The Low Anthem doesn't play by the rules

These Ivy Leaguers got their start at Brown University.

By Pierce Courchaine | Feb. 26, 2010

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Fresh out of Brown University and into your headphones is Providence, R.I.-based band The Low Anthem.

The Ivy League grads said their music doesn't necessarily reflect their roots.

"There is very little with Brown that has to do with us now," said Jeff Prystowsky, multi-instrumentalist and winner of the American Mustache Institute's top honor for mustaches in the music industry. "It's not like one is going to listen to our songs and know that we are from the Ivy Leagues. It's not like we're walking around in Wall Street suits. That's not our vibe. We've always tried to work with what we have and earn what we have and make something of it."

The band started as a duet at Brown of multi-instrumentalist Prystowsky and frontman Ben Knox Miller. The Low Anthem has since evolved into a foursome, adding multi-instrumentalist Jocie Adams while still at Brown. Multi-instrumentalist Mat Davidson was added after the band's second album, with other musicians in between.

"We went through a lot of different bands," Prystowsky said. "Different people in college come and go."

Prystowsky said each member brought different musical tastes to the band, creating a folksy sound with influences of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. The Low Anthem's multi-instrumental talents grew in time, Prystowsky said.

"Slowly, over time, we all learned to play these different instruments so we could compliment everyone's playing," Prystowsky said. "At first it was vaudevillian. There are still elements of that, but we're better now. In previous concerts, you could tell that I had no idea what I was doing on drums."

The Low Anthem's songs range from low-fi acoustic blitzkriegs to soulful, ominous ballads, utilizing every instrument under the sun. With two albums under its belt, The Low Anthem is hard at work recording its third in an abandoned pasta sauce factory in Providence. Prystowsky said the band wanted its newest album to blend each instrument without cluttering the sounds.

"I think that there is a general theme of this respect for space," Prystowsky said. "We never have tracks that we release that trample on the space of the song. If one were to listen to all three records, I think you would hear that commonality."

The Low Anthem began their United States tour Feb. 23 under the South by Southwest name. The tour includes a sold-out show March 2 with Avett Brothers at the Missouri Theatre.

"They're one of my favorite live bands," Prystowsky said. "To get to see how they put on their show, that's a real thrill. I'm glad they're taking us on. I think musically, it will be one of our best tours."

Prystowsky said The Low Anthem's path to music has been unusual but internally driven since the start.

"The way to describe it is we weren't playing by any rules," Prystowsky said. "We all did what made sense. We believed in the pursuit of trying to express your human life that is beautiful and can be shared. We have always loved that and respected people that did that."

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