Electro-blues band Low Volts is fronted by guitarist Tim Lowman, whose great-grandfather J. Warren Lowman (aka Doc Lowman) was a Missouri gospel singer who wrote a book about how he escaped the electric chair.
“By the time my senior year in high school came around,” Lowman says, “I was getting into a lot of trouble.” Born and raised in Los Angeles, he says his mother sent him to live with his dad in Boulder, Colorado. “That was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I ended up meeting a friend who eventually taught me to play ‘Iron Man,’ by Black Sabbath. I haven’t put the guitar down since.”
As for the origin of Low Volts, Lowman says “There was a point when my last band decided to go on hiatus and I had no one to play with. Eventually, I just started playing these heavy, dirty riffs by myself using a glass slide. I had a dusty old kick drum set up in the corner of my room, and I would keep time with that and just jam for hours. So, basically, Low Volts was born out of necessity.”
Lowman, who has also fronted Blackout Party, says “It’s just me, a kickdrum, an old guitar and a microphone. Kind of a cross between early Elvis and Evel Knievel.” Lowman also plays flute.
“Those riffs evolved into actual songs. I would record them just so I wouldn’t forget them. But instead of multitracking, I put one microphone in the room and recorded the kick drum, vocals, and guitar live to save time. On playback, it sounded like three or four musicians. No one believed it was just me playing everything all at once.”
Just don't call him a one-man band. “I actually loathe the term ‘one-man band’ because it brings to mind the weirdo in the town square with kazoos in his ears and cymbals between his knees. I think Low Volts is something you have to witness live to understand...there’s something about the crash-and-burn element that really makes it exciting for me and, in turn, the audience. When everything is mic’d properly, there’s nothing stopping me from playing tiny bars to arena-sized venues. I always tell the sound guy that the force of the kick drum needs to crack sternums.”
The band released Twist Shake Grind Break in May 2011. At the San Diego Music Awards that August, they took home trophies for Best New Artist and Best Blues Album. Lowman’s other band Blackout Party won the Best Americana award.
Early 2012 found Lowman playing a two week residency at the Continental Club in Austin Texas, followed by a weekly solo gig at downtown’s Hard Rock Hotel. A new Low Volts’ full-length was released in December 2012.
“On my debut record, the only overdubs were some chains and tambourines, which I have girls play at live shows.” In concert, he’s also sometimes accompanied by a pair of female dancers known as the Hi-Watts.
In early 2014, Low Volts recorded a song heard on the “Liege Lord” episode of the CW network’s TV show Reign. “I basically imagined what Low Volts would sound like 500 years ago and wrote it on instruments similar to that time in musical history — mandolins, hand drums, flute harmonies, and dark, mysterious vocal tracks. I had no idea what the scene would be before it aired. I had never even heard of the show before.”
Lowman says he was surprised by the action accompanying “Deep Within the Forest.” “The song was set to a scene in a Scottish brothel where, just as things are getting heated up, the door is busted open, someone gets brutally murdered by a wooden stake to the neck, and the entire place gets torched to the ground!”
Around 2016, Lowman moved to Nashville with his Blackout Party bandmate, singer/songwriter Brian Holwerda. Lowman, by then performing as Low Volts, although he eventually returned to San Diego, while Holwerda stayed in Tennessee. “I fell in love in Nashville on tour with Blackout Party,” says Lowman of his two years there. “At the time you could rent a two-bedroom house on ¾-acre in East Nashville for $650, and all your neighbors were musicians. It made so much sense to be where music ruled the town and people shared the same passion. Plus it’s a great hub for touring the south and east coast.”