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Low Life

Merging dense clouds of post-punk guitar with songs that are straightforward, angry, and brutally honest, Low Life are an Australian band who value the philosophy of punk without being tied down to its stylistic templates. Emerging from the Sydney garage rock scene alongside bands like Total Control and Royal Headache, Low Life's songs start out physical and elemental, but once the band adds layers of guitars and keyboards over the top, the music gains a weight and heft that only adds to its power. The group first made an impression on the Australian punk scene with 2014's Dogging, cut with the group's initial three-piece lineup, and after a recording layoff, Low Life expanded to a quintet for 2019's Downer Edn, which boasted a bigger, more nuanced and multi-layered sound while still maintaining the angry but foggy quality of their earlier work. Low Life was formed by Mitch Tolman on guitar, keyboards, and lead vocals, Cristian O'Sullivan on bass and vocals, and Greg Alfaro on drums and vocals. The group made their recording debut in 2010 with a self-titled cassette-only release issued by Harbour City Tapes. 2011 saw the release of a seven-inch vinyl EP, Sydney Darbs, featuring four songs. The EP was brought out by Negative Guest List Records, and Low Life began working on a full-length album for the label. However, the death of label founder Brendon Annesley put the project on hold, and it wasn't until 2014 that the album, Dogging, finally saw release though Disinfect Records. While the earliest recordings were deliberately muddy lo-fi projects, Dogging reflected a more focused musical dynamic, and the band toured in support, including a string of North American shows opening for Iceage. Various personal and professional commitments occupied the time of Low Life's members, and Tolman recorded and performed as 3NDLES5, a electronic/R&B side project. Beginning in 2016, Low Life started recording their second full-length album, a project that would not be completed until 2018. During the recording, the band swelled from three to five musicians with the addition of Kerem Daldal (formerly of Oily Boys) on guitar and keyboards and Yuta Matsumura (ex-Orion), who took over guitar duties so Tolman could focus on his vocals. In March 2019, the second Low Life album, Downer Edn ("edn" is short for "edition"), was released at last, by Goner Records in the United States, Cool Death in Australia, and Alter Records in the U.K. and Europe. Like many bands, Low Life's touring schedule was wiped clean by the COVID-19 pandemic, but they played occasional live-streamed concerts for their fans, including a prestigious May 2020 performance at the Sydney Opera House. They continued to write and record fresh material, and their third album, From Squats to Lots: The Agony and XTC of Low Life, was released in November 2021.
© Mark Deming /TiVo
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