Patrons just keep streaming into this cozy south Minneapolis restaurant, and Prim Woes’ electric guitarist Jay Simonson would like to move outside.
“I feel like if those people come and sit down over here I’m gonna be super awkward,” he whispers, sinking into his seat, his face disappearing below his bushel of rock-feathered brown-blond hair. “I do not want to talk about myself.”
The other members—nylon acoustic guitarist Elise Pfau and keyboardist, synth stylist, and beat-deck captain Shelby Lano (who works at City Pages)—laugh but rise from their seats with immediate support.
Prim Woes is a team, their band a supportive scaffolding that allows each member the security to search for emotional discovery and fulfillment in their songs. The trio has been performing its moody, synth-smoothed folk-pop around the Twin Cities since earlier this year, and for each show they switch which member is in the middle.
“If someone’s feeling anxious that day, or not having it, or their crush came, they can just hang out in the shadows,” says Lano. “They can hide and still perform.”
There’s no leader. Each member writes and sings. But that doesn’t mean there are “Lano songs” or “Pfau songs.” This is a group effort.
“It’s never just one person singing,” says Lano.
“That’s too much,” says Simonson.
“That’s way too vulnerable,” Lano laughs.
Sun Dunk , their upcoming EP, is incredibly intimate, its vibe a fluid hum, with each member summoning the warmest elements of their instrument. Up from the whirring thrums and murmuring synths come these glorious yet reluctant harmonies. The Prim Woes chorus, a three-person melodic weave, unearths lyrics that range from the teary and reflectively mellow to the silly and cuttingly blunt. Prim Woes can be sweetly hopeful and pining but also spitefully self-aware with lyrics like “I got love, it ain’t for you.” They’re also sneakily jaunty, irresistibly melodic, and just fun.
Pfau and Simonson first played together in the much louder garage-rock band Nice Purse; they later linked up with the classically trained Lano in pursuit of a chiller mood. Their shared love of basketball not only inspired their EP title but led them to choose their band name using March Madness-style bracketing. “Prim Woes” defeated “My Truck” in the final.
“It was my New Year’s resolution to do more slam dunks this year,” said Lano, who identifies as a wing.
“We can do it,” said Jay. “It’s not too late.”
“Wing,” said Pfau, “This all sounds so cute.”