EARLIER THIS WEEK NEW JERSEY NOISEMAKERS PRAWN RELEASED THEIR SECOND ALBUM, KINGFISHER.
Issued on Topshelf Records (a small but perfectly formed Boston-based independent label with a very cool roster), KINGFISHER develops the indie / emo / post-rock leanings of the band’s debut (2012’s YOU CAN JUST LEAVE IT ALL) into a powerful, textural, sound not unlike that of, say, The National. From the precise dynamics of opener SCUD RUNNINGS to the white-out atmospheres of PROLONGED EXPOSURE, Prawn’s new album is a tour-de-force.
Guitarist / vocalist Tony Clark took some time out from preparations for the forthcoming Topshelf Records showcase tour to offer UK readers an introduction to the band, and his thoughts on KINGFISHER…
HELLO! THANKS FOR SPEAKING TO US, TONY… PLEASE INTRODUCE PRAWN…
We’re from Bergen County, New Jersey. Jamie plays drums, Kyle plays guitar and sings, I play guitar and sing, and we have a strange bass player situation, ha ha. Ryan joined the band a little over a year ago and wrote KINGFISHER with us on bass, but we have a few different bassists that fill in when he can’t tour.
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU GET TOGETHER? AND HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE NAME?
Jamie and I started playing together towards the end of high school, so seven years ago. Kyle teamed up with us shortly after that and Prawn was born. We didn’t really start getting going as a real band until 2011. Prior to that, we all were in university and busy with other stuff. Our original guitarist, Andrew, named the band Prawn. To be honest, probably would’ve loved to change the name at some point … but it never really came up.
KINGFISHER IS OUT THIS WEEK AND IT’S RECEIVED SOME GREAT REVIEWS SO FAR… BUT AS A RECORD IN ITSELF HOW DO YOU THINK IT DIFFERS FROM YOU CAN JUST LEAVE IT ALL, YOUR 2012 DEBUT?
That’s a funny question because I think it differs a lot, but a lot of the reviews say we just honed in on our sound rather than branching out. KINGFISHER keeps with a lot of the elements we’ve used on past records, but I think songwriting-wise this record is more solid. We used to throw parts together on previous efforts, but for this record every song seemed like a ‘song’ rather than parts pieced together. Another big difference with KINGFISHER and YOU CAN JUST LEAVE IT ALL is who wrote the records. Our old guitarist Andrew had a big part in writing YOU CAN JUST LEAVE IT ALL, so the guitar work is different. When Ryan came in to write KINGFISHER, he really brought a sense of newness to the band and a different outlook on songs. I think the last big change was working with Greg Dunn as well. He had a lot of cool ideas in the studio like adding ambient layers and whatnot.
ARE THERE THINGS YOU’VE ‘LEARNED’ SINCE YOU CAN JUST LEAVE IT ALL THAT CAME INTO PLAY ON KINGFISHER? NOT JUST IN THE MUSIC, BUT IN YOUR APPROACH TO THE WHOLE WAY YOU DO THINGS?
I’d say so. Starting off, we really just wanted to write as much music as possible and play as many shows as possible. I don’t think all of our previous songs had as much time and effort be placed in them as the songs on KINGFISHER do. It really took us a year to write and record it, whereas SHIPS took about six months. We also were putting a LOT more time throughout the year into writing music.
I PARTICULARLY LIKE THE TRACKS SCUD RUNNING AND PROLONGED EXPOSURE… IN SOME WAYS I’D PUT YOU IN THE SAME BALL-PARK AS THE NATIONAL… DOES THAT SOUND ABOUT RIGHT TO YOU?
Ha ha ha, yeah. That’s about right. We all are huge fans of The National, like most everyone else I know… I know personally I was listening to TROUBLE WILL FIND ME a lot while writing KINGFISHER. We wanted to incorporate some things The National do really well into our new record. For example, the beginning of SCUD RUNNING, that simple drum and guitar line that just set the song up to be groovy. PROLONGED EXPOSURE is more post-rocky than The National but I definitely channelled my inner Matt Berninger for the low, baritone vocals. I began experimenting with a lower register and it ends up being easier for me to sing down there. But yes. The National was a big influence on us this record.
… ALSO, FIRST AS TRAGEDY, SECOND AS FARCE IS A TRULY GREAT TITLE. LIFE HAS BEEN… INTERESTING… IN THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS?
Yeah. That title is actually a Karl Marx quote: “History repeats itself; first and tragedy, second as farce.” I wrote my bachelor thesis on Marx and have attempted to bring his ideas into some of my songwriting on every record. Life has been really good the last couple of years. I don’t know why, but I have a tough time writing lyrics about happy things. I’ve definitely attempted to write happy lyrics, but they always come out super-cheesy or just plain awful. Writing about struggles and longing has always come much easier for me. So why it may seem like I’m a pretty fucked up guy all the time from my lyrics, I’m only writing about the really bad stuff, which happens pretty infrequently to me.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY YOUR OTHER MAIN INFLUENCES ARE?
It varies. We all enjoy a lot of post rock. Explosions in the Sky, Mogwai, and Caspian have all had a pretty sound impact on us. I was listening to a lot of Bombay Bicycle Club and Lucy Rose while writing KINGFISHER. This is a tough question – there’s too many.
YOU’RE SIGNED TO TOPSHELF, AN INDEPENDENT LABEL BASED OUT OF BOSTON… HOW IS IT WORKING WITH THEM?
Topshelf is great. We’ve been working with them since 2011, so I think both parties involved are comfortable with one another and know what to expect from one another. They boast an incredible line up, and it is humbling to be a part of it. Kevin and Seth are also two generally nice guys, which makes working with them super easy.
YOU’RE GOING OUT ON TOUR WITH SEVERAL OTHER TOPSHELF BANDS (FIELD MOUSE, DIAMOND YOUTH AND A GREAT BIG PILE OF LEAVES) IN SEPTEMBER… HOW DO YOU EXPECT THAT’LL WORK OUT?
Ah, yes, the Topshelf Tour… I hope it works. I think it’ll work. It’s really cool that Topshelf was able to put this together, especially with four bands that don’t sound similar at all. It should be fun. We’re looking to party this fall…
WE’RE BASED IN THE UK – AS A BAND, HAVE YOU EVER BEEN OVER HERE? WHAT WERE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF THE PLACE? OR, IF YOU’VE NOT BEEN, WHAT SORT OF IMPRESSION DO YOU GET FROM TELEVISION OR WHATEVER?
We actually have been over. About two years ago, we did a five week European / UK tour for the first time. Our first and biggest impression was that it was completely different from touring the States. The hospitality bands are shown there is great; everyone gave us a place for the night, gave us meals and even beer, not to mention that everyone we met was extremely nice. It was also really cool to see people come out to shows just because there was one, not necessarily because they knew who was playing. We’re definitely planning on going back, and are excited to.
OTHER THAN THE TOPSHELF TOUR AND ALL THINGS ASSOCIATED WITH THE NEW ALBUM, WHAT MIGHT THE REST OF 2014 HOLD FOR PRAWN?
Well, after the Topshelf tour, we’re going to play The Fest in Gainesville for the third year, which we’re all really excited about. Other than that (although we don’t have anything planned yet), we want to tour as much as possible for the remainder of the year.
Buy KINGFISHER here.