Dumpster-diving and looking for bears

By Rheanna Houston

The Low Anthem is a reserve of musical talent that is best approached with curiosity. This Rhode Island four-piece has been kickin’ it for six years now, creating music that might accompany you on a road trip or perhaps to watch a melancholic sunset — and may just bring out the deepest part of your folk-loving heart. An indie band that is climbing a ladder of alternative talent and recognition, The Low Anthem will be opening for City and Colour this weekend at the Jack Singer Concert Hall. Before they were opening for a Juno Award-winner, however, they were dumpster-diving for cereal boxes to make album sleeves.

“We thought it wouldn’t cost much and that it would be a great design for packaging — without eating as much cereal as possible — then taping them all together,” says Jeff Prystowsky, multi-instrumentalist and founding member. The makeshift sleeves were then hand-painted and released with their first album, 2007’s What the Crow Brings.

The Low Anthem’s musical style has varied quite a bit from album to album, though — the most recent testament being 2011’s Smart Flesh. That being said, is it possible that one single song could encapsulate the band’s sound?

“That’s a really hard question for us because of how we play,” says Prystowsky. “In our live show, each song is almost in its own sub-genre . . . we all switch up instruments, and we go between traditional instruments and very non-traditional instruments, like a saw and cell phones . . . we’re not trying to re-create the record live.

“The best thing to do would be to just listen to the records and feel it.”

Their current North American tour has the band playing 26 cities, sometimes at the same location two nights in a row and with just one day in between shows in different cities. These Ivy League grads, however, have their own way of coping with this.

“I just love to read, I bring like 25 books,” laughs Prystowsky. Right now he’s reading about NASA, and happens to have more interest in space exploration than his bandmate Jocie Adams, a former NASA employee.

Despite their differing tastes in literature, the band is very clear that they are not breaking up after this tour, but simply taking a break and “cocooning” for a while. So if The Low Anthem could later emerge from this cocoon as an animal — metaphorically, of course — what would it be?

“The band animal is a bear,” Prystowsky says matter-of-factly, as a story ensues. “We’re trying to spot a bear while on being on tour. In Canada, we heard there are a lot of bears. We have a deal that whoever spots a bear on the tour, the band will buy that person drinks for the rest of the tour. It’s the ‘Bear-Spotting Pledge.’”

Though the band may have trouble spotting a bear in urban Alberta, perhaps our faux-furry Calgarian winter attire will be good enough to fulfill the ‘Bear-Spotting Pledge.’

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