‘She was so casual about her genius’: musicians on Low’s Mimi Parker | Low

Jeff Tweedy, Wilco; producer, The Invisible Way

Low goes really far back in my family – my wife had a rock club in Chicago called Lounge Axe, which Low would play all the way back in the 90s. I was always a fan – I never really knew them personally until Nels Cline joined our band, and he was friends with Alan [Sparhawk], so Alan started coming around to see us play. We just got to be friends and at some point we toured together, and they asked me to produce a record with them, and I guess that’s when we became pretty close, or closer than just being fellow travellers.

I think most people would look at Mimi and not estimate that she was a serious artist. I don’t think she put on any kind of pretension – there was nothing about her that read as anything other than normal midwesterner. That is my favorite thing on earth, when normal people reveal their depths of emotional understanding, and her poignancy was enhanced by the fact that she was so casual about her genius.

I’ve never seen anyone be that casually brilliant. She was a giant – when I close my mind’s eye and imagine her voice, it rings the clearest to me of any voice I’ve heard in my life. Her voice was so indelibly defined. There’s something truly sacred about the way she sang and savored notes, almost as a form of meditation – the way that she and Alan could breathe together and make this music that was secular church music, or something. Being around it and witnessing it is just astonishing, because it was so effortless and it was with zero pretence. For Mimi, it was just a way to live.

Low, Alan, Mimi, have just been for me, for a long time, a bar to aim for – to make music that makes me feel the way their music makes me feel. Even before I met them their music was doing that for me, and certainly after working with them there was an added amount of inspiration in being accepted by them.

The thing I keep thinking about Mimi is that she savored every note, and I’m glad – there wasn’t a single note that was ever rushed, and that gives me some comfort, knowing that she had the presence of mind to sing with such grounded appreciation of each note she got to sing.

Mimi Parker performing in 2011. Photograph: Chris Uncle/REX/Shutterstock

Steve Albini

Mimi Parker had a beautifully pure voice, but what made Low special was the way her voice and Alan’s meshed, creating a single tone. There’s no better pairing of voices in music, and the effect of the two of them singing was uniquely moving. I truly loved working with them in the studio, and have had the pleasure of sharing a stage with them a few times. We invited them to play at the ATP events we curated and watching them take command of a huge ballroom with the quietest sounds and smallest gestures was like watching magic transpire. They didn’t do anything to demand your attention, but the purity of their sound commanded you to pay attention. Their music seemed completely free of ego, solely about the sound they made and the words they sang, but through that we learned something about them – that they were capable of that and it put me in awe. I loved Low, both as a band and as people and I’m certain that listening to their music made me a better person.

Robert Plant

Tragic – so sad. Alan and Mimi and their delicious weave, her voice a serene and beautiful shimmer. They were an inspiration to me for so long.

BJ Burton, producer, Double Negative and Hey What

She will always be the coolest one in the room. And she made me feel like family. Mim changed my life, as I’m sure she did with countless others around the world. Not by just her songs, but by her warm and steady energy that was a guide for me to find beauty in just about any situation. And she’ll forever be the voice on the greatest recordings I’ll ever be a part of. I was fortunate enough to know her laugh, and I will miss that the most.

Georgia Hubley, Yo La Tengo

I didn’t know Mimi well, but as a band that has existed in a similar orbit for a similar length of time as Yo La Tengo I have always felt a strong kinship with Low. Mimi’s stirring voice and singular approach to drumming will stay with me for a long time. A very special memory for us is getting to play with them in NYC last December. Their set was strikingly beautiful, and then Alan and Mimi joined us along with Fred Armisen on drums for a couple of songs. It surely helps to cherish these fleeting moments.

Justin Vernon, Bon Iver

What a gut ache – Mimi was such a powerful force and Low has been the standard that a lot of indie bands are held to, whether they know it or not. Our hearts are breaking in the midwest.

Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker.
Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker. Photograph: Nathan Keay

slow dive

We were lucky enough to tour North America with Low back in 2014. Amid the chaos of touring, Mimi brought a sense of peace and serenity. Like her percussion, her impact was soft yet mighty. We loved watching their soundcheck and then their show each night. It was both a privilege and a joy. I remember Alan saying how Mimi didn’t have to “work” at singing. She was a natural, and her beautiful voice was effortless, one of her many gifts to the world. She leaves us with four decades of profoundly graceful music and memories.

Takiaya Reed, Divide and Dissolve

Mim as an artist completely changed my perspective in terms of what is possible. I have never experienced or witnessed such consistency in any musician. Her voice and her drumming is hypnotic and perfect. My life will be forever changed after having met her. She played and communicated with deep unwavering love and commitment to her craft and her relationships, especially to her family. It was the deepest honor to support Low around the world this year. Every day we played a show, she was so kind and caring. I will miss her hugs and goth fashion vibe, but especially her believing in me and Sylvie [Nehill] as artists and her encouragement. I learned so much and will forever hold this sacred and close to my heart.

Warren EllisDirty Three

Totally heartbreaking news. I remember hearing her vocals come through the headphones when we were doing a take of Down By the River for the In the Fishtank EP. I stopped playing the fiddle. Time stopped. Those moments you’ll never forget. A gentle soul with the voice of an angel and such devotion.

Carrie Brownstein, Sleater Kinney

I first saw Low play in 1997, on September 26, backstage at the Capitol Theater in Olympia, Washington. At midnight, I turned 23, right as they were playing my favorite song of theirs at the time, Venus, a seven-inch single I’d listened to on repeat for days on end. My friend turned to me and mouthed, “Happy birthday.” It remains one of my favorite birthdays ever, and hearing Low play is one of the best gifts I’ve ever received, because like love it is a gift that has never left me. Earlier this year, Corin [Tucker] and I stood side-stage at a festival in Minneapolis and watched Low perform, playing songs off their most recent album, which is among their best. We stood in awe of Mimi’s voice and her drumming, and the soft power of her presence. Afterwards, we caught up with her and Alan, laughing about the years in music we’ve all put in; we talked about aging, parenthood, and of course, effects pedals. You know, all the important stuff. We are grateful for every note Mimi sang and played, notes that changed our lives, and we’re thankful for Low’s music, which will eternally be singular, stunning, staggering. Republished with permission from Sleater-Kinney’s Instagram.

Geoff Barrow, Portishead and Beak>

I am heartbroken by the news of Mimi Parker’s passing. Her voice with Alan’s often moved me unlike any other band. Their music together transcended all the bullshit in the world and I will treasure every time I saw them play live or said hello to Mimi at a festival.

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