The Low Anthem

The Low Anthem (10:00 PM)

Sleepy Sun (9:15 PM)

Wed, October 5, 2011

8:00 pm


This event is all ages

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The Low Anthem - (Set time: 10:00 PM)
The Low Anthem
The Low Anthem
Smart Flesh
“The building didn’t hold heat at all. It was too cold for fast chops and too cold
to relax,” recalls Ben Knox Miller, who, with the rest of The Low Anthem,
hunkered down in December of 2009 for a winter of recording in a cavernous,
derelict pasta sauce factory in Central Falls, RI. Miller, with band-mates Jeff
Prystowsky, Jocie Adams, and newest member, Mat Davidson, teamed up with
engineer Jesse Lauter to construct a studio in the disused space. They played a
wide variety of often unusual instruments, combining folk with blues, hymnals,
barn-stompers and whispered meditations to create Smart Flesh, their third
record. It will be released on February 22, 2011 by Nonesuch and Bella Union
(UK, Europe).
Smart Flesh was self-produced by the band, mixed largely by Mike Mogis (Bright
Eyes, Monsters of Folk), and mastered by Bob Ludwig. The record features
recordings of older tour staples “Ghost Woman Blues” and “Golden Cattle,”
along with new songs such as “Love and Altar” and “Boeing 737.” Having toured
for two years since their last album Oh My God, Charlie Darwin, the band had
plenty of time to write songs, experiment with arrangements, and day-dream
the scope of this recording project. What they had in mind was a massive
undertaking. Ten days were spent hauling furniture, gear, carpet scraps, and
cabling to prepare the 40,000 square feet of vacant factory to be both a home
and a recording instrument for Smart Flesh—all that before a single note was
played. Paranormal hitchhikers, taught highwires, aircraft, swelling tumors,
whirring machinery, deserted highways, mannequins, cremation, and
formaldehyde make up the language of Smart Flesh. The album’s heroes, if
there be heroes, are wiremen and lovers—reckless dreamers turning vain
contortions in the swill of death.
Oh My God, Charlie Darwin, the band’s previous album, was recorded in
January of 2008 in an empty summer cabin on Block Island, RI, and originally
self-released by the band that September in true DIY style (the band handpainted
and silkscreened all 2,000 of the first run of the CD packages). Despite
having no distribution, booking agent, or publicist, Charlie Darwin was received
enthusiastically and the band toured steadily on the strength of word of mouth.
The independent success of this album led to record deals in the UK with Bella
Union and in the US with Nonesuch, which re-released Oh My God, Charlie
Darwin in June 2009. Growing steadily over the past two years, the band has
toured with artists ranging from Iron & Wine to Emmylou Harris and The
National to The Avett Brothers and Ray Lamontagne. They also played
numerous festivals including Bonnaroo, Glastonbury, Newport Folk,
Lollapalloza, and Prospect Park’s Celebrate Brooklyn. At the end of 2009, Oh
My God, Charlie Darwin was listed in the top of many music publications’ best
of year lists and the band picked up MOJO’s Breakthrough Artist Honours
The Low Anthem originally met and grew to its current lineup in a handful of
ways: Miller (of Ossining, NY) and Prystowsky (of New Jersey) became fast
friends sharing graveyard-shift duties as DJs at Brown University’s radio station.
With a laughably small listenership, their playlists were primarily for one
another. The band became serious for these two when, fresh out of school they
teamed up with a gravel-voiced and blues-obsessed Virginian by the name Dan
Lefkowitz. The three hatched the beginnings of the band’s sound over nine
volatile months together in their Providence apartment, until tensions and
divergent interests finally led to Dan’s departure. Bostonian and former NASA
technician Jocie Adams soon stepped into the vacancy, after being asked to
play clarinet on the final track for their first album, What the Crow Brings. Her
fluency with classical composition and arrangement and her intuitive musicality
would dramatically expand the band’s horizons. Miller and Prystowsky credit
her for being largely responsible for new sense of harmony featured in Oh My
God, Charlie Darwin. The band first befriended Mat Davidson (of Roanoke, VA)
in these early days gigging in Boston, and in October of 2009 asked him to come
on board. Being a versatile multi-instrumentalist and a pure singer, he was a
match for their frenetic instrument swapping and harmonic style. Smart Flesh
is The Low Anthem’s first recording effort as a quartet.
Along the way, The Low Anthem have not only grown in numbers, they have
also added new influences and instruments. After two years of scouring yard
sales, attics and eBay while on tour, the band could easily open a second hand
music shop, with sufficient peculiarities to be the envy of Brooklyn hipsters and
historical preservation societies alike. Most notably they collect and repair
antique pump organs, but have also gathered oversized drum kits, hammered
dulcimers, autoharps, singing bowls, banjos, steel drums, crotales, horns of all
shapes, and a 600 pound pipe organ—they are obsessive scavengers, reverent of
oddity and fanatical in the search for sound. The eclectic array of instruments
used on Smart Flesh includes jaw harp, musical saw, stylophone, antique
organs, and an elaborate scheme to re-amp noise through various chambers of
the factory.
It may not be a specific sound they set out for, but they know when they hear
it. “We knew right away when we stepped into the factory,” describes Miller.
“The space was really the main instrument for the whole record. The
resonance was chilling. Everything after that was a secondary instrument—a
choice of what tool we used to activate this beautiful instrument that we were
inhabiting.” Most of the sound on Smart Flesh is created with organic
instruments, though often processed and recaptured through various electronic
components. During recording, they were able to place room mics hundreds of
feet away to catch the sound barreling across the space, and this boomy
distant resonance became a unifying sound for much of the record. They
recorded all the noises of the room, intentionally or not, from the wind
pressing against the windows to the groaning of the floorboards under their
The mill building once was home to the pasta sauce of infamous and corrupt
Providence mayor Buddy Cianci. Its use was donated nearly rent-free by its
owners, a company called Hope Artiste Village. After sweeping up the chipped
paint blanketing the floors and making peace with the bats flying overhead and
other spirits—imagined or not—that shared the space, the band colonized the
only three spots warmed by hot air blowers. The southernmost became the
recording space, with stations stocked with various families of instruments. The
island of warmth in the middle of the room became the engineering and
listening “booth.” In the heated pocket by the freight elevator they built a
kitchen and living room of couches, bookshelves, hanging plants, and an evergrowing
tower of empty pizza boxes.
The place required getting used to: when the tapes were rolling, the buzzing
fluorescent lights were killed and the loud, industrial, heat blowers had to be
silenced by placing portable space heaters underneath the thermostats (they
would automatically turn on if the temperature dropped below 50 degrees).
Between takes, a quick game of “baffle-ball” (a tennis derivative, invented by
the band) or a bicycle ride around the 40-thousand square foot space would
keep a few people warm. Scarves, hats, coats, and long johns were necessary
by five o’clock each night as the sunlight faded. “We seem to seek out our own
world when we record,” Miller suggests. “Last time, with Darwin, it was an
empty island. This time we went to absurd lengths to create an isolated,
functioning society. It was self-contained almost with its own rules and systems
and transportation routes. That was really fun. We even had an official sport.
Everything but waste management. And no cops, except one time. This cop
saw Jesse climbing the fire escape and came up after him. Said he looked like a
pimp. It was a brief but wonderful little world.”
“It’s such an incredible space sonically. It was surrounded by enormous
windows, so they reflected sound. Also, the light was beautiful,” offers
Prystowsky. During the day, the low winter sun cast huge plots of light on the
wood floor. At night, as the heat of the day retreated through the un-insulated
windows, darkness lapped the edges of the glow of table lamps and the space
seemed to grow larger around the inhabited islands. “As soon as the sun goes
down, you can hardly move your hands in the cold, so your technique changes.
You couldn’t play fast.”
“The cold cuts through to your heart, slows your whole body down,” recalls
Adams. “It made us focus. Some of our songs got slower. I wanted to create an
incubator for my clarinet to keep it from going flat. I never did, but when I was
recording ‘Wire,’ we had all of the space heaters around me to keep the
clarinet in tune.”
Despite the chill, artists and friends of the band dropped by throughout the
recording process to take advantage of the unusual workspace. “An artist
would come to paint on the far side, and people would hang out on the couch
opposite. We didn’t foresee it that way, but with time, a community was born,
and I really looked forward to that every day, going from the apartment where
Ben and I were living to what felt like a community art space after a few
weeks,” says Prystowsky. Local friends at Nice Slice, the Thayer Street pizza
joint, provided free pies daily during the session and Narragansett beer was
also donated by the Rhode Island company. Musicians, filmmakers,
photographers, and friends of all sorts climbed the fire-escape entrance to the
transient camp settled between the thin iron columns of the factory. But there
was a primary purpose, and when the tapes were rolling, all other activity
would subside, as if the room had been put on pause, to avoid catching
unwanted whispers and footsteps.
“We had so many people helping on this record,” says Miller. “So many friends
that we’ve met these last few years showed up to be part of it. And of course
the gentle bats and the creaking floors and Paul the ghost. There’s a difference
in making a record alone to yourself, versus making a record when you have
some sense of its community.”
In late February, they said farewell to the pasta sauce factory to head back out
on the road. After several months of touring, they revisited the album to
record a few additional tracks, this time with live engineer Dan Cardinal,
taking their portable setup to build a studio in a Providence garage, nicknamed
“the gator pit.” (It had formerly been used as a breeding house for alligators
and rare reptiles.) The choice of its small rooms, walled with cement, was an
intentional complement to the vastness of the pasta sauce factory. “We had a
reverb chamber in the back that had been a walk-in safe, about 10 feet by five.
It had this four-and-a-half second delay, as opposed to the factory, which had a
bass-y, distant sort of lethargic reverb. You could hear a pre-delay there.” For
three weeks, the band camped in this second abandoned flophouse to track
several more songs. While the pasta sauce sessions were distinct for their
obsessively detailed soundcraft, the gator sessions were relatively relaxed, as
the band tried a more casual approach with 10 new songs. Three made the
cut, and these combined with the eight surviving songs from the factory to
form a album that is hermetic and yet welcoming—as precise as it is enigmatic.
Smart Flesh will be released February 22, 2011 on Nonesuch and February 21,
2011 by Bella Union.
-- Graham Smith
Sleepy Sun - (Set time: 9:15 PM)
Sleepy Sun
Sleepy Sun is a California band from many Californias. They hail from the rolling oak and sage hills of Sierra Gold Country, The San Francisco Peninsula, where Kesey raged and the Dead were once Warlocks, and the forever-sunshine climes of the Southland. They came together young and garage strutting in the coastal Northern California crucible of Santa Cruz. And there they birthed the Sleepy sound dead blues shaken alive, razor sharp and ramblin', soul, sonic science and dead-on pop surgery. Wooden, earthy, stratospheric, and swinging California music of beautiful contrasts for conflicted times.

Now, two records into a frighteningly fast-blossoming evolution, Sleepy Sun are a living machine of fire and focus. Their first release on ATP records Embrace illuminated the golden path to Sleepy land hard-riffing, delicate, dreamy and cultivated. The latest ATP release, Fever, is arrival at the palace the path promised.

Fever is the honey harmonies and danger wailing of Bret Constantino; the wing-on-wing guitars of Matt Holliman and Even Reiss in screaming dives and sweet ascending circles; the lowdown served up tough and thundering from drum and bass authorities Brian Tice and Jack Allen.

Fever is a band working, like the heroic combos of old real, made by hand, eyes ahead on an unbridled future and giving two shits for the sideways glance of the lurking trend spotter. A band working, and a working band Sleepy Sun's soaring and soul-stirring live shows are already mowing down audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. They've opened for Autolux and Mudhoney, rocked Primavera and Treasure Island, and relentlessly toured the capitals and humble hamlets of North America and Europe. And in their path, the converts are fast becoming legion.

They are a band of musical adventure too tackling Graham Nash's "Chicago" for a forthcoming compilation celebrating the Hollie/CSNY legend's work. English electronic collective U.N.K.L.E. have taken note of Sleepy Sun's eclectic energies as well, working collaboratively on a track with the band for an upcoming single and LP.

Sleepy Sun won't relent in 2010. Fever in May, SXSW and the Arctic Monkeys in spring. And as always, a hundred twists yet untold in a message sent with burning love and rock-solid soul from California to the whole damn beyond...
Sleepy Sun
Venue Information:
9081 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA, 90069

All lineups and times subject to change