After a long day in the recording studio, there’s nothing flatmates Ben Knox Miller and Jeff Prystowsky like to do better than to head home, settle into some comfortable chairs, and listen to even more music.
“What records do we put on?” says Prystowsky, reached by cellphone on his way to another 12-hour stint in the abandoned pasta-sauce factory that the Low Anthem has converted into a roomy, if unconventional, recording facility. “Well, last night we spun some Dylan, some tracks from Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music, some Pearls Before Swine, and some Captain Beefheart.”
On vinyl, of course: the Providence, Rhode Island, band takes its antiquarian tendencies seriously, as befits an outfit whose previous effort, Oh My God, Charlie Darwin, employed enough pump organs, zithers, banjos, mandolins, and musical saws to stock a dusty backwoods music store. It’s worth mentioning, too, that Prystowsky, Knox Miller, Jocie Adams, and new recruit Mat Davidson all share a love of Depression-era author John Steinbeck’s novels—and that their fourth full-length might well end up taking its name from Georgia slide guitarist George Carter’s 1929 release “Ghost Woman Blues”.
“I can’t tell you what the title’s going to be, but I’ll give you a hint,” Prystowsky says. “We’ve been playing a few of the new songs live, and some of the themes in those songs will probably be the title. And we’ve been playing that song in particular quite a bit, and we’ve really fallen for it.
“Of course, we love any songs having to do with ghosts.”
That’s a good thing, given that the Low Anthem’s next record is going to be haunted, as well as haunting. “We’ve had some otherworldly experiences in this factory,” Prystowsky reveals. “There’s a ghost that lives in the adjacent room to where we’ve been recording, or so we think. We try not to get in her way, but we think she made her way into Mat’s violin.”
Supernatural visitations or not, working on the new disc has involved “an amazing month in a really creative space”, as well as a remarkable spate of tunes from chief songsmith Knox Miller. “We have a lot of material, so we’ll probably release 10 or 12 songs and then have 20 more that we might hold back to use as B-sides or giveaways,” says Prystowsky, laughing. “Or we might just hoard them like Neil Young, and release them 50 years later.”
The Low Anthem plays St. James Hall on Tuesday (March 30).