Picked to Click 2012: #9. Prissy Clerks
Photo by David McCrindle
Prissy Clerks frontgirl Clara Salyer has built her pedigree around an ability to adapt.
Last year, the 20-year-old guitarist's pet project, Total Babe, dissolved amid the departure of her lead guitarist -- a certain Julian Casablancas doppelganger who sought opportunities across the pond fronting a little band called Howler. In the throes of recording a full-length with Total Babe, Salyer scrapped the heft of the work and moved forward with friend and Red Pens frontman Howard Hamilton toward a set of Drag City-drenched demos that became Prissy Clerks.
"We'd been plotting playing together for a while," Hamilton says from the steamy confines of Uptown's Savoy Pizza. "And Total Babe wasn't anymore, so I kind of insisted on being the bass player."
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Salyer speaks of these steps forward in serendipitous terms -- an attitude that gives the wunderkind less credit than is due in the wake of such resilience. In her words, the band was born from purchasing a shell-pink Jazzmaster more so than Total Babe's dissolution. "Howard has a good way of saying, 'That guitar's got a couple more songs in it,' where guitars do a service to you," Salyer says. "I almost credit buying that guitar with starting Prissy Clerks."
There's also the girl's knack for seeking out backing players, which include rock historian Hamilton, Teenage Strangler guitarist Dylan Ritchie, and Total Babe drummer Tim Leick Jr. Salyer sought out accordionist Emily Lazear during a performance with another indie up-and-comer, Wolf Mountain.
"Clara was talking up this girl, saying, 'This is the girl we're gonna get for Prissy Clerks, and we're going to the State Fair on this day to check her out,'" Hamilton says. "Wolf Mountain played to like 10 people right next to the skateboard demo, and that was enough." Adding to that thread of adaptability, Salyer and co. work around Lazear's out-of-state schooling. Their expatriate's role -- one that doesn't rely on anachronistic wheezes of accordion but rather melodic inhales -- is still wholly felt on their new record, Bruise or Be Bruised, which is due in November.
The group spent spring and summer recording in Pachyderm Studio veteran Brent Sigmeth's home studio and Hollow Boys frontman Ali Jaafar's dingier Minneapolis space. While Sigmeth's Cannon Falls abode offered rural zen and pettable dogs, Jaafar stirred crustier aesthetics, which Salyer was forced to work around. "He left a message for her saying, 'Don't come over. An animal has died in the roof, and it smells so bad that I can't even find it,'" Hamilton recalls.
Listening to Bruise or Be Bruised, there are sonic schisms between the riff-driven aggression assumingly laid down beneath Jaafar's rot-laden rafters and the listless, open strums more appropriate for Cannon Falls. But with Salyer's ability to see her vision through a domino-line of compromises, perhaps their most tranquil moments rose from their more hellish surroundings.
Prissy Clerks will release Bruise or Be Bruised in November. More info here.
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