Low Skies: Chris Salveter’s Tortured Love Songs

When I called Low Skies frontman and guitarist Chris Salveter, he sounded as if he just rolled out of bed. It was mid-afternoon, but that wouldn’t be anything too uncommon since he is, in fact, in a rock band. “No no, I’ve been up for hours actually,” Salveter told me in his gravely voice. “I have bronchitis and can’t sleep so I’ve been up for awhile.”

I offer to call back at another time, but he declines my request saying he was fine even though he sounded like he was one step from his deathbed. Salveter wanted to get everything done and out of the way before departing in a couple weeks for a Southeast Asia. The plan was to take a 44-day bike trip with some friends to lose themselves totally.

“I am going to have to get a crate to ship my bike over and it will be waiting for me at this place, a postal-type place. All I have to do is really pack a big backpack and I am ready to go,” Salveter said with a noticeable excited pitch in his swollen voice.

This was to be his first venture to the Orient, or overseas for that matter. Salveter had his passport ready, his immunization shots and was just nursing his virus until vacation time. Before he was to head off on the big jet plane away from the cold Chicago winter, Salveter talked about the amazing new Low Skies record that came out Feb. 21 of this year. The Chicago-based label Flameshovel Records released All the Love I Could Find. The album is 10 tracks of fictional and non-fictional stories told in first person by Salveter. The subject matter revolves around familiar themes of love and love lost, but these aren’t standard love songs. Salvator covers a lot of ground, dealing with topics such as homosexuality (“Stone Mountain”), failing relationships (“Sweet Young Girls”), incest puppy love (“Cousins”) and severe depression (“Torture.”)

Lyrically, All the Love I Could Find comes off like a diary of sorts. There is also a mysterious quality to it that leaves you trapped inside its notes and words wanting to know more. “This is a break up record, can you tell?” Salveter says with a faint laugh, perhaps still a little hurt in his heart. “These songs have traces of actual events and characters. There is a lot about the songs that are fiction, too. They are different projections of different situations I’ve been in. I don’t approach every song in the same way. They all come in different terrains.”

Bearing one’s soul in such a manner, no matter how beautiful the outcome of the art, can be very difficult. After all, when you are a musician you have to play these songs over and over at every show. So, it is like you are reliving that break up every night you step on stage.

“It can be pretty tricky. There is a thin line of being cliché. To making something new and different to being an honest account of who you are. It was a lot more challenging, for me. It was much harder to write songs that were closer to me than the previous records.”

The 10 songs on this effort were written sporadically over different periods, as time would allow. Some of the songs Low Skies recorded were three weeks old and some were three years old.

Low Skies is completed with Jason Creps (drums), Jacob Ross (guitar), Brandon Ross (bass), and Luther Rochester (keyboards.) They recorded All the Love I Could Find in a mere 15 days.

“We recorded this album in 15 days straight. Usually, we worked 12 to 13 hours straight … working all the way through. We recorded this record on a steady diet of Miller Light and energy bars. It was an intensive work process.”

Low Skies’ first two releases (The Bed in 2003, I Have Been to Beautiful Places 2004) featured just the five band members. With the new record, Salveter wanted to bring in more ideas and instrumentation to give the new record a well-rounded appeal.

“We had more studio time this time around, so that made it easier to experiment with new sounds,” Salveter said. Guest appearances come from Jill O’Sullivan (fiddle), Scott Adamson (banjo) and Kelly Hogan (backing vocals) of The Jody Grind and her solo records on Bloodshot Records.

“I have been a big fan of Kelly’s,” Salveter professed. “We met and got along. So, we stayed in touch and I asked her to be on the record. It’s great to meet people you admire musically and then get along with them.” As Salveter readies himself to go travel Southeast Asia on his bike, the trip is a welcome event for his personal and musical life.

“I am not in a place to write new music right now. I need more time. I am curious to see where it takes me. I think the bike trip is going to bring new ideas.”