California dreamer

Low Roar returns to Israel for a solo show

May 27, 2019 21:31
4 minute read.
California dreamer

RYAN (LOW ROAR) KARAZIJA: I’ll tell a story about each song before playing it.. (photo credit: Courtesy)

From stumbling upon the guitar at age 16 and jamming out to skate punk in his California garage in the 1990s, to abandoning the Golden State for a much darker, much colder Iceland in 2010 to uprooting to Poland on a whim, Ryan Karazija has certainly been around the block.

It is only natural to associate the gloomy, atmospheric sound of his musical project, Low Roar, with the ominous Nordic naturescape in which it was born.

However, much like his creative approach, which prospers from simplicity and a resistance to over-thinking, Karazija reassures me that his motive in moving to Reykjavík was quite simple.

“I married an Icelandic girl. That’s it,” he smiles.

Despite growing up in a multicultural family (his father hails from Lithuania, his mother from Mexico), it took years for the California dreamer to travel beyond the confines of the occasional family road trip to Disneyland.

“When I met my wife through a mutual friend, I thought, ‘I’ve never gone anywhere before. It’s about time I take a real vacation!’ And off to Iceland I went.”

This epic chapter in the singer-songwriter’s life unfolded after a brief university stint, which was highly encouraged by his parents. While supportive of their son’s passion, they had voiced their trepidation about a strict career in the arts and urged him to at least complete a bachelor’s degree as a backup plan.

“There was a completely different mentality in the States back then. If you brought me home to meet your dad and introduced me as a musician, he probably wouldn’t be too happy. After all,” he continues, “if you weren’t making money or playing on the radio, you weren’t considered credible. Even though we know that isn’t the case at all.”

After giving it a go, Karazija dropped out of school to focus his creative energy on his music.

“I realized that I was spending more time on my backup plan than what I truly wanted to do. I went home one day and told them, ‘Look, I’m not going anymore.’ And that was that.”

After promising his mother to revisit education if he couldn’t land a record label by age 26, Karazija cannonballed into the local indie pool with his Oakland-based rock band, Audrye Sessions. Unfortunately, the starving artist had not made quite the cosmic splash he had hoped for with this project and felt as though he wasn’t honoring 100% of his creative vision.

He reflects, “I always considered myself an 80% kind of guy. As in, I would write 80% of a song and then let everybody else put in the last 20%, so nothing ever turned out exactly the way that I wanted.”

Karazija regrets not having the confidence at the time to see his visions all the way through: “With this first band, I was throwing an idea into the blender and by the time it was done, I could barely recognize it.”

Thankfully, his move to Iceland in pursuit of his now-wife gave him the push that he needed to finally take full ownership of his craft.

“When I first moved there, I didn’t have that many friends in the music world to turn to. It was a lesson in trust. I’d have an idea, sit down and record a song. Then I’d have another idea. And another. I never expected an album to come from it.”

Until he received a message from Grammy Award-winning producer, Andrew Scheps, asking what he had been up to. Karazija sent Scheps the songs and that was the beginning of the project.

THIS WEEK, the self-confident, instrument-savvy solo artist is off to England to add the finishing touches to his fourth record before sending it off to be mixed.
The last time we caught Low Roar in Israel (November 2017), Karazija was touring his third studio album, Once in a Long, Long While.

It came in the wake of a difficult divorce and touched on some emotionally taxing themes.

This time around, he will be tapping into some raw emotions yet again, especially since there are a few songs on this new album that hit home. “Sometimes I can feel it in the back of my throat like a lump,” he says.

He plans to flip the script with a more intimate, solo performance – bouncing around onstage between guitar and piano, with a heaping portion of storytelling to round off the set.

“I plan to play a lot of material that we didn’t get to play last time we came to town – from all of the records, including the new one. But obviously, I’ll be performing stripped versions of each.”

This is by no means Low Roar’s first solo appearance, either. After losing their gear on a red-eye to Zurich out of Ben-Gurion Airport in 2017, Karazija had to finish off the final two shows of that tour alone, since he had luckily managed to carry on his guitar.

“I loved [the format],” he admits. “I was really surprised by the audience’s reaction. As a full band, every song blends into the next and we tend to focus less on crowd interaction. My solo set is much longer – almost two hours – because I’ll tell a story about each song before playing it. This brings in a certain focus and helps listeners tune in entirely.

“So far, the solo shows have gone really well. I haven’t had a bad response, yet. Most fans even favor this format because of the intimate setting. I can only hope Israelis will feel the same way.”

Low Roar performs on June 3 in Tel Aviv. For tickets:

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