid more than what it would have cost.

SPARHAWK: Mim's (ph) voice really is such a powerful tool to cut through noise.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOW")

LOW: (Singing) I want all of what I didn't have.

SPARHAWK: A humanness against the violence.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DAYS LIKE THESE")

LOW: (Singing) When you think you've seen everything.

SPARHAWK: I mean, I think early on, we knew that that's what we were bringing to it, and that - you know, and I was immediately - probably the overriding thought for me in the band, especially when it first started, was like, I want to figure out a way to accommodate what you want. I think that we can figure out a way that we both do what we are wanting to happen in music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DAYS LIKE THESE")

LOW: (Singing) Everybody just chased by dreams. That's why we're living in days like these again.

PARKER: I mean, it sounds like compromise is what you're describing, but I've never felt like the music...

SPARHAWK: Oh, no.

PARKER: ...That we've created has been a compromise.

SPARHAWK: Yeah. I think it's always beautiful, and it's always as crazy as I've ever...

PARKER: Yeah.

SPARHAWK: ...Beyond my imagination.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DAYS LIKE THESE")

LOW: (Singing) It isn't something you can choose between. It isn't coming in twos and threes.

KELLY: It's a sound that tows the line between harmony and dissonance, and that makes their newest album, "HEY WHAT," a particularly fitting soundtrack for these times we're living in.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DAYS LIKE THESE")

LOW: (Singing) That's why we're living in days like these again.

KELLY: That was Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker of the band Low.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DAYS LIKE THESE")

LOW: (Singing) Again. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.