Must-hear N.J.: How Lowlight reached new heights with its sweeping alt-country sound

Must-hear N.J.: How Lowlight reached new heights with its sweeping alt-country sound

SOUTH BOUND BROOK — There is dedication to your band, and then there are the lengths to which Derrill and Dana Sellers have gone, to bring music into their home in South Bound Brook.

The couple have knocked out walls, strung a maze of wires between rooms and taken to sleeping in a loft, all so the upstairs level of their modest two-story can act as a recording studio and practice space for Lowlight, the promising Central Jersey alt-country group where the Sellers play guitar and keyboards. 

“We are always working,” singer Renee Maskin says during an October visit to the band’s homestead HQ. “This is all we do, and I’m proud of that.”

Inside the Sellers’ home studio Lowlight slaved over its debut, August’s glistening LP “Where Do We Go From Here.” 

“There was no time limit, so we could add and add to the recording,” drummer Colin Ryan says.

And add they did. The band that loves David Bowie just as much Willie Nelson injected experimental doses into the 11-track project, blanketing synth over and beneath twanging guitars and puttering drums. 

Founded in 2014, the five-piece group has spread their sound as far away on tour as Iowa, and much of that impermanence of a band on the road — they playfully describe themselves as “roadhouse chic” — made it onto record. 

“(The album) is about travel and movement, and restlessness — I was feeling pretty restless,” Maskin says. 

That sense of fluidity finds footing not only in the lyrics, of tracks “Why Wander” and “Motel Chronicles,” but in the structure of the album itself, as one tune bleeds into another, some bound by interludes, and creates a thematic wholeness in one of the more exciting Central Jersey indie releases this year. 

THE LINEUP

Vocals/guitar — Renee Maskin, 31, of Bradley Beach  

Lead guitar — Derrill Sellers, 31, of South Bound Brook

Bass guitar — Rey Rivera, 37, of Highland Park

Drums — Colin Ryan, 33, of Point Pleasant Beach

Keyboards — Dana Sellers, 33, of South Bound Brook 

WHAT THEY SOUND LIKE

The allure of Lowlight lies in its sum, not its parts. Dana Sellers’ synth fills add a lushness that the production could not live without, but just when her simple dronings become a bit tedious, like on the album’s winning track “Bones,” Derrill Sellers’ bright, grooving guitar swoops in to give us something new, and to play fresh partner to Maskin’s measured vocal performance. Her nasal tone and knowing, lilting, whispering delivery reminds of Jenny Lewis, or even Gwen Stefani at times, and like Lewis, Maskin spins her stories always from a place of calm — when Maskin sings about dirt, dust and lines in the road, she convinces us that she’s done her time on the highway. 

WHO THEY SOUND LIKE

Jenny Lewis, The Avett Brothers, Dawes 

WHY THEY MATTER

Spend a little time with Lowlight, or listen closely to “Where Do We Go From Here,” and you realize the group’s meticulous attention to detail. It stems from the Sellers creating their own home studio — all that work had to happen, simply because this group of seasoned, 30-something musicians trusted no one but themselves with their songs. 

Not every band is down to tinker and play with sounds the way Lowlight has here, or include three separate instrumental interludes on a debut LP, to hammer home that this is a flowing, linear album, not just whatever they had the time and money to do in someone else’s studio.  

As expected, all the band’s practice in South Bound Brook makes them a tight live act, to boot. Check them out at the date below. 

WHERE YOU CAN SEE THEM 

Dec. 3: The Court Tavern, New Brunswick

Bobby Olivier may be reached at bolivier@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @BobbyOlivier. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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Published at Tue, 22 Nov 2016 18:00:00 +0000