"Don't Forget Sister," the breakout anthem by Low Vs Diamond, centers on the affecting lyric, "Don't forget sister, to always be true / You come from a good home that won't forget you." The major-chord progression erupts in an epic style reminiscent of Glasvegas, and at the finale, singer Lucas Field's voice hits a higher register, firing synapses usually reserved for Bono.
Two weeks ago, the Daytrotter music Web site posted a stripped-down set recorded by the band. Daytrotter's Sean Moeller described the song's message as, "there's the most worth in being a good person and recognizing that you've come from other good people even if they don't have the biggest house or shiny watches and all the free time in the world to just coast it out." Yet for all that pride in origins, LVD has distanced itself dramatically from its past, and taken its sweet time doing so.
The core of what would eventually be known as Low Vs Diamond started as a jam band way back in 2002 in Boulder, Colo., where Field, Howie Diamond (drums) and Tad Moore (keys) were undergrads at the University of Colorado. It's quite rare for jam-band musicians, accustomed to loose, indulgent playing, to stumble upon disciplined, concise songwriting -- let alone LVD's mainstream appeal. But that's exactly what happened.
"We woke up from the void, I think!" says Field, with a raspy chuckle. "When I figured out how to play piano, we started listening to more Beatles stuff. It sort of shined a little light, and said, 'Wait a minute -- songwriting can be shorter and be tighter and be just as complicated and probably better.'"
When the three musicians decided to continue the band after college, they relocated to Los Angeles, where they hooked up with Jon Pancoast (bass) and Anthony Polcino (lead guitar), and focused on tightening up their sound and material.
Field says the jam-band phase was good to go through. "I still appreciate it, I still love the Grateful Dead, but it's a weird thing." Now that they've established themselves as purveyors of tight, grandly romantic pop songs, Field says they're drawing on that jam-band phase to energize their live show. The idea is "bringing five percent of that back, so it's not two-minute Strokes songs that just end. I'd like a little bit more energy, a little bit more live, a little bit more fun."
LVD's self-titled debut full-length, out last year on major-label Epic Records, was a long time coming. "It feels like it has been 25 years," jokes Field. "We're like Anvil, Jr.," referring to the Canadian metal band that's found unexpected fame very late in the game, through a wildly popular documentary.
Catching the ear of Dominic Hardisty, who launched The Killers' career, Low Vs Diamond first released an EP, Life After Love, in the U.K. on Marrakesh Records. "That was really the first place that someone was like, 'Oh, these are good songs, let's put 'em out,'" says Field. "I think we were just confident in what it was and persistent, and had support from family and different people, and just kept going. It sorta felt like, 'If we just keep going, there's going to be a good end in sight.'"
That eye to the future and a nostalgic preoccupation with the past inform the songs on Low Vs Diamond, especially the admonitions of "Don't Forget Sister," and "Heart Attack," with its ashes-to-ashes theme and creepy video in which Field and a woman rapidly age.
"When you get your first chance to put something out, I think it naturally happens that you try to retrospective a lot of stuff in life that you've gone through," says Field. "It's like if you're in college and you have your first big thesis paper or something, you're gonna really take a huge swing at the fences, rather than simplifying it."
Many of the songs were co-written with writer and artist Brandon Murphy, a friend of Field's since high school. "If I have something really personal to write, I usually will write it, and it will be a pretty literal song. But if I'm sort of sitting there with a good moment, but I don't know what to write about, it's great to have someone else's energy, someone else's ideas. Like Jerry Garcia man! He's like Robert Hunter. Or Elton John and Bernie Taupin -- we're like the Tumbleweed Connection." He laughs.
LVD makes its Pittsburgh debut Sat., May 16, opening for Ben Lee at Club Café, and Field is enthusiastic about how the band's been playing lately, in terms that inadvertently echo its jam-band roots. "You can kinda tell when you are and you're not, and right now, everybody's just in that groove."
Low Vs Diamond, opening for Ben Lee. 10:30 p.m. Sat., May 16. Club Café, 56-58 S. 12th St., South Side. $15. 412-431-4950 or www.clubcafelive.com