With his own sense of sophisticated pop craft, it’s no surprise Nick Lowe might be something of a Bee Gees or Dionne Warwick fan. Those both translate into his version of Warwick’s 1982 Bee Gees-written (and produced) hit “Heartbreaker,” which is part of the new Tokyo Bay/Crying Inside EP with Los Straitjackets that Lowe releases June 15 via Yep Roc Records.
Lowe tells Billboard the easygoing, laid-back version of the song is “a soundcheck tune…something we might play before the show. I always thought it was a really, really great song, and like a lot of Bee Gees songs it really has got sort of hidden depth. I’m a great fan of the Bee Gees; You don’t necessarily know what they’re singing about a lot of the time, but they just make this fantastic sound and a lot of their songs are really soulful when you strip them all back. And that song ‘Heartbreaker’ I always thought was a really soulful song.
“I just started doing it in the soundchecks and then the Straitjackets liked it. They said, ‘Let’s have a go at doing that’ and it really turned out well, I thought.”
The four-song EP comes in front of Lowe’s latest tour with Los Straitjackets — starting June 22 in Jersey City, NJ — and represents his first release of new material in five years. “I’d rather gone off the idea of making any more records,” Lowe says, partially because of the marketplace and also because touring had become so busy and lucrative recently. Lowe also felt that, “I don’t want to be one of those guys who just churns out stuff that’s not got much juice in it, one of those old timers. So I wasn’t exactly beating a path to the nearest recording studio to inflict my latest stuff on the public. There’s such a lot of time and expense in making a record, and I’ve made so many of them, why would I put myself through them any longer?” Making an EP, however, does return Lowe to the earliest days of his career in England, when “that was a perfectly legitimate thing to do, to just put out an EP.”
But, he adds, with a laugh, “I don’t know if anyone buys EPs nowadays — or albums anymore, right? It seems like sort of a strange thing to do, but everything about the marketing of records nowadays is a complete mystery to me.”
The EP does allow him to continue his relationship with Los Straitjackets, which began three and a half years ago with his tour to support his 2013 holiday album Quality Street. “They’re an extremely good group, very, very good musicians, and also they’re extremely agreeable people to tour with,” Lowe says of the masked quartet, which shares the same manager and during the spring of 2017 released the Lowe tribute album What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Los Straitjackets. “The Christmas show was sort of an excuse for us to go out and do a few gigs. It’s not very difficult to replace the Christmas songs with some unseasonable material, and it’s great to be able to do tunes that I don’t do with anybody else nowadays, and that don’t really work when I do my solo shows. It’s a pretty good rock ‘n’ roll show we’ve got.” And even better news is that the Lowe-Los Straitjackets association may result in more new music sooner rather than later.
“We’re doing another session in June, when I come back to the United States,” Lowe says. “So we’ll record a couple of new songs and maybe another soundcheck favorite, who knows? I feel like with these guys anything is possible.”