The Lower 48 blew into the West Coast on the cold winter winds from Minneapolis, fresh-faced and ready to play. The band settled in Portland in 2009, with the exception of their percussionist, who migrated a year later, and they have been living there ever since. The Lower 48, whose name is an Alaskan slang term referring to the rest of the continental United States, is still relatively young [in their early twenties] but growing up fast. The trio is composed of Ben Braden who sings and plays bass, Sarah Parson who also sings and plays guitar, and Nick Sadler, who plays percussions, any additional instruments and sings harmonies.
The band came together right after high school. It started with Braden, Parson, and their friend Aidan Elliott, all of who went to the same performing arts high school in Minneapolis. Elliott and Braden both knew Sadler and brought him in to the group after they had graduated. Eventually they all started playing music together and the Lower 48 came into being. In 2009, the band released their first EP Everywhere To Go, while still in Minnesota. Directly after this release, they made the move to Portland. Two years later, they started a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the creation of their first LP. The campaign was a success and Where All Maps End was put out that same year. Both Everywhere To Go and Where All Maps End gravitated towards the folksier end of the rock spectrum. But that would change in the next two years. First, Elliott left the band. Later, he would become their manager. This change from quartet to trio was a catalyst, changing the music the band made together and sparking an explosion of creativity. In 2013, the trio released their second album, a self-titled six-song record signaling a watershed change in the sound of The Lower 48.
The self-titled album brought the band firmly into the territory of sixties inspired pop rock. In it, The Lower 48 opened up their songs using brass instruments, catchy hooks, and great harmonies. Both Parson and Braden have unique singing styles that meld together surprisingly well, and when Sadler is brought in for the three-part harmonies, the vocals really soar. In their instrumentation, the trio seems to be exploring a bigger sound as well as the freedom of being louder and more energetic. Though only six songs long, the album is full of life and fun enough to be thoroughly addicting. Each song holds its own well, but the especially standout songs are: ‘Long Time Coming’ with its happy energy, the silly sweet narrative of ‘Bowtie’, and the not-quite-bitter beauty of ‘Setting Sun.’ Because of the album’s shortness, the listener is left ready for more. And more may soon be on its way, as the band has expressed interest in releasing an album every year like musicians used to in the sixties.
Along with this change in sound, the band has also undergone a transformation in appearance. They went from the more grungy folk flannel and T-shirt look to the much slicker Beatles-esque black and white suits with skinny ties. This new serious get-up is somewhat symbolic as the band has become much more serious about committing to their music. They have been known to practice most days of the week and have quite an intensive California tour coming up, starting right here in Sacramento.
The Lower 48 is an immensely promising band with a fun, interesting sound and enough energy to hopefully fuel them for many, many years to come. They are well worth listening to and definitely worth coming out to see. To listen to their self-titled album, check out the group’s Bandcamp, where it is available to stream as well as purchase for six dollars. Songs off of Where All Maps End can be listened to on their MySpace page.
The trio is currently touring with a set that is “tighter and dancier than evah,” according to the band. The Lower 48 will be kicking off their California tour by playing the Torch Club in Sacramento on Wednesday, December 3rd. Should you miss that show they will also be playing Slim’s in San Francisco on Thursday, December 4th, and G Street Bar in Davis on Friday, December 5th. All three shows start at 8 pm. For fans in the rest of the Golden State, the band will be touring through Santa Barbara, San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara again, Fresno, and Santa Cruz, in that order, over the first half of December. But after December 14th they will be moving on to Vancouver before heading home to Portland for a while. So catch them while you can.
Current California tour dates are as follows:
Wed, Dec 3 – Torch Club, Sacramento
Thur, Dec 4 – Slim’s, San Francisco
Fri, Dec 5 – G Street Bar, Davis
Sat, Dec 6 – Seven Bar, Santa Barbara
Tue, Dec 9 – The Merrow, San Diego
Wed, Dec 10 – Good Times at Davey Wayne’s, Los Angeles
Thur, Dec 11 – To Be Announced
Fri, Dec 12 – Whiskey Richard’s, Santa Barbara
Sat, Dec 13 – Peeve’s Public House, Fresno
Sun, Dec 14 – Crepe Place, Santa Cruz
TUBE. will see you at the Torch Club on December 3rd.