The Low Anthem turns a corner
“Maybe some artists reach this point and become safer more refined imitations of themselves. We’re not interested. So…we’ve decided that this upcoming tour will be the last tour of the chapter. It’s not the end…But it’s the last one for a while.”
–Excerpt from The Low Anthem’s announcement on their web site.
Back in September, Providence, Rhode Island indie folk band, The Low Anthem, gave the impression of an indefinite hiatus after their current tour. Though it seems the band was only retiring a particular chapter of their musical career to devote time for reinventing themselves.
Their latest release, an alter-ego side project simply coined Have Fun With Snake Wagon, was released in December, proving further that the band was far from on hiatus, but rather provided a glimpse into what was to come.
Singer-songwriter Ben Knox Miller, vocalists and multi-instrumentalists Jeff Prystowsky and Jocie Adams enlisted two new members, Mike Irwin and Tyler Osborne, for their upcoming tour.
With a string of European festival dates following their North American travels, The Low Anthem have confirmed they’re not going anywhere, and music is still very much in their future.
The Weal spoke with Prystowsky, as the band claimed their new chariot that would take them on a journey across Canada.
J5: I recently listened to a PJ Harvey interview about how she decides what instruments she wants to incorporate into her records. It reminded me of you and how you take sounds and instruments and work with them. How do you decide which instruments to use?
JP: It really has to do with what sounds we’re interested in at the moment. And usually that determines what instruments we try and play, but it doesn’t exactly tell us which ones they are. For example, we’ll say, “Oh, we’re interested in having a kind of a garage band feel.” Well maybe that means electric bass, but maybe you can get an electric bass type sound from another instrument. It’s more about a feel, so that’s how I’d say we work. We’re just open to people showing us instruments and trying to learn them.
J5: What was the idea behind your latest record, released under the alter-ego name, Snake Wagon? Was it collaborative with another band and just a one-time thing?
JP: We recorded that record with The Barr Brothers. It’s not a direct collaboration in that, that’s the band. It’s more of this concept of getting back to just having fun with music. We have these satirical songs, many of which I’ve written.
Everybody just kind of loosens up and they play and kind of experiment and play whatever instrument they feel like. That record was recorded in a few days when The Barr Brothers happened to be visiting. And we thought, “Well, while you’re here, why don’t you play some of these great songs with us.” But I feel like it could exist anywhere, like tonight maybe when we’re sitting around, and if there’s a microphone we might just record another one. It’s really just about a kind of spirit.
J5: Why did you decide to release the record for free?
JP: Because it’s just the spirit of the project. Everyone makes music, everyone has fun with it and it’s not ultimately about money.
J5: In September, there was a post on your web site announcing something that sounded like an indefinite hiatus. Will the festival in the UK be your last live performance?
JP: No, no, no. We’re going on this tour, and then we’re taking a few months off. In the summer we’re going to be playing a few European festivals, but what’s holding [us] from doing a major US tour [is] we’re going to reserve that until we make this new record. We’re taking shows out and about, and yeah, we’re all still together and playing together.
J5: What can we expect on the new record? Will there be any new instruments?
JP: When we come back, we are going to be playing music that’s quite different from what we’ve been doing. Kind of turn the corner on the playing all acoustic instruments and we’re starting to even out our electric mixed sound, in a vague, general term. But you’ll hear what I’m talking about. We’re taking time off to come up with some new ideas. We’re not just repeating ourselves.
The Low Anthem opens for City and Colour at the Jack Singer Concert Hall Jan. 28 and 29.