For fans like me, Prawn’s arrival in Cincinnati has been a long time coming. Whether you’ve been a fan since their formation in 2007, or are a recent disciple of their sound coming off of their split with Joie De Vivre, it’s been far too long of a wait to have them in the Queen City.
This July 25th at Rohs Street Café – one of the most appropriate spaces available for this kind of Indie/Emo get together – along with tour mates Free Throw, and local acts Armslength and Growing Up A Ghost, and Chicago’s Gardens, Prawn will play to an eager crowd, one I imagine is ready to enjoy over half a decade’s worth of music. While Free Throw is a relatively new name to this seemingly constantly burgeoning independent music scene, local act Armslength is quickly becoming a reliable, and reliably great, act in an often times hard to pinpoint local musical landscape (and maybe not even hard to pinpoint - perhaps just exclusive in it’s inclusion and fostering of certain genres). Excitingly, Cincinnati emo/punk band Growing Up A Ghost will be coming out of an over 4 year long hibernation, having just released a wonderful 3 song EP, marking their own return to a local music scene that could certainly put their talent to good use.
In anticipation of their arrival, I was able to ask Tony Clark, Prawn’s frontman, about the band, what they have in store for this tour, and even a little bit about what the future holds for a band that - despite being around 5+ years - is just now truly finding their footing. Their second full-length, Kingfisher, is a brilliant re-introduction for the band, a challengingly accessible record that displays the confidence they’ve always shown, displayed in a beautifully realized way.
Sincere thanks to Tony for taking the time to answer my questions.
Forgive me if I’m wrong, but it seems like Prawn hasn’t been to Cincinnati in quite a long time, if at all. The band has been around since 2007, but just now seems to be doing a lot more touring, with the last few years being especially busy – a full-length, several EPs and splits, and a new full-length releasing this August. Can you talk a little bit about how the band has progressed, and seems to finally be at a point where you can do more than just a week tour here and there, or play festivals a few times a year?
Sure. So our start date as a band says 2007, but we really didn’t get moving until late 2009. We messed around for 2 years playing together and trying to figure out what band we wanted to be, if any at all. We all also started freshman year of college in 2008 as well, so the band was on the back burner. We recorded our first real EP False Institutions in 2009 and attempted to tour that summer. However, we had zero connections and ended up partying more nights than playing. All in all, I think on that tour we realized we wanted to take the band more seriously. For the next few years, we all finished up college while maintaining the band as best we could. In 2012-2013, most of us graduated and made a conscious decision to dedicate our time to music as much as possible. So 2013 saw us writing a lot and prepping for Kingfisher. We’ll be on the road for the majority of 2014.
The band seems to get mentioned a lot in reference to the so-called “emo revival,” though it’s arguable that emo never really went away – Does that affect the band in any way? Do you feel like it ends up pigeonholing the band, or is it a positive thing to be placed in the company of a lot of admittedly great contemporary bands and peers?
The emo revival idea is strange. To be honest, I don’t really know categorically what defines “emo” at all. There’s such a vast array of bands that are labeled emo that sound nothing alike. I think there’s such a thin line between pop, pop-punk, emo, indie, post rock, punk, etc, that when a band doesn't fit neatly into one of those categories, people rush to label whatever sound they have. I mean, I’ve heard us be labeled “post emo.” Anyways, that was just a rant on labeling music, but I think its great bands that previously were flying under the radar are beginning to get the recognition they deserve. If that recognition is derived from some arbitrary labeling, so be it. If more listeners are turned on by a band they would’ve never heard of if the “emo revival” didn’t become a thing, then I think the emo revival is a great thing.
The tour that’s bringing you to Cincinnati seems to be one of the more extensive ones you’ve embarked on in recent memory. Prior to some headlining dates, you’ll be out with Into It. Over It., then with Free Throw for the Cincinnati date, and afterwards, with Foxing and The Hotelier, all of whom have been getting quite a bit of attention lately. How did this run of shows come about? How does it feel to be doing such a long run with these particular bands leading up to your new album’s release?
We actually just did about the same length run in March around SXSW. We had been brainstorming ideas of how we wanted to tour around the release if Kingfisher for a while. Then our booking agent offered us a few Into It. Over It. dates followed by the Foxing/Hotelier run. The two runs had about a two week gap in between, so we decided to stay on the road by ourselves rather than heading home. We really wanted to hit the west coast this summer but didn’t have enough time between the IIOI and Foxing dates. Hopefully west coast is in the cards for 2014.
We’re thrilled about heading out with those bands. We’ve known Evan (Into It. Over It.) for a while and have played a few shows with him. We met the Foxing guys when they came to NJ in January and then hung out with them a lot on our March tour. We got along really well and I had to nag Josh to let us open for them on their next tour. Don’t know the Hotelier, but heard they’re nice guys and I love their new record.
When you announced this run of tour dates, you also – and just as importantly – announced the release of your second full-length, Kingfisher, through Topshelf Records. It was recorded with Greg Dunn of Moving Mountains (and now Say Anything), and really provides the clearest picture yet of what and where Prawn is musically. Can you talk about the writing process, how it was working with Greg, and how this might have differed from your previous recording experiences?
The writing experience for Kingfisher was the most different than any other way we’ve written a record. Andrew left the band in 2013, so Kyle switched to guitar and our friend Ryan came in on bass. So with those two switches, it was like writing with a new band. A breath of fresh air to say the least. Ryan saw songs completely differently than the other three of us did, which pushed us a lot further songwriting wise. We also spent a lot more time writing and revising for Kingfisher than we had previously.
Working with Greg was great. He had previously mixed a few of our older records that we recorded on our own. This time we did everything in a studio with Greg behind the board. He was super helpful and insightful, but not pushy and let the record still be ours. He’s also a phenomenal songwriter and added a lot to what we already had. Overall 10/10 on the writing and recording process of Kingfisher.
After having listened to Kingfisher several times (as of writing these questions), and as I mentioned above, it does seem to be the most concisely and consciously Prawn record yet, taking a lot of the elements you started working in to your music at the start and refining them to the point where they’re integral to each track. Do you feel like, after 7 years, and after several member changes, you’re finally able to focus on those elements that really sort of “tie the room together?”
I would say so. We’ve always liked experimenting with different elements in our songwriting. I think Kingfisher is more vocally driven than our previous releases. When we started the band, we had a huge dilemma if we wanted to be more like Explosions in the Sky or Built to Spill. We’ve written a bunch of instrumental songs as well. With Kingfisher, we were able to find that balance of writing sound instrumental songs while also fitting vocals in there.
The band also just recently released a brilliant split with Joie De Vivre, along with a video for one of your two tracks, “Why You Always Leave A Note.” The response has been extremely positive and certainly has everyone excited for the full-length. Were those two tracks written as a sort of precursor to the album, or do you consider them songs of their own time and place?
Those two songs definitely have their own time and place. I had originally written “Fracture” to be a song for my solo project. However, Jamie and Kyle started writing drum parts for it, and it took on a life of its own. Jamie and I wrote “Why You Always Leave a Note” as a two-piece with Kyle coming in later. We wrote those two songs right around the time Andrew stopped playing with us and before Corey and Ryan came in. We really like how those two songs came out, but wasn’t expecting them to be received so well. Its great though because we can’t wait to show everyone the new record, because in our minds, Kingfisher is much better than the songs in the split.
I recently saw a post by the band saying that on this tour the plan was to play your Ships EP in its entirety. Is that true? And if so, what brought about that decision? (Personally, I couldn’t be more excited to have booked you when you’re playing Ships because I love that EP).
Yeah. We’re going to being playing Ships in its entirety. I think the new album really takes the band in a slightly different direction and with Andrew leaving, and the addition of new members, we thought it’d be cool to give one last hurrah to Ships. Also, we haven’t played a lot of those songs live too often. For example, this will be our first time playing “Costa Rica” live. We’re going to throw some new songs in our set as well. We’ll be touring a lot more in the future and most likely playing mostly new songs, so this is basically paying homage to fans of older Prawn.
By all accounts, the new album is going to turn some heads, and as a fan, has me so excited to see what’s next for the band, how other fans both new and old react, and, even more so, to experience these new tracks live (along with some choice older ones). How are you feeling about the year, your current plans, and where things are heading?
Honestly, we couldn’t be more excited. We all knew going into Kingfisher this would be the big push. We hope to tour as much as possible and take advantage of any experiences and opportunities that come our way. Hopefully we can continue to be a band as long as possible.
We’re excited to have you in Cincinnati, and can’t wait for the show on July 25th! Is there anything else you’d like to add or mention?
Nope, not really. I think we covered all the bases. Thanks for having me!
Thanks so much for your time!
You can catch Prawn with Free Throw, Armslength, and Growing Up A Ghost on Friday July 25th at Rohs St. Cafe. Doors are at 8pm, the show starts at 8:30, and is $5 at the door. Prawn’s new record, Kingfisher, comes out August 12th via Topshelf Records.