The Low Anthem
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The Low Anthem

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"NPR, Dec 07", January 8, 2008 - It's common for artists these days to shun traditional song structures. They take pains to deconstruct straight folk or pop standards for a more eclectic mashup of acoustic and electronic instrumentation and beats. But Rhode Island duo The Low Anthem keeps it real with an authentic old-school folk that digs deep into the Americana past.

The Low Anthem's reverence for tradition results in a beautifully recorded collection of handmade songs called What the Crow Brings. It's a creaky, barebones album that travels dusty roads of both sorrow and joy. While the album is steeped in the past, inspired melodies and careful use of toy piano, pump organ and horns keep it sounding fresh.

The Low Anthem is the music of Ben Miller and Jeffrey Prystowsky. The two self-produced What the Crow Brings and performed all the instruments.

The featured track is inspired by a collection of bones hanging in an old bar in New York City's East Village. The artifacts were placed there by soldiers drafted in the first World War. Surviving men returned to the bar after the War to break their respective bones and have a long overdue beer. - NPR

"New Haven Advocate, Sep 08"

New Haven Advocate, September 4, 2008 - With his worn felt trilby, his rumpled and stain-spotted trousers, and his old brown shoes, Low Anthem frontman Ben Miller looks like he's from another generation. He might be a Beat, coming off a cross-country bender with Neal Cassady. Or he might be a dustbowl refugee, a Woody Guthrie-like traveling musician rolling into town on a boxcar.

It's hard to place Miller in a particular time just like it's difficult to place the Low Anthem's music in a specific genre. Their Wednesday night CD-release show at The Space demonstrated a mix of rootsy, jangly, americana rock and lonesome dusty folk songs. (Click the arrows above to see more from the show.) Several songs were dead ringers for Tom Waits tunes, down to the hoarse gritty vocals. (One song actually was a Tom Waits cover: a song with lyrics written by Jack Kerouac). Others featured the sweet falsetto voicework that's currently in vogue among a certain segment of indie-rockers (see Bon Iver. Also here.).

The uniting characteristic of the music is the attention to detail and arrangement. The band (which features one more member than the last time I saw them) is constantly switching instruments. The drummer plays trumpet. He picks up a singing bowl for one tune. Miller moves between electric and acoustic guitar and banjo and harmonica. Backing vocalist Jocie Adams plays guitar, clarinet, and trumpet. All four members of the band take turns on the pump organ. Then there are little details and flourishes like when Adams adds some subtle percussion by rubbing her hands together in front of the mic.

All of it gives the music a distinct richness. When they've got three horns going at once, plus the pump organ, it sound almost like church music, lushly reverential and vaguely elegiac.

Wednesday's show was the first show that the Low Anthem has headlined in Connecticut. The band was celebrating the September 2nd release of their second album, "Oh My God, Charlie Darwin." Between songs, Miller told the story of how they'd thought up the name for the album while walking around a zoo. They were excited by the possibility of getting the album banned in the Bible Belt because of the reference to evolutionary theory. "So we've contacted three impressionable teenagers in Kansas," said Miller, "and provided them with free mp3 downloads for them to take to high school in their iPods."

Look for the new Low Anthem album, coming soon to a creationism debate near you.

Opening for the Low Anthem was a band called The Accident That Led Me To The World. An overlong name for a band, it could be argued, but the length seems appropriate for a trio fronted by the verbose Mark Mandeville. He kept the audience chuckling indulgently with his lengthy patter between songs, sweetly and slowly over-describing all the bands actions. ("So... we're going to play another song. Because... that's what we came here. To do. For you.")

The stand-up comedy between tunes was a marked contrast to the soulful, introspective folk songs that The Accident performed. - Tom MacMillan

"The Boston Globe, Aug 08"

The Boston Globe, August 1, 2008 - Right down to its name, the Low Anthem embraces contrast, paradox, and contradiction. As intimate and spare as it sounds, for instance, the trio's soon-to-be-released second full-length album, "Oh My God, Charlie Darwin," features no fewer than 27 instruments: pump organ, zither, banjo. You name it, it's probably on there.

The subject matter of the songs, band members say, represents an attempt to grapple with the seemingly mutually exclusive impulses of community and competition: the human need for inclusion and acceptance pitted against a Darwinian drive that champions the survival of the fittest. If that idea sounds ambitious, it's because it is.

How three musicians from such a small state (Rhode Island), all in their early 20s, can make such a big noise that sounds wise well beyond their years, is perhaps the Low Anthem's greatest dichotomy.

"It's hard to listen to right now," singer-multi-instrumentalist Ben Miller says of his group's forthcoming album. "But I'll take a break and then go back and figure out what it's about."

Miller, who's talking with his bandmates Jeffrey Prystowsky and Jocie Adams over beers at Toad in Porter Square, claims confusion even though he's capably explaining - in great detail, no less - the themes behind the band's new collection of superbly crafted, grandly eloquent songs. The album begins and ends with a pair of beauties: the falsetto-sung "Charlie Darwin" and the gently striking "To Ohio (Reprise)." They're tracks that, in bookending the collection, are supremely haunted mood pieces that set and then reiterate a magnificently eclectic tone.

The members of the Low Anthem, which has shifted in number over the years and is about to add a fourth member (drummer Cyrus Scofield), regard themselves as a contemporary folk band. But the breadth of their heady influences - we hear hints of Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Grant-Lee Phillips, the Scud Mountain Boys - traverses much broader stylistic ground than one genre can encapsulate. Miller calls their shows "bipolar."

No wonder they've opened for both folk legend Richard Thompson and punk icon Thurston Moore. When we talk, they've just returned from performing in front of about 2,000 people at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival near the Berkshire mountains in New York. Now the band is kicking off its most extensive undertaking yet: a 28-date US club tour that includes opening for Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles tomorrow at Johnny D's. Several CD-release parties are also scheduled for September, when the new album comes out.

To capture what it was after with "Oh My God, Charlie Darwin," the band holed up in a remote cabin on Block Island and recorded in the dead of winter. Portable equipment was transported by ferry to the hideaway. On the one hand, Miller says, "the bleak landscape and the absence of other human sounds left us to deal with ourselves." On the other, "it was very tense because we were trying to get everything done in 10 days."

Although Miller and Prystowsky started the band several years back at Brown University, where they had both studied composition (they also played together in an amateur baseball league in Connecticut), they met fellow Brown student Adams when they enlisted her to record a clarinet track on the new album. Adams had grown up studying classical music and says she "had gone to many, many [Low Anthem] shows" before she joined the band in November 2007.

Ask her who her biggest musical influences have been and Adams cites Bob Dylan, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, and that venerable rock 'n' roller Gustav Mahler. Of her bandmates, Adams says, "I love their dedication and the obvious love of music, and I'm blown away by their ideas."

It wasn't always that way for Prystowsky, who, after years of practicing and playing, felt as though music had run its course in his life. The spark, he says, just flickered out.

"I wanted to be a professional baseball player or a baseball historian," Prystowsky, a second baseman, says with a smile. "At a certain point, I became disenchanted with music. It didn't feel as exciting. But since joining the band, I feel like I've got that fire again. I feel like we're onto something and it's satisfying."

"We're still working on it every day," Miller says of both the Low Anthem and the intraband relationships that drive it. "We're very different from one another. Musically, we're very similar, but I think there's a lot of tension when the three of us are playing together or hanging out. In some ways, it's good because when you're butting heads with someone who wants to do things a different way, you're challenging yourself to sharpen your ideas. I think our identity has grown out of that tension." - Jonathan Perry

"Northeast Performer, Dec 07"

For the recent release of their second album, What The Crow Brings, Providence duo The Low Anthem put together 500 hand-silkscreened, serial numbered CDs packaged in recycled cereal boxes. These rare gems for music lovers were a nod to an era when the beautifully rendered artwork and printed lyric sleeves of albums were just as important as the music housed inside. It’s nostalgia for a time even further gone by that best describes The Low Anthem’s fascinating music — soft, simple, and moving pieces that conjure images of quiet campfires and dusty saloons.

According to Ben Miller and Jeff Pystowsky, the two young multi-instrumentalists who make up The Low Anthem, capturing this unique sound in the exact way they wanted, took a healthy amount of time, patience, and vintage instruments. “We’d work for a whole day with six mics in the room just to find the right upright bass sound,” says Miller, also noting that the duo scrapped numerous versions of songs, and sometimes songs entirely, during the eight months they spent home-recording What The Crow Brings in the Providence apartment they shared at the time.

Deeply rooted in dark folk with hints of gospel and country, the sound of The Low Anthem is best described as music undisturbed by and uninterested in the trends and technology of the last half-century. “There are more than 25 instruments on the album that the two of us play,” Miller states matter-of-factly, among them a pump organ, a tube harp, and a toy piano. “A big part of our music is creating textures through different combinations of instruments. You’ll never hear a guitar solo or a trumpet solo. The instruments are all there, but blended together in very minimalist parts.”

Emanating from this deliberate simplicity in sound is a thick, emotional fog — a mood further haunted by natural touches like the brush of a hand against the guitar or the soft gurgling of air through the pump organ. Miller’s voice rides high in the mix, stringing together ambiguous story songs about everyday objects like bones, the moon, crows and not-so-common subjects like a Spanish heartbreaker, a war-ritual at a local saloon, and a man going insane in his home.

To Miller, keeping the story open for listener interpretation is key. “Our songs are abstract stories and circle around ideas that are kind of vague to the listener, and vague to us as well. The subject has to be abstract in order for us to think imaginatively about how to tell the story.”

The one exception to this rule may be “Sawdust Saloon,” a somewhat straightforward story of a young man going off to the Vietnam War, told with acoustic guitar and mandolin accompaniment. The centerpiece of the story — the narrator hanging a chicken bone on the chandelier — is based in truth from an actual bar in New York.

“The story behind those bones,” says Miller, “is that before soldiers went off to World War I, they would raise a drink and hang up these chicken bones. The idea was that when you came back from the war, you’d go out for a drink with your buddies and break the wishbone. The bones that are still there are from those who didn’t come back. I chose to place the main character in Vietnam because it’s a war that’s more recognizable right now with its parallels to what’s happening in Iraq.”

Having captured the feeling they wanted in their home studio, Miller and Pystowky are now constantly challenged with recreating a similar mood onstage, and with much fewer instruments. But according to them, it’s the power of their performances and their sincerity that people most appreciate.

“Our live show is always loose,” explains Miller. “It’s never clean and crisp and nice. We’re not a polished live group at all, which I love, because when it’s polished, you can’t really hear the music anymore. Music lives somewhere in the mistakes that you make, and the fact that your voice is slightly out of tune. If you know what you’re trying to do as a performer, then you can’t do it honestly because you’re too self-aware.”

In their ongoing attempt to bridge the gap between the junkyard ballads of Tom Waits and the edgy folk rock of Neil Young, The Low Anthem will bring their raw, live experience to intimate venues all over the Northeast this winter. - Brett Cromwell

", Nov 07"

In college, I lived with a number of douchebags. One is an Emmy-award-winning writer. You can see him picketing in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater these days. Another, a tiny Philistine, once told me after we listened to Miles Davis’s dark masterpiece Live-Evil, “when you get older, you will like James Taylor.” Well, Darren, I’m about to turn 30, and James Taylor still resides firmly in the realm of cheese -- cellophane-wrapped, bland American cheese -- within my critical perspective. My musical tastes have changed; that much is true. Music no longer needs to toe the line between cacophony and brilliance in order to be intriguing. I am now a fan of simple songs with simple chords and simple lyrics. If you knew the 19-year-old me, you would be surprised to hear I am going to give Low Anthem’s stark, spare, mesmeric new album, What the Crow Brings, a good review.

But the soon-to-be 30-year-old me cannot resist lines like “The moon, it ain’t nothin’ but an old rotten bone,” or a low register version of “The Sunny Side of Life,” or the slow and stately trumpet that accompanies the album’s opener, “The Ballad of Broken Bones.” This album is a lullaby for adults. It is an album for those of us who long for the sea to heal our panic-stricken souls. It is an album for those of us who have been yellowed by time. It is an album stripped down and laid bare, without pretension, without indie posturing, without a worry of what the world may think of it. It is an album full of ennui and splendor, candor and innocence, rust and age.

These young men from Providence, Rhode Island, Ben Miller and Jeff Prystowsky, who have yet to turn 25, are not perfect. The use of electric guitar on “Yellowed by the Sun” is perhaps something that would have been edited out by a producer if they had chosen to employ one. At times the drums plod along, stealing from the celestial quality of their voices. It would be a stretch to call the album a masterpiece as a couple tracks need work. There are a few other kinks that I am sure will be ironed out as the years roll on, but they are not worth mentioning. These young men are two old souls who took the time to record a thing of wonder. While I am just as excited about discovering Tangerine Dream on, and I wouldn’t recommend What the Crow Brings for getting pumped up to go out, it is a fine, healing thing no matter how old you are. It came at a good time for me. I hope it does the same for you. - David Paul Kleinman

"Providence Daily Dose, Aug 08"

Providence Daily Dose, August 8th, 2008 - It’s not often you attend a political fundraiser where the entertainment is a raggedy be-hatted trio of lovable hobos who blast though clanging, joyous numbers with choruses like “The skyline’s on fire!” and filter a haunting cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Bird On a Wire” through a warm bath of electric hum. The Low Anthem can be both gentle and calamitous at once, and on their new Oh My God, Charlie Darwin, they expand on what what NPR referred to as their “hand-made songs” and deliver a devastatingly beautiful record of love, death, and the death of love painstakingly infused with the sound of icy coastal waters and vast, sun soaked horizons.

The album was recorded on wintry Block Island this past January and the atmosphere of that bleak locale surely lent a windswept and fatally romantic aura to the proceedings as the songs are utterly drowned in death and desolation yet hope seems to magically spring up; “If your pilot light should die/do not quake and do not bark/you will find the spark” from the delicate and plaintive “Don’t Tremble”, and “This island shall be shackled to her waters/here we vow to never change” from “Cage The Songbird”.

The album’s creaking, almost entirely acoustic sound is drenched in softly weezing harmonium, harmonica and clarinet, rickety upright bass, banjo and drums and the graceful drunken swoon of gorgeous backing vocals from multi-instrumentalists Jeff Prystowsky and Jocie Adams.

And the singing, Jesus Christ the singing. Songwriter and vocalist Ben Knox Miller is so great at alternating between flinty, desperate and tender crooning (on the opening twin salvos “Charlie Darwin” and the utterly heartbreaking “To Ohio”) and the raw throated howling of the aforementioned “The skyline’s on fire!” chorus wail from “The Horizon is a Beltway.” With this record Mr. Miller has proved himself the best singer in Providence, and probably the best songwriter too.

Don’t deny yourself this record, and make sure you see The Low Anthem before they break our hearts and move to greener pastures. - Eric Smith

"Portland Phoenix, Aug 08"

Portland Phoenix, August 13, 2008 - August in Maine always threatens to become a quick non-sequitur into autumn. What better timing then, for SPACE to host Surprise Me Mr. Davis, a band whose bright and sunny pop can deviate toward a dark and foreboding sound of contemplation and lost love.

Though they’ve attracted little national attention to date, either the headliner or their opening act, Providence’s the Low Anthem, could be another band we’ll all be talking about in the next year. The Low Anthem is a trio who keep their performance within the bounds of somber low-fi. Employing a wide range of instruments — clarinet to banjo — their style spans everything from learnings of Brown Bird to a postmodern Neil Young. - Chad Chamberlain

"The Providence Journal, Sept 08"

Providence Journal, September 4, 2008 - Oh My God, Charlie Darwin, the second record from Providence-based The Low Anthem, was recorded “in the ghostly stillness of a Block Island winter” — and it sounds like it. There’s a nearly equal mix of the impulse to give in to that ghostly stillness and to rage against it.

Low Anthem co-founder Ben Knox Miller says of Charlie Darwin, “I think we pushed the hard things a little harder and made the soft things a little softer. The poles and the swings are a little wider” as opposed to their previous record, What the Crow Brings. Sure enough, the gentle lull of the title track and the loud raunch of “The Horizon Is a Beltway” and “Home I’ll Never Be” (a cover with lyrics by Jack Kerouac and music by Tom Waits) make for a striking contrast.

Miller and his band mates are embarking on their biggest tour yet for this record — 30 shows in 16 states in 28 days — and have gotten some rave reviews. The Boston Globe, for example, called the group “wise beyond their years” (they’re all in their early 20s) and the record a collection of “superbly crafted, grandly eloquent songs.”

One of the words that gets thrown around a lot with The Low Anthem is “Americana.” And yes, there are lyrics about railroad lines and evil women, but their music goes into many weirder spaces than that, or the recent New Folk movement.

“I love the word ‘Americana’,” Miller says, “but I think a lot of people understand it differently than I do. When I think of Americana, I think of Elvis and old stuff that you find at antiques stores — the icons of the American culture. I don’t associate it with pretty music or folk music, which I think a lot of people do. . . . Neil Young is Americana; Elvis is Americana; Tom Waits is Americana. It’s a very formless genre as far as I’m concerned.”

Miller writes most of the songs on guitar, then runs them by Jeff Prystowsky, his co-writer, who makes suggestions and changes. Then it’s off to show the songs to the rest of the band in a “musical chairs” situation.

“Arranging is such a big part of our sound,” Prystowsky says. “We’ll sit down and write the songs, but then we enter the room full of instruments, and everybody takes something and sees what we can do with them. And if it doesn’t work — a song will be a ballad and then it’ll be an up-tempo number. And it’ll go through different styles — it can be raw and electric and crunchy-sounding, and then we’ll change it up and it’ll be smooth, with three-part horns and an organ.”

There are 27 instruments on Oh My God, Charlie Darwin, and that can make for a pretty cramped van, Miller says. “There’s only one way everything fits; it’s like a real-life game of Tetris. If you jump the gun and put the pump organ in too early, the whole thing can’t happen.”

Miller says that six or eight songs for this record “all happened at the same time,” and he added a couple of older songs that fit in thematically.

That theme? Well, it’s a little complicated.

It’s about “Darwinism driving the evolution of values, and not being grounded in a set of absolute values,” Miller says. “. . . I became obsessed by this idea of Darwinism for a while . . . the idea that the powerful crushes the weak, and that these are the values that live on. And while species are evolving, our morals and ethical codes are evolving too, depending on which [idea] has legs. . . .

“Am I making any sense?”

Um, yeah. It’s kind of a political record without being political, right?

“Yeah. Just that tension between how basic it is to crave that sense of community, or common sense of purpose, and all the doubts that the last eight years makes so obvious. Getting into where we got these values from, and by what authority should we care about them.”

In two years, the band has gone from a trio to a duo to a trio to a quartet, with Miller and Prystowsky now joined by Jocie Adams and Cyrus Scofield.

Miller plays mostly guitar, Prystowsky bass, Adams clarinet and Scofield drums, but Prystowsky says everyone plays more than one instrument and fills more than one role.

“We don’t really have one sound in mind that we’re going after, and are looking for the right members to fill that sound. We play in one arrangement until we hit a wall, and then [think] what can we do? …We’re a constantly evolving sound, as we acquire new instruments, hear new music that excites us, and find opportunities. We click with [new members] in terms of their lifestyle and when they play with us, do they listen? It’s not a traditional rock thing to listen to each other and feel things out and play very subtly, but so many of our songs are gentle. So we need players in the band who can feel that out. You’ve got to be able to get loud and soft.”

And the willingness to tour constantly is important.

“We’ve just always toured,” Prystowsky says. “We’d play at an open mike at a club, and then they’d book us on a Tuesday, and then on a Thursday, and then we’d open for - Rick Massimo

"New Haven Advocate, Aug 08"

New Haven Advocate, August 28, 2008 - Providence, R.I. based art-folk outfit The Low Anthem’s music is full of juxtapositions. Delicate folk ballads rub shoulders with rattling garage-roots rockers, delicate falsettos with raw-throated eruptions. Melodic turns of phrase straight out of American antiquity frame lyrics set in the landscape of our contemporary world.

Singer and multi-instrumentalist Ben Knox Miller says that when writing The Low Anthem’s self-released second album, Oh My God, Charlie Darwin, he became “obsessed” with how the past forms the present and points to the future. “For millions of years, life has been evolving and the powerful have been crushing the weak,” Miller says during a phone conversation. “We’re the result of that.” He wants to illuminate “this idea about survival of the fittest, not just as evolution of species but evolution of ideas and structures of meaning and values.”

The characters in Oh My God, Charlie Darwin wander through what Miller describes as a “postmodern, nihilist” world, survivors of their generation, wondering how or if they fit in with the rest of humanity. Cutting edge, no. A good listen, yes.

“I think of it almost as a gospel record,” Miller says. “There are these vocal harmonies. There’s this organ. We recorded it in this microcosm we tried to create ourselves,” he says, on Block Island in the off-season. “We wanted to find that feeling of community. But it’s bleak. There’s doubt.”

Framing the songs was a trial and error process using “more instruments per man than any band we’ve come across,” says Miller. There are acoustic and electric guitars, upright bass, clarinet, pump organ and drums, and that’s just for starters.

Live, The Low Anthem has expanded from a duo to a quartet. Miller says, “We were finally making a living, until we started taking in other band members.” - Brian LaRue

"Providence Phoenix, Sept 08"

Heaven-sent and handmade, the Low Anthem’s new disc, Oh My God, Charlie Darwin, descends on its listeners like a paper airplane, wobbling lightly on the breeze. Its musical trajectory, pleasingly unpredictable, swings gently but widely — from acoustic reveries to indie Americana to a folkish interpretation of Tom Waits’s “Home I’ll Never Be.”

Last year, when they debuted with What the Crow Brings, the Low Anthem emerged with a unique, if fragile and uncertain, aesthetic, characterized by eclectic instrumentation, delicate presentations, and an eerie sort of resonance. That album won enough acclaim and fans to take this mag’s Best Album prize in the ’08 Best Music Poll and helped vault the trio to local and regional prominence.

Since then, the band has grown exponentially. Oh My God’s roots run deeper and more assertively, and they’ve shored up their uncertainties with a more fully defined aesthetic. The new recording, made earlier this year on Block Island with co-producer Jesse Lauter, makes good on the promise of their debut with a kind of quiet resolve. “Some people were worried that we would expand too much and get too commercial,” says bassist Jeff Prystowsky from New York City, where the band opened its tour in support of the record. “But we have definitely stuck to our band roots. It’s just that we’ve fleshed our music out: the ballads are fuller and the rock and roll is rockier.”

As the sound has expanded, so has the Low Anthem lineup. At the tail end of the last recording, they added keyboardist Jocie Adams, a classically trained musician. On the new album, 20-year-old Cyrus Scofield, a Downeaster from Hope, Maine, has joined the fray. “He’s a drummer primarily,” says guitarist/vocalist Ben Knox Miller, “but he can also play horns and organ, so we can still swap our instruments and not get locked into the traditional four-piece rock band thing.”

The band has 28 dates on tap up and down the East Coast, in the Midwest, and the South. “We’re crowding into a van,” says Ben. “We’re going to get to know each other pretty well over the next month or so.”

So too are national audiences. Thanks to some DIY promo, more fans are showing up and that enthusiasm has translated into bigger and better shows. “When you do all these things to promote yourself, you get this new energy at gigs,” says Jeff. “We play 100-capacity venues around the country, so it doesn’t take much to get a good turnout. There’s something about live performance in a packed room — you can reach a new level when the audience is willing it from you. It’s so gratifying, and all you did was send out some emails during the day.”

Another part of the band’s success is its appeal to diverse audiences, at edgy places like Firehouse 13 (they’ll be there on Friday, September 5) as well as larger events like the Pawtucket Arts Festival, which opens Stone Soup’s 28th season on Sunday, September 14. They’ve also hit traditional folk haunts like Club Passim in Cambridge and the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, in addition to conventional indie rock houses. “We really get a mixed crowd, all age groups,” says Ben. “We get high school kids and we get the older folk crowd. I love that. It’s not a particular scene or clique. We don’t get much of the hipster crowd, which is fine. I love that the music is not dependent on any one scene.”

Oh My God will likely attract an even wider audience. Though the songs draw from a wider sonic spectrum and the band’s arrangements are richer and more colorful, the heart of the Low Anthem’s material remains the same, with deep, meaningful lyrics and direct, passionate performances. “People aren’t going to say, ‘Oh, no, they’re a four-piece rock band!’ ” laughs Jeff. “We’re making sure to keep our writing strong. The songs are essentially the same. We’re just choosing to present them a little differently.” - Bob Gulla


In order of significance:

2008 Oh My God, Charlie Darwin (Sep 2nd release)
2007 What the Crow Brings
2006 The Low Anthem
2006 Canada EP
2005 Falling EP




The Low Anthem formed as a professional band in 2006 in Providence, RI. The founding members were Ben Knox Miller and Jeff Prystowsky. Their mutual interests in Americana, baseball, and morally agnostic narrative necessitated the formation of The Low Anthem. They began a collaboration with classical composer Jocie Adams in November 2007.

The Low Anthem have recorded three full-length records, toured extensively with 100 shows in 2007, won Best New Act in the 2008 Boston Music Awards, Album of 2008 from the Providence Phoenix. NPR, WXPN, WERS and WFUV among other major radio station shave been early champions of the band. The Low Anthem has a devoted fan-base across the Northeast and beyond.


The Low Anthem began in 2006 as a collaboration. Ben Knox Miller, a folk musician, poet, and visual artist from New York's Hudson River Valley and Jeff Prystowsky, jazz bassist and baseball scholar from Jersey, began crafting music together in 2004. The place was Providence, RI, a post industrial city reborn as a college town and artistic hotbed. Teammates in the wood bat summer leagues in rural Connecticut, their mutual interests in Americana, baseball, and morally agnostic narrative necessitated the formation of The Low Anthem. They began collaborating with classical composer Jocie Adams in November 2007.

In June of 2006 The Low Anthem released its first full-length recording, a twelve song, self-titled LP. It was recorded by Grammy-nominated producer John Paul Gauthier. Gauthier, most famous for his work with Dispatch had also worked with John Hammond, Jr., Tom Waits, and Duke Robillard. His ears were a perfect fit for the band's sound. He turned Miller and Prystowsky onto Waits and Neil Young, two introductions that would seriously alter the direction of the sound. The LP is a dozen stories, subtle and artful in their telling, but ultimately naïve according to it’s authors. However, it’s eclectic instrumentation (saxophones, tabla drums, cellos, and organs combined with more traditional folk instruments) foreshadowed the developments to come.

The band's sound has undergone significant evolution since the self-titled record. A year-long collaboration with Virginia bluesman Dan Lefkowitz and a new batch of songs revealed The Low Anthem's closeted love of raw minimalist rock. The seeds of this edgy rock sound can be heard on their award winning 2007 release "What the Crow Brings." This direction would be fleshed out further on "Oh My God, Charlie Darwin," to be released in September 2008.

With the release of “What The Crow Brings” the band embraced a full-fledged DIY ideology, writing, recording, mixing, and even painting and silkscreening the record jackets from their Providence, RI apartment. The long awaited release brought on a wave of enthusiastic press coverage with rave reviews from NPR and many local papers. The band achieved a new level of visibility, and with over 100 shows in 2007 a legitimate fanbase was emmerging in a dozen Northeast Cities.

After two years and another 100 shows, the band has built a substantial following. Big breaks included a support tour with The Slip side-project “Surprise Me Mr. Davis,” dates with Richard Thompson, Elvis Perkins, Bon Iver, Chris Thile, CMJ showcases, the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, Soundsession, NEKMF, and consistently excellent opening slots at the best clubs in the Northeast - The Narrows, Higher Ground, The Iron Horse, Helsinkis, Passim, Paradise Rock Club. They now tour as a quartet and are know for their song-writing and revolving multi-instrumentalism.

In September The Low Anthem played a 30 city tour pushing "Oh My God, Charlie Darwin," their third and newest LP. It’s a thematic 12 song work, co-produced with and engineered by Jesse Lauter. Recording was done in the cold, bare stillness of a Block Island winter. The abandoned tourist destination was a haven of peace and quiet. The only sounds were the rush of sea wind against the panes of the cabin and the crackling hum of the woodstove. 10 sleepless days and nights. Hundreds of live takes. Many bottles of bourbon. These were the record’s principle ingredients.

The band has received critical acclaim for "Oh My God, Charlie Darwin" from Paste Magazine, NPR, Performing Songwriter and BBC Radio. They recently played a set of dates opening for Rachael Yamagata.