chickfactor: I’ve heard you’re a champion snowmobiler.
mimi parker: who told you this? the truth is that I haven’t snowmobiled for a good ten years now. but in the day… when I was growing up we had a snowmobile and it was so fun. I would fly through the fields. I threw a few people and rolled a couple of sleds.
mimi: that’s snowmobile lingo. they’re pretty common in rural minnesota.
cf: what were you like in high school?
mimi: I was involved with everything. but I still didn’t talk to anyone! I played everything: volleyball, basketball and track. seventh grade to twelfth grade. except I didn’t do track the last year of high school because I hated it. I was president of student council. but our high school was only 250 people, so it wasn’t that hard to win!
cf: so you were kind of a jock!
mimi: yeah, I was a jock. but alan was, too. he played football and track.
cf: do you remember the first time you ever laid eyes on alan sparhawk?
mimi: well, it was fourth grade, so it was a long time ago. I just remember this little red-haired, freckled kid coming into class. he was cute.
cf: I guess some time probably passed between fourth grade and the moment you thought, “he’s the one.”
mimi: we started dating our junior year, maybe the summer before senior year.
[we are joined by mimi and alan’s daughter, hollis, who is one year old and already has three tours under her belt. take that, you indie slackers!]
mimi: hollis likes touring. there are always people all around. we’re always putting on her sweater, going somewhere. but then we go home and what is there to do? nothing!
cf: hollis, we were just talking about when your mom and dad fell in love.
mimi: so after we graduated, alan went to school at BYU [brigham young university] and I went to duluth. we called each other all the time and we were in love. he came to duluth the next year. a few years later he convinced me that we should get married.
cf: so he coaxed you into it!
mimi: I was okay with not being married. I just felt like what’s the point? why get married? but we did it and here we are.
cf: did he have to coax you into joining low?
mimi: a little bit. he’d been in this other band for a few years. zen identity — I’m sure you’ve heard all about! but through the course of our relationship we always talked about doing music together. my family was pretty musical. when my mom was young she was an aspiring country singer. she actually played some shows in minneapolis — playing her guitar and singing. so we always sang around the house. one of my sisters plays guitar — so we’d get out the guitar and sing a little bit. I guess it was always kind of a dream, not something I ever thought I’d do. but every once in a while I’d have the thought that playing music would be fun. so alan and I talked about it and then he and john nichols [original low bass player] got together and came up with the idea of the band — slow and quiet. around this time alan was working at the arena in duluth and he was in the basement and they had tons of old equipment from the orchestra that was there years ago. there was a drum down there and a cymbal. so he asked about it and this woman said, “oh, I can’t give it to you, but why don’t you just take it.” so he brought home a snare drum and a cymbal and kinda laid it on me. “you could just play drums in this band! it would be really easy!”
cf: so it’s kind of because of the equipment you had that you developed the style of playing that you still use.
mimi: but I was also in the marching band in high school and played snare. so that was my only experience playing drums — I never played a kit.
cf: what was it about drums you loved?
mimi: I don’t know! I started playing in sixth grade — that’s when you could pick your musical instrument. I guess I just thought it would be fun.
cf: so you were suddenly recording your first album. had you even played any shows?
mimi: I think we had played one in duluth and one in minneapolis. we didn’t have any idea what we were doing. we had a few little songs and that was it!
cf: did you feel kinda small town?
mimi: oh, completely.
cf: then john left the band and zak joined.
cf: hmmm. why does zak get a raised eyebrow?
mimi: it’s kinda weird, now that I think about it, that we picked zak. he really liked the band and he had done sound for us when we went on tour with luna — although he didn’t have a clue about what he was doing. but maybe we thought he could do it because he would live wherever and drop things and move on. I guess we couldn’t think of anyone else who would do that. I mean, we were good friends with zak, so we gave him a try. he came to duluth and we practiced a few weeks. our first show with zak was opening for stereolab in minneapolis. and they were pretty big then so it was a sold out show. it was really scary.
cf: zak has never faced the crowd since!
mimi: yeah, maybe if we’d started him out at a smaller show…
cf: is this when you started touring in your dodge colt?
mimi: well, our first tour was in a little nissan truck, so the colt was a step up! the truck had a topper on it so we could keep our stuff back there and we even made space for a bed so someone could lay back there. but it was winter, so none of us could take it for very long. you’d have to knock on the window and say, “pull over! I can’t take it anymore!” luckily, john was little so we could all fit in the front.
cf: I always thought it was so amazing that you toured in a colt, but the truck takes the cake.
mimi: yeah, we toured in the dodge for a few years. it was great. we had all the room we needed — there was just three of us. but the colt was dying by the time chris [freeman — low sound engineer] came along, so we graduated to a mini van. we put over 200,000 miles on it. it was a good little van. we actually still use it, but it’s a family van now.
cf: what’s the weirdest low show ever?
mimi: there have been so many! we played in a laundromat in los angeles on our first tour. we opened for soul coughing, which was kind of ridiculous. but they really wanted us to do it, so we said okay. some of their fans threw stuff at us. years ago, people would always yell stuff about drugs, like they thought we were stoned all the time or something. they’d yell, “heroin!” and stuff like that to us. so I guess we developed a hard shell.
cf: do you ever get freaky letters or gifts from fans?
mimi: once there was a letter with no name or return address that had a weird photo of someone lying in a pool of vomit. but more recently, hollis has been getting all the mail. she got a bunny from spain and little books. every time we go on the road she gets something.
cf: do people write and ask about your lyrics or try to decipher them?
mimi: yeah, but I’m okay with that. sometimes we write songs that are really vague that can handle lots of interpretations. but I don’t have that many songs that I’ve written. now my songs have topics, especially on the last record. and my topic is hollis!
cf: yeah, she’s probably going to come back to you in a few years and ask you about “in metal.” so what description of your band are you more tired of hearing: “slow-core” or “two-thirds mormon”?
mimi: they’re both high on the list. I’m really tired of the two-thirds mormon thing. slow-core is just a categorization. but I wonder where the mormon fascination comes from? in england, that was all any journalist could talk about. and it’s starting to become a bigger deal over here. but we don’t get particularly upset about it. people just like to say that we’re this quiet band from minnesota that is two-thirds mormon, but hey, you know? we write some songs, too.
[hollis’ tour nanny, scott, arrives and grabs hollis to tell her about the new york adventures he has had while she was napping.]
cf: what’s the best thing and the worst thing about being pregnant?
mimi: the best thing is the anticipation of knowing that there is a beautiful baby coming. the worst thing is just… being pregnant! It’s so uncomfortable. you hear some women say, “I just love being pregnant!” I didn’t love being pregnant. it was a pain.
cf: what has it been like to have a baby in your band?
mimi: it is great, but it is a lot of hard work. there’s no longer any free time. that time between sound check and when we play, when we just used to do whatever — eat dinner or go for a walk — doesn’t exist anymore. we have to feed somebody and put somebody to bed! but she’s amazing and I think she helps us because we put less emphasis on the problems of the band. we all focus on her. she’s pretty social and, so far, she seems to thrive on it. it might be different if she were really sensitive.
cf: well, before we finish up — do you have any embarrassing stories about alan or zak to report on?
mimi: you mean, besides zen identity? CF