Prissy Clerks' Clara Salyer: My dad thought we were playing THE Shea Stadium
The buzz surrounding Prissy Clerks has grown so steadily that this spring the Minneapolis indie rockers even played a show at Shea Stadium. Granted, it wasn't the same Shea Stadium that the Beatles and the '86 Mets made famous -- no, this was an underground club in Brooklyn that "borrows" its name wryly from the legendary but long-lamented ballpark. But still, it's proof that Prissy Clerks have grown a wider audience far beyond Minnesota.
This summer's agenda includes an appearance at Des Moines' 80/35 Festival, a Music & Movies series performance at Walker Art Center , and a prominent place at our very own 10 Thousand Sounds Festival this weekend. Gimme Noise caught up with singer/guitarist Clara Salyer, bassist Howard Hamilton III, guitarist Dylan Ritchie, drummer Tim Leick Jr., and accordian player/keyboardist Emily Lazear for some early evening outdoor coffees at Spyhouse, where they described how their trip out east went, how much fun they had making the "Blast Off Girls" video, and the new material they are currently working on.
Gimme Noise: How did the band come together in the early stages?
Dylan: Us three [Ritchie, Salyer, and Hamilton] were already playing music together as NPC's, and Howard and I had shared a practice space together for a long time with Red Pens and Teenage Strangler. And it came time for Clara to give voice to some songs that she was writing, and we all decided that they were different enough and we didn't want to muddy the waters of NPC's -- which is still very important to us -- so we formed a new band around those songs.
Clara: Yeah, they were just a batch of songs that were brewing in my head for a while, and I had nothing to do with them. Tim and I wanted to play together again after Total Babe, and do something a little different. And, we hand-picked Emily from the tons of accordion players in Minneapolis because she's the best.
Was it a challenge for all of you to make a stylistic shift in sound from your previous bands to create something fresh and new with Prissy Clerks?
Clara: For me, no, because Total Babe had just been building towards this different sound, and we never really hit on it. Prissy Clerks just kind of picked up where we left off -- in my head, I guess. So for me it was a super natural transition, because this style was just what I was writing at the time, and what I'm continuing to write.
Howard: Total Babe didn't have a bass player, so just adding a bass player to things changed it a bit. And adding an accordion just automatically changed the sound. The new songs were always heading towards a more electric sound.
Had you played bass before Prissy Clerks?
Howard: I started out playing bass, and I kind of missed it. I had a bass, and I almost sold it -- they told me they would only give me $150 for it, so I decided to keep it. And yeah, so now here I am.
Did your past musical experience inform and influence your collective approach to writing and recording the songs that would eventually make up Bruise or Be Bruised?
Clara: I don't think so. I think I made tons of poor choices and mistakes, and I'm still very much learning. I was just listening to our record again, and I realized that we recorded when we were pretty new to everything and still kind of a young band -- if we had waited a year later to record the album, it would've sounded totally different.
What was the process like recording the album -- was it a quick and easy ordeal for you all?
Clara: Yeah, we did it in chunks, and we did each chunk very quickly. Half of it were the songs that I had written a long time ago that we recorded with Brent Sigmeth, who used to run Pachyderm. And then we did the newer batch with Ali [Jaafar] from Hollow Boys.
Dylan: And we kind of ran into a deadline with Emily going to college, so we got the last session in quickly, which went great. Forged Artifacts have been great supporting us since then, and we're really pleased with the record. We've got plans to record more this summer.
Clara: Yeah, we had a recording session in the works this month, but [studio engineer] John Miller's console fried. So now, I don't know what we'll do. We're not totally ready to record, but I wanted some sort of deadline in place, to force us to get our shit together by a certain point.
How did you hook up with the folks at Forged Artifacts initially?
Clara: He [Forged Artifacts founder Matt Linden] had emailed me, right when he was putting together Nice Purse's debut. And we had only like six songs recorded at that moment. He was nice and supportive, and easy, and we felt like it would be a great partnership.
How important or significant was it for you to put Bruise or Be Bruised out on vinyl?
Clara: I had never put out anything on vinyl before, so I was totally stoked. And it took me until after it was pressed, and I actually had a chance to hear it before it really sunk in. And I realized that people aren't being douchebags when they say "It sounds better on vinyl." I mean, it REALLY sounds better on vinyl -- I would prefer to hear it that way every single time.
Dylan: Just having the object is important, and the fact that Forged Artifacts wanted to do something more than just the standard black vinyl for the first pressing -- we think that's really cool, and something to get people excited about music again, and maybe they realize that music isn't just something you have on your hard drive, filled with things that you'll never see and feel.
So, how did the show in Brooklyn come about, and what was that experience like for you all?
Clara: I sent a copy of our record to Lio Kanine [founder of Brooklyn-based Kanine Records], and he emailed me back saying, 'I like this song, thanks for sending it to me. Let me know if you ever play in New York and I'll come see you.' And I thought that was really cool, that someone I really respect liked our music. But we didn't have any money, so there was no way we were going to be able to play in New York at that time.
But at the end of March, I got this random email from Lio saying, 'Hey Clara (like I had known him forever), do you want to come play in New York and open up for this band I'm signing called Splashh.' And the show was in a month. Immediately, I thought we have to find a way to do this. But logistically it was a little silly. We figured it out -- I got my car worked on, and we fit into my little station wagon, and borrowed as much gear as we could.
I'd do it again. But in my head, I thought 'We're going to drive to New York, and Lio Kanine is going to sign us, and it's going to be this total fairy tale.' And it wasn't, but it was cool in its own right. And we all bonded. And both Dylan's dad and my dad thought that we were actually playing THE Shea Stadium. I only corrected my dad last week -- I let him think for so long that we really played Shea Stadium.
What was the experience like making the "Blast Off Girls" video?
Clara: That was super fun. Gordon [Byrd] from Teenage Moods is one of my favorite people, and he posted on Facebook, 'Fuck, I have to pay taxes, so I'll do music videos for $100.' And I was like -- OK, we're going to do ten music videos. It was such a fun time, and it only took like two hours. I want to do another video with him really soon. I think everyone in Minneapolis should do a video with him.
So, what else do you have planned for the summer, in addition to the big festivals you are playing?
Dylan: Mainly recording. Everything is in town other than 80/35 in Iowa. But we would like to have an extended date tour, like a Chicago/Milwaukee tour with a few other stops. There is some new material that is coming to light, and so I think the live shows will be really fun for us to work that out and fit the new material into the sets.
Clara: Yeah, I like our new songs a lot. And I think we'll try to do a quick 7-inch or an EP with some of them. I think our new songs are possibly a little heavier than some of our other songs.
Tim: Yeah, at least from a drumming perspective they are heavier. There are like Cloud Nothings-y type drums on some of the tracks.
Howard: We're still building fans, and all of these festival things are putting us in front of audiences who have never seen us before. So that's cool.
Clara: Yeah, 80/35 just asked if we wanted to do a meet and greet, and I was like, "No one is going to come," but sure, we'll do it.
Dylan: It's going to be more like a greet and greet. We're just going to keep greeting ourselves.
See Also from 10 Thousand Sounds artists:
Greg Grease: I like to change people's minds
Free Energy's Paul Sprangers: I can look like an idiot and dance like a monkey
The Chalice: Collaborating in Minneapolis has helped us all out
Prissy Clerks will perform at City Pages' 10 Thousand Sounds festival at 8th St. and Hennepin Ave. in downtown Minneapolis on Saturday, June 22. The lineup includes the Walkmen, Free Energy, Greg Grease, Strange Names, and hosts the Chalice. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door, and $45 for VIP (not available day of show).
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