Combining starry-night chromatic xylophone rounds with a whirled-sock-hop-slow-dance organ tapping with teen idol-esque near-falsetto vocals, Prussia perfectly capture the wondrous pop-song craftsmanship of early ‘60’s groups, mashed with raw noise-receptive indie rock and jump-the-tracks-and-hit-the-gas transitions that are managed so well, from slow and dreamy to rhythmic and grooving. Check out “Gypsy Ketamine” for the glorious mutant hybrid of Pavement and The Four Seasons, a smooth easy going melody interrupted by beastly feedback explosion-roars; with drums simultaneously dynamic and low key, with warbled, delayed vocals sounding from a basement in a very Ariel Pink-manner.
(photo by Justin Ames)
They channel a transmogrified doo-wop with minimalist organ-swaying, bass bouncing, violin-sawing poppers that build towards eruptive, slow-motion Velvet Underground noise freakouts, then falling into disarming grooves that let the feedback and beautiful “ooh”-harmonies take over. (Check “Cellophane Bag.”)
The quartet’s all in their early 20’s or younger and all play an array of instruments, with unpredictably shifting influences that feel so well-worn but simultaneously far-off. A new vision, people!
“We all play assorted instruments when we record,” said Brenton Bober, “but live, it usually follows: Ryan Spencer (guitar / vocals), Brenton (bass / organs / bells / accordion) Andrew Remdenok (various drums / sitar / melodica) Steven Wagner (various drums / percussion / singing saw.)”
Live – both Andrew and Steven play upright bass drums (“along the idea of Moe Tucker”) with various cymbals, a snare and a floor-tom. “…It’s just that when we play live, we try making it as interesting for us as it is for the crowd,” said Brenton. “Because playing bass or drums can get a little boring at times…so, why not play sitar or accordion instead?”
Here’s the rest of the un-cut interview from locals Prussia, who play the new Scrummage University location March 1st; and Record Time (Ferndale) March 7th.
How and when did the band start/come together...
Brenton: Well me, Andrew, and Ryan knew each other in high school. Ryan was a senior at the time, and Andrew and I were freshman; he was an asshole and referred to us as Frodo and other various Lord of the Rings characters. We had also seen Ryan at various shows as he was in the band “our delay” at the time. It was around this time that me and Andrew started working on music together. In our junior year of high school we started a lil’ electronic band, which ryan heard of and wanted to join. So he eventually did, and we tried to be in the likes of Kraftwerk, but I eventually left to do a different band. Then Andrew and Ryan started a folk/rock project known as Russian Spy Orchestration, and after various members, it once again, came back to Ryan, Andrew and I.
We played our first show at this loft in Pontiac called the ac rich, new years 2006. At the time we had two full kits of drums, of which Andrew and Ryan’s little brother drew played. We then recorded most of the material for our first release “artless”, then took a break for a brief time since Ryan was in Europe for a month. Then the entire band came together around October of last year when we had Steven play saw for us at the painted lady, oddly enough Steven was in the band earlier, then he left, then came back. He then became a member and soon branched out as a second drummer.
I've heard descriptions of the live show recall (not specifically the sound of, but at least the vibe of) Pavement, with a looseness and a quirkiness....would that be something close? what are some of the influences you draw on ('sometimes someone different' has a doo-wop feel, how close is that?)
Brenton: We all really love Pavement, and are really flattered to hear something like that. But it’s never occurred to us really what we are doing; we kind of just do things the way we think our music should be done. We all draw on a lot of different things that inspire us. We all love Motown and I suppose that would be the common ground in the band. But we all love certain bands or movements of music that definitely differ from each other… I suppose some people would think we are snobs.
How would you describe your live approach, and then, your songwriting approach?
Brenton: Animals in the wild. Ha. When it comes to playing live we like to make things as energetic as possible. We hand out random assorted percussion to the crowd to make everyone sort of a part of the band and the noise that creates it. As for a songwriting approach someone comes up with a melody or a chord structure that they think can transfer into something, and then we all sort of build on top of it until becomes a mess of everyone’s input. You never suggest an idea for Prussia and have it turn out the way you thought it would, because it becomes something completely different and unexpected. And I guess something like this is to be expected when you’re working with two drummers, ha.
...and can you describe the live set up
Brenton: the live set up is usually, Andrew playing a upright bass drum, much a long the idea of Moe Tucker, and a couple other assorted drums and cymbals. He tries to keep it to a minimum. Both Andrew and Stephen play the drums standing up for our live set. Steven usually has a set up of a snare, a floor tom and a cymbal. We used to bring an organ for cellophane bag but it became to much of a hassle, and sort of… broke. As for what this contributes to our sound, it’s just that when we play live, we try making it as much interesting for us, as it is for the crowd. Because playing the bass or drums can get a little boring at times… so why not play sitar or accordion instead?
What can you tell me about the LP your working on...
Brenton: well this our second LP. We are trying to branch out from the first one, but I suppose this one has more songwriting then just noises that we happened to like. But hopefully it will turnout okay, when your working on something it’s hard to decipher if it’s just overdone shit or if people will genuinely like it. As of right now, we like it, and maybe some other people will too.
...significance of the name? into early German history? ancestory roots back there?
Brenton: No. the name was Russian spy orchestration, but we figured it was a little too high school talent show? Then it was dropped to just “Russian”, but that’s just a horrible band name in itself… isn’t it? Then it became Prussia on the suggestion of a friend, but there was never any real significance behind it… and never had anything to do with the band kings of Prussia…
(photo cred: Justin Ames)