Ahead of his Instagram takeover on the 11th June, we caught up with songwriter and producer Lowpines to hear more about his songwriting inspiration, touring and collaborations.
For those who don’t you know, can you introduce yourself?
Hey! I’m Oli Deakin, I record under the name Lowpines. I’m also a producer and songwriter with other folks. I also tour as guitarist for Benjamin Francis Leftwich and others. What else… I’m from Penrith in Cumbria, but now based in New York.
What’s the story behind the name ‘Lowpines’?
I was scratching around for a name and I just had this long list of words that I liked the sound of. I tried a bunch of different combinations and eventually settled on this. I liked the feel of it, it sounded like a place I could get my thoughts together.
What does your songwriting process look like? Where does your inspiration come from?
I don’t have a set process, I try different things all the time, particularly if I’m collaborating with different people. For myself, I’m constantly recording little bits of ideas in my phone and listening back later to see what jumps out. Every once in a while I’ll sit down and consciously work through a few of them to some kind of solid shape, but most often I just keep listening back and seeing what comes out next time. Sooner or later a really good idea seems to find a way out. When I’m touring I try to write lyrics every day in the hotel before we start travelling. I feel like travelling exposes you to so many different experiences, sights and sounds – it’s good to try and write some of them down before they get forgotten.
If you were to associate a mood with the music you have produced so far, what would it be?
I had a review once that described my songs as ‘vignettes’ and I think that hits the mark pretty well. Small illustrations. I’m not sure there’s a specific mood intended, but people tend to describe my music as calming so I guess that’s the effect it has on most people! I always played in indie rock bands. So I describe Lowpines as ‘very quiet indie rock’.
You’ve toured with pretty high-profile artists and currently play guitar and keys for Benjamin Francis Leftwich, how do these opportunities come about?
I met Ben some years back when I was opening for him on a tour, we had the same agent and it seemed like a good fit. We became friends, stayed in touch and began writing together for his last album ‘Gratitude’. When it came to touring it he invited me to come and play with him. I also played guitar for Ed Nash (Bombay Bicycle Club) for a few shows – I was asked to mix an EP for him and we became friends through that and have stayed in touch since.
Other artists I’ve met through various different routes – some through agents booking tours for me, some through recording and writing projects, others just through mutual friends and finding a kindred spirit. Sometimes just reaching out and starting a conversation.
Your tracks have been featured in movies and popular TV series such as Bones and Teen Mom, do you specifically write some songs with sync in mind?
No, I’ve never written with a specific sync in mind. I’ve been lucky enough to have some of my songs included in lots of TV shows and movies, mainly because the supervisors liked the music for what it was. So I just keep that in mind and do what I do, and send them new records when I have them.
Over the years how many bands have you been part of?
Oh man… so many! I’ve always had projects of my own, of which Lowpines is the current incarnation. But I’ve been involved in lots of other projects, collaborations etc and continue to be. I get restless putting all my energy into one place so I like forging new projects to try things differently.
You used to be in a band called Bear Driver, do you miss being in a band? Is this something you might return to?
Yeah, Bear Driver was super fun, I definitely miss rocking out with them. It was the first band in which I did proper co-writing and sharing vocals. We did a lot in a few years and then went on hiatus when we all started getting busy with other bands and projects. But Harry and I often talk about all the unfinished tracks we have so we might yet get something together. I also made a record with Richie (drums) under the name Lucky Shrimp. Lowpines becomes a band sometimes – by brother Jamie plays drums on all my records and we sometimes put a band together for festival shows etc. So I still kinda think of it as a band even though it’s often just me.
We love the sketches that are used for some of your music artwork and display pictures – is drawing something you do?
Yeah, I used to do it more and keep meaning to get back to it. Drawing and songwriting are all the same brain space for me, so if I get stuck for words I just draw something to clear my head. I brought that into my records by offering custom artwork on ltd edition cassettes. I had to hand-draw each one on the sleeve, I totally underestimated how many orders I would get. But it was a good challenge. I’ll get back to it at some point.
Imagine you were playing the middle slot in the gig of your dreams next week, who would you be supporting and who would be opening for you? Where would you be playing?
Hmmmm ok well I think I’d open for Yo La Tengo because they’re just the most creative live band and always inspire me. Venue – I think it has to be The Brudenell in Leeds. I’ve been able to play in so many great venues, big and small, but that place is very dear to me. I lived right behind it for a while and it was my local bar. I saw so many great bands there and got to play there regularly myself. It’s a special place. And as an opener, I’d invite Swimming Bell from New York, who I work with as producer. Great songs.
Any exciting plans for the remainder of 2020?
Are we allowed to make plans yet?? Well, I’m currently back up in Penrith, having got stranded here mid-tour when the pandemic kicked in. So I’m doing lots of remote production and mixing for various people, and working on a new Lowpines record. That will be out sometime this year. Other than that, just looking forward to getting back to my studio in New York and playing shows again.
What artists are you listening to at the moment? Have you got a go-to playlist?
I tend to spend most of my time listening to whatever my friends have sent me. It keeps things interesting and nearly always reminds me of something else that I’ve been meaning to listen to. I have a few collab playlists with friends where we send each other stuff we’ve found. The last few days I’ve been listening to Foxwarren, Mavis Staples, Pops Staples, Explosions In The Sky, Devon Sproule. And I’ve been working on tracks with Swimming Bell, CMAT, Ben Leftwich, Jose Junior, Max RM. So those have all been on repeat!
What can we expect from your live acoustic set on our Instagram on the 11th June?
I’ve actually been playing an Insta live show every Sunday evening from my page, so it’s gradually evolved into something where I try out a few different things. I’ve been revisiting lots of older songs, and working the new, unreleased ones into the set too. So I’ll try and play a mix of things, and maybe a cover.
For anyone who wants to check out more of your work, where can they go?
Lowpines Apple Music