Low drummer and vocalist Mimi Parker dies aged 55

Alongside husband Alan Sparhawk, Parker formed Low in the early 90s, and their minimal alternative to the era’s grunge-heavy music saw them acclaimed as one of indie-rock’s most original bands

Mimi Parker, drummer, vocalist and songwriter for the Minnesota indie band Low, has died, her husband and bandmate Alan Sparhawk has said. Parker was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in December 2020. She was 55 years old, the band’s management confirmed.

The band shared the news on social media. “Friends, it’s hard to put the universe into language and into a short message, but She passed away last night, surrounded by family and love, including yours. Keep her name close and sacred. Share this moment with someone who needs you. Love is indeed the most important thing.”

The news follows the cancellation of a string of live shows due to concerns related to Parker’s health. After a diagnosis in late 2020, Parker began treatment for ovarian cancer in 2021, and publicly revealed her health status in a podcast interview at the start of 2022.

Many of the band’s peers paid tribute online. “I heard the news in the most base circumstances, surrounded by degenerates, stuck and cursing, in a conference room in Deerfield,” wrote producer Steve Albini, who worked with the band on the 1996 Transmission EP and the albums Secret Name (1999) and Things We Lost in the Fire (2001). “I was momentarily overwhelmed, the sound of her voice resonant in my memory, beautiful and heartbreaking. Godspeed Mimi Parker. Requiescat.”

Beak>, the Bristol trio led by Geoff Barrow, also of Portishead, said: “We can’t express how saddened we are of this news. Mimi & Alan have created some of the greatest music of our time and to have spent time with them was a very humbling experience for us. A beautiful couple. Our thoughts are with Alan and their family.”

Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite said he was “absolutely heartbroken” by the news. Cosey Fanni Tutti and Tracey Thorn were also among those remembering Parker.

Parker was born in 1967 and grew up in a small town outside of Bemidji, Minnesota. She began experimenting with music from a young age, coming up with harmonies to complement her sister’s guitar and leads. The pair sang along to the old country and gospel records introduced to them by their parents.

Low performing in Edinburgh in April 2022.
Low performing in Edinburgh in April 2022. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

During this time, Parker found music to be “a solace, a place of escape”, she later told Stereogum. She also played percussion in a concert band and a marching band at high school.

Parker met future bandmate and husband Alan Sparhawk at primary school, before they formed Low in 1993, with bassist John Nichols. Initially she played a modest drum kit composed of just a snare, cymbal and floor tom, and used brushes instead of drumsticks. The band’s debut album, I Could Live in Hope, was released in 1994, and later included in Pitchfork’s 1999 list of the best albums of the 1990s.

While supplementary members of the band came and went, Parker and Sparhawk remained at the helm throughout Low’s almost-30 year history.

With their slow, minimal arrangements and often quiet delivery, Low are recognised as one of the most original and accomplished names in indie rock. Crafting a softer alternative to the heavy, grunge-oriented sounds of the 90s, the band have been associated with the rock subgenre “slowcore” – although members have publicly disapproved of the term.

Across their 29-year career, Low have put out 13 full-length studio albums. While maintaining a distinct sonic identity, the band have weaved in different styles across their discography. Their 1999 EP Christmas is one of the most beloved indie-rock takes on festive music, and brought the band to further attention when it was featured on an advert for Gap clothing.

Their two most recent LPs, Double Negative and Hey What, released by Sub Pop in 2018 and 2021 respectively, saw the band make further forays into electronic music and digital manipulation, something that was trialled on the 1999 record Secret Name, and were hailed as a magnificent career reinvention.

Following the departure of bassist Steve Garrington after 12 years and four studio albums, the band officially became a duo in 2021.

Parker is survived by her two children Hollis and Cyrus, as well as Sparhawk.


Safi Bugel

The GuardianTramp

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