Q&A with David Frederickson of the Prids
Some bands wear a style like a trendy fashion statement, and others embody what that music is about by creating their own artistic identity while expanding and building upon what has come before them. The Prids, from Portland, Oregon, are among the latter. Incorporating elements of synth-inflected new-wave dream pop within a framework of post-punk's desperation, melancholia and rhythmic momentum, the Prids write music that is a catharsis, an exorcism of personal demons and an upswell of heightened feelings. A Prids show is a sweeping spectacle of light, sound and passionate performances from beginning to end, and even though most of the band's songs strike an atmospheric mood, there is no detachment, ironic or otherwise, to the songs. The music of the Prids is a direct connection to, and expression of, the heart of a thoughtful, reflective person.
In their eleventh year of existence, the Prids have shared the stage with numerous well-known acts such as TV on the Radio, Built to Spill, the Faint and Jarboe, but more often than not, it is a headlining act in its own right. Two full-length albums, an EP and numerous smaller releases later, the Prids were poised to get back home on their fifteenth tour and record what will still become their third long-player when, on July 20, 2008, the band's van crashed due to a mechanical failure and its members were critically injured. A lot of people would be superstitiously leery about playing music again, much less touring, but this foursome got back to playing and is currently on its sixteenth national tour, with a new record slated for release this fall. We recently spoke with David Frederickson, the Prids' guitarist, on a day off on his way to SXSW. His dry wit, cutting honesty and idealism clearly inform his contribution to the band's songwriting.
Westword (Tom Murphy): Why are you calling your latest tour the "We Won't Crash Tour"?
David Frederickson: [laughs] Mistina [Keith] wrote that. Obviously, that refers to the last time we went on tour. We were in a very serious accident, as I'm sure you're aware. It's kind of an assurance that that won't happen again. People ask fairly often if we're scared; I guess it comes from a superstitious nature -- they feel like there's a jinx...The odds are against that happening again; at least that's what I tell myself.
WW: Have the donations covered your hospital expenses, or is there some of that still lingering?
DF: Oh, no, it's impossible. I'm going to go bankrupt. There was a $25,000 charge just for me. I was Medivaced by helicopter, and that was $12,000 alone. I need a bailout; that's what I need.
WW: Your band started out in St. Joseph, Missouri, and then moved to Nebraska and finally to Portland. What prompted each move, and how have you found it trying to do music in each place?
DF: St. Joseph is where I ran away to from California. I met Mistina there, and we started playing music together, and very quickly, I was saying, "We need to get out of here!" I wasn't from there, and I had no interest or plan in staying. I'm not against St. Joseph; it's just really small, and especially then, it was very rednecky, not a lot of room for growth and not a whole lot of people to play music for. Then we moved to Lincoln. It's not that far away, and that was great. We became the Prids there. We gave that name to this music that we were doing as kind of a side project, but it became the main thing we were doing. We also had a drummer who agreed to play if we moved to Lincoln. And we soon got a keyboard player who had lived in Portland before moving to Lincoln.
Everything we heard about Portland -- its music scene, its culture, its ideology...it's very left leaning. We didn't have to argue about the big things. Like should gays be able to get married. We didn't have to have that argument there. Those things don't come up, and that's comforting. We went to Portland, and it embraced us. We played three shows and they were already great. People knew who we were, and we were happy. It was everything we ever thought it would be.
WW: How did you get hooked up with Five03 Records?
DF: Tony Ramo, he lives in New York -- he was a fan and used to come to our shows a lot. We gave him a demo of our new stuff, and he loved it so much, he told us that if we had trouble putting it out, he'd like to try his hand at putting out a record. And so he started Five03 Records and put out ...Until the World Is Beautiful. He's great, and the record business is really difficult. Music has become kind of de-valued; no one thinks they need to pay for it anymore. It's weird for the artist to talk about that. People tell you you're supposed to be doing it for different reasons. And then you ask, "Why, when you do something, you expect to get something for it, but when I do something, I'm supposed to starve?" I'm not supposed to achieve anything unless I'm Madonna. Oh, wait, I'm out of touch; I should say someone more contemporary.
WW: How did you get Gee Voucher of Crass to do the cover art for the Something Difficult vinyl?
DF: Joey Maas, our drummer, he has been friends with her for many years. When it came time to do that cover, he asked her what she thought about doing the cover, and she agreed to do some artwork. We sent her the music and she sent us some pieces, and we thought they were great. Those kinds of things keep it worthwhile.
WW: Is "Before We Are" any sort of homage to that Q. Lazzarus classic, "Goodbye Horses"? Part of it sounds like an inverted version of that song.
DF: That high-pitched vocal part was definitely inspired by that. Not directly -- it just kind of happened. It was kind of an homage. We really like that song, and it's become a lot popular since we wrote it, but there was a time when no one cared.
WW: How did you meet For Against and get Harry Dingman III to do the cover art for the Duracraft EP? Did you play shows with them and collaborate with that band in any way as well?
DF: We moved to Lincoln, played some shows and met them through a friend of a friend. Before long, he was taking pictures. He really helped us, in the beginning, with direction -- not musically, but how to get started and put out a record. He just championed us, and we've been friends ever since. They're touring again! We've played many shows with them, and we were hoping to play with them on this tour, but they aren't going to be able to do it. We have not collaborated with them.
WW: A few years ago, I bought a packet of postcards from you featuring the artwork of Michael Scheer. How did you become familiar with his work, and how did you get him to do the artwork for Love Zero and ...Until the World Is Beautiful?
DF: I originally saw his work...he did the covers for a band called the Treepeople. I first started listening to them when I was eighteen. I loved the band, the artwork -- the whole image of it, the feel, really struck me. That was Doug Martsch's first band. Eventually he became a part of Built to Spill. I never thought I'd meet any of these people. When I moved to Portland, I met Michael Scheer through a friend who died recently. Something Difficult is about him, and Mike introduced me to Doug Martsch. Then Mike came to a show and loved it, and we became a mutual admiration club. These are those moments that make me think, "Oh, it is worth it." Besides the fact of making music, it's giving it everything you have.
WW: Are there particular themes you see running across your songwriting, and have they changed from release to release?
DF: There's simply a lot more lyrics. The songs probably have a slightly more traditional structure. As for the lyrics, they're just better, probably. I'm glad I don't have the albums I put out when I was fourteen and fifteen. I still have the notebooks from then. They emanate from the same place: desperate, painful. It's about heartbreak in all its various forms.
WW: It seems as though there has been some kind of weird critical backlash to all things post-punk in the last few years. Why do you think that is, and has it affected you in any way?
DF: I think the backlash is probably because everybody started doing it. It's like when ska had some kind of weird resurgence and everyone was doing it. It just became so annoying. At one point, swing was really popular. People get tired of it. It sucks for people like me, because it's everything to me. It means so much to me, and it's not just some fad that just comes and goes. I live inside this shit, and you've got people like the Bravery with that guy that used to be in Skabba the Hut [Sam Endicott]. It wasn't sincere, and these bands that come and go, it's not real.
WW: Post-punk is too diverse to say it's just one thing. The Birthday Party, Joy Division, Magazine and Sonic Youth -- they're nothing alike.
DF: When you get this resurgence, it becomes Interpol and various copies like the Editors. These bands are not bad, they're just copying each other.
WW: I noticed on your guitar that there are the numbers "154." Obviously, that's a reference to Wire. Is there something about that band that resonates with you more so than another band as a guitarist and songwriter?
DF: It's obvious to some people. It's really as a guitarist. When I first heard Wire, I thought it was everything I ever wanted to hear and the sound I wanted anyone to make. It made me so happy. I felt like I had been making something similar to it before having heard it, and I felt an immediate kinship with the music. I felt like our heads worked the same.
Catch the Prids for $8 at 8 p.m. on Monday, March 30, with Gangcharger and Overcasters, at the Larimer Lounge (303-291-1007).