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Interview: The Low Anthem

Riding high
By CHRIS CONTI  |  February 4, 2009

ON A ROLL Prystowsky, Miller, and Adams.

Considering the tidal wave of publicity for hometown folk/roots heroes the Low Anthem, youcan expect a not-so-low-key homecoming when Jocie Adams, Jeff Prystowsky, and Ben Knox Miller take the stage at Firehouse No. 13 in Providence (behind the McDonald's on Broad Street) on Friday. The band just wrapped up a regional tour and will support acclaimed Irish singer Lisa Hannigan all the way to Austin for the annual music, booze, and BBQ mecca that is South by Southwest. TLA will play four shows at SXSW from March 18-21 and then embark on a two-week stint opening for Maine troubadour Ray LaMontagne.

Re: accolades and media attention, simply note the final line in the Low Anthem's press kit: "The snowball gathers speed." Hell, there's been an avalanche of raves following the release of the rievting Oh My God, Charlie Darwin in September. Steve Lamacq of BBC's Radio 1 called the band "this year's Fleet Foxes." And they're not slowing down — check TLA's past seven days: an opening slot for Martin Sexton in Vermont, on-air performances at WRIU and on NPR's World Cafe Live (check the archive at, and morning slots on WBRU and WBSR, all culminating in the gig at the Firehouse with Badman and the Accident That Led Me to the World.

Andrew States of Badman offered his take on TLA: "Between Deer Tick and the Low Anthem, Providence is starting to get a different reputation than it used to have. I think the regional understanding of Providence as a musical entity has usually been about avant-garde noise music, and these two bands are doing something totally different."

Earlier this week, singer/guitarist Ben Knox Miller and bassist Jeff Prystowsky answered a few questions via email.

Can you guys describe what the past year or so has been like in terms of national recognition? Has it been that proverbial "whirlwind" kinda thing?
It's true. Since we put out Oh My God, Charlie Darwin, things have started to snowball a bit faster, but we've been working hard and growing this band for years. It's more the grassroots model, as opposed to the hype/blog explosion model. We've had some amazing breaks lately. It's like we reached the critical mass, the scale's tipped, and now things have started to get a bit easier. Paste and NPR really helped that in a huge way. And somehow a circle of legendary old-school deejays got their hands on our record and really embraced it. Guys like Vin Scelsa, David Dye, Bruce Warren, and Dave Marsh have been really helpful.

The Low Anthem have released one album per year thus far. Does that mean another release could be in the works?
We have boatloads of new songs, but [we're] not sure that they have congealed into an identifiable body of work yet. The narrative is still emerging — always a slippery fish. It also depends on how the tour schedule fills out. We've applied to some big festivals, both here and in Europe. We'll see what happens.

There's a nice influx of roots/acoustic stuff going on around Rhode Island. Any thoughts on local upcomers like Ben Pilgrim and Wrong Reasons?
Yes, Elvis Perkins, Deer Tick, Badman, Larkin Grimm, Ben Pilgrim, Tallahassee, Roz Raskin, Wrong Reasons, and now Brown Bird — it's beautiful to watch. It's also worth mentioning neighbors to the north like the Accident that Led Me To The World and Annie and the Beekeepers.

THE LOW ANTHEM | THE ACCIDENT THAT LED ME TO THE WORLD | BADMAN | Firehouse 13, 41 Central Street, Providence | February 6 at 8 pm | All ages | $12 |

Related: Into the darkness, Keep moving!, Local heroes, ’09 edition, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , Entertainment, Music, Jeff Prystowsky,  More more >
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