Smile Politely

The Low Anthem: Revivalists at heart

Tuesday night the The Low Anthem come into Urbana to play a rare headlining show for the revivalist folk/Americana band from Providence, Rhode Island. The band’s last album, Smart Flesh, came out in early 2011 and after a long tour last fall there were few people who expected them to come out of hiatus until they had another album in hand.

For the past few weeks they have been traveling throughout Canada in support of City and Colour (Dallas Green from Alexisonfire) and the show here in town is one of only a few stops where the band has a chance to headline. As co-founding member Jeff Prystowsky said in an interview with Smile Politely last week, “it will be exciting to get back in the states and get to play for our fellow Americans.”

But The Low Anthem are no strangers to tours in support of larger acts selling out spacious theatre venues. They have wandered the streets with the likes of Iron & Wine, Emmylou Harris, The Avett Brothers, and The National. More than anything, I think this speaks tremendously to the band’s tremendous revivalist allure.

They aren’t the only band reviving traditional sounds and instruments to toe the line between the folk sounds of the past and the modern demands of “indie” music, but there are few that work so hard at getting it right.

After this current tour the band is looking forward to getting back to work on their emotional folk revival. “We finally have our own studio in Providence, Rhode Island and as soon as we get off of this tour we will be back at home and working our sound,” Prystowsky said.

The band recently moved into a new recording space that is a perfect backdrop for their music, an old abandoned theatre.

The Columbus Theatre is an old opera house that has been shut down due to fire code and it’s so beautiful,” he said of the new space. “I was just talking the other day about how we are playing shows in all of the beautiful old theaters across Canada, but we still think that the Columbus edges them out. There is a cuteness about it. It has a kind of beauty that just doesn’t exist anymore.”

The Low Anthem feature a supple folk sound that is thoughtful and orchestrated without being unemotional. They use a wide range of instruments and it would be easy to assume that any band playing a saw, clarinet, pump organ, and harp is just trying a little too hard to be folk for the sake of the scene, but it’s easy to tell they know these instruments intimately.

This thoughtful approach to music is part of the reason why the band has, most recently, been working to score the music for a film debuting at the upcoming Berlin Film festival called Arcadia. Prystowsky described how this meticulous process fit them well, but pushed them out of their usual comforts.

“It was really eye-opening and a whole different kind of process. Working with a director, looking at a series of visual images, or a dialogue between two characters and trying to come with the appropriate music to set that,” said Jeff.

“It was a whole different approach to making music. And through that process it influenced a different approach from which we usually work.”

The Low Anthem play at the Canopy Club Tuesday, February 7th at 7 p.m. (doors at 6 p.m.). Be sure to break up your workweek with some beautifully orchestrated folk that is often delicate, sometimes rowdy, but always a forceful reminder of how beautiful a new take on a traditional sound can be.

“Ghost Woman Blues” by The Low Anthem

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