Left to Right: Alex Brownstein-Carter, Eric Buller, Joe Ceponis, David Sigler, David Sabludowsky (photo by Sean Moore)
I met Alex Brownstein-Carter when I started serving soup at Mopho, the tragically-named (but very good!) Vietnamese fusion restaurant on City Park Avenue, in the late summer of 2017. We were chatting about music one day, and he let it slip that he had a band, and I let it slip that I was an aspiring music journalist. A couple weeks later, he sheepishly passed me a CD of Primpce’s debut album, The Best Thing to Get to Do is to Learn to Inspire You. I was skeptical at first. The long-winded title and intentionally lo-fi presentation were red flags of the extreme hipsterism I was only just beginning to welcome into my life. On first listen, I was a bit confused but still intrigued. I left it in my car for weeks, playing it whenever I drove. Alex’s stuttering drumlines and jarring vocal affectations, along with David Sigler’s skronky yet clean guitar lines overlaid in dense counterpoint, were things I didn’t yet have the musical lexicon to process. I was into it, though, and when I saw them live, performing in their boxers with matching lime-green tees and hi-vis safari hardhats, I was sold.
Shortly after Alex and I both quit Mopho, I joined Primpce on the final leg of their 2018 tour. Traveling with the band, I learned more about their influences (not just Captain Beefheart!), their Alabama roots, and their bowel movements. But even with all this intimate knowledge of the band, I was entirely unprepared for their second album, Goodbye Marines and Hello Dad It’s Son or Mr. Worm The Monster, which went live on streaming in September and came out on vinyl on Halloween via Syncro System Records. On it, they reach far beyond their art rock origins and bring in childhood mythologies, toy commercials, Pentacostal exorcisms and auditory hallucinations, along with North African and Middle Eastern pentatonic scales and polyrhythms. The result is a sonic soup that would have made for an impossible listen in less gifted hands. Instead, it’s one of the most exciting releases of 2020, and the liner notes alone provide a delicious buffet of lore for the inquisitive fan.
What started as a straightforward interview devolved into three sprawling conversations. The following transcripts include a tattoo show and tell, musings on soup (both sonic and liquid), and a track-by-track breakdown of Goodbye Marines.
OCTOBER 22, 2020, 4:53PM CDT (Zoom)
How have you been?
Alex Brownstein-Carter: We’ve been good! We live together, and we’re both full-time students. We sit in each other’s rooms all day and do homework and have anxiety attacks, and our backs hurt. [Laughs] We’ve been trying to arrange the songs from the album for the band, tabbing out the guitar lines and combining the drum parts so they can be performed on a kit, which takes forever.
David Sigler: Alex has been very diligent in writing out tabs for all the guitarists, and for Joe [Ceponis, bassist]. We haven’t dived into writing out the songs in traditional notation yet. Me and Eric [Buller, guitarist] talked about getting in Finale or Sibelius, using that in combination with Guitar Pro to have an actual score. Tabs can only reflect so much. They don’t reflect rhythm, really. Alex isolates everybody’s part and sends it to them so they can listen to it by itself while looking at the tab. That gives them a sense of rhythm and pulse. I’d love to write out the whole thing in traditional notation one day. It would be great to have. But that’s a massive undertaking.
ABC: I can’t even read music, so that’s one of the things holding me back from doing that. But obviously I’d love to do it in the future. One thing that’s interesting about the arranging process is that, a lot of the time, we end up with eight different guitar parts and three or four drum parts. So when we’re arranging for five-piece—or four-piece, as we did in the past—we need to condense everything down, three guitar parts into one part. Sometimes you’re playing a high-register part and a low-register part at the same time.
DS: It definitely requires some maneuvering, but maybe a little less so now that we have David [Sabludowsky, of Casual Burn] in the band. We don’t have to scramble so much to combine what was three guitar parts on the record into one guitar part and figure out how to finger that on the fretboard. We can divide it up between three guitars now. I think the music is better that way, having separate voices, instead of compacting them all into one or two parts.
I know the last album took some doing to pull off live. This one seems much more ambitious.
DS: It is. It’s coming together, though. We’re about five songs in, and it’s gonna work! We’ll be able to play mostly everything. There might be a few tracks we need to rework, so they’ll have their own unique character live that’s slightly different from the recording. But Alex also invested in some really cool technology for the band. He got a sample pad and a new drum machine, so we have a new arsenal of sounds that’ll really help us pull this album off live in a way we didn’t last time and be as faithful to the album as possible.
I guess it’s a blessing and a curse that you have all this time when you can’t perform the album live, because now you’ve got the chance to practice it and get it up to speed. Are you practicing in person? I saw you had a Zoom practice a couple weeks ago.
DS: Yeah, we’re practicing in person now, twice a week. We have a nice little space at Fountainbleau. We share it with this surf rock band Shark Attack. They’re very kind. If it wasn’t for them, we’d be practicing at the house and annoying my landlord. We want to start recording live videos of songs as we’re perfecting them. The end goal is a full hour-long livestream set, if we’re not able to play live for the foreseeable future.
Alex, is that a new tattoo on your arm? No, not that one, the naked lady looking one.
ABC: Oh, yeah. No, I’ve had that for like seven years. It’s actually from a Goya painting. It’s a witch riding an owl.
Ah. I thought maybe you just went and got a classic naked lady arm tattoo.
ABC: I mean, I did. She is naked. David, show him your body.
DS: Have you seen my Mahler tattoo? [Takes shirt off to reveal upper arm] That’s Gustav Mahler conducting a symphony. It’s from a 1920s German magazine.
ABC: Have you seen my Prince tramp stamp? [Turns around and lifts shirt to reveal the Love Symbol, shows some butt-crack]
Saturn Bar, 2018. Left to Right: Sigler, Brownstein-Carter, Buller (photo by Sam Weil)
The next interview was postponed until three weeks later, 12 days after Goodbye Marines’ physical release. When the Primpce boys joined the Zoom call, David was chowing down on a bowl of amorphous white goo. We talked about said goo for a good five minutes, but I’ll only include the bare essentials here.
NOVEMBER 12, 2020, 4:11PM CST (Zoom)
What’s that you’re eating?
DS: It’s white soup.
New England clam chowder? Cream of corn?
DS: Nope, just white soup. My dad sent me a bunch of it. I’m broke right now, so it’s pretty much all I’ve been eating lately.
I’ll be honest; it looks quite disgusting.
DS: I’ve grown to like it, actually. Do yourself a favor and get yourself some white soup.
I’ll look into that. Anyway, we talked about doing a track-by-track breakdown of Goodbye Marines, so if y’all are still down, I’ll forge on ahead with that, for time’s sake.
DS: Sounds good!
ABC: I like that idea.
ABC: The original song [from Sublime Frequencies compilation Staring Into the Sun—Ethiopian Tribal Music] is two people playing lyres. The first time I heard it, I was mystified by the deceivingly complex polyrhythmic interplay between the two lyres, and how they were able to create that on these two-stringed instruments. It’s also interesting how it’s recorded. The background ambience is way louder than the song itself. There are people talking really loud, and the lyres sound so distant.
DS: What I like about it is the improvisatory aspect. It’s not like everybody’s playing everything note for note. But when we go to arrange a Primpce song and we’re taking any sort of non-Western music that has improvisation in it, we’re not improvising at all. We’re looking at moments in these songs, finite phrases.
You started the last album with a pretty straightforward cover, and now you’ve started this one with a loose interpretation. What’s the appeal in starting your records with the work of others?
ABC: Continuity, I think. It’s the only cover, so we wanted to get it out of the way so there would be a nice flow of originals for the rest of the album. Also, I like when albums start with an instrumental track. And again, everything is in the order of when we wrote the songs, and that was the first one we completed.
ABC: Mr. She-Scary with One Eye is a monster I drew when I was four. My dad recently gave me a bunch of drawings I did in preschool. They’re all monsters that I would name, and the preschool counselor would write out the names for me. Mr. She-Scary is a circular ghostman with one eye. He’s actually on the album cover, right in the middle. See that? She scary!
This is the first song where you sample song bank tunes, right?
ABC: Yeah, I used a Kawasaki children’s keyboard. I actually used that same keyboard to come up with the riffs for multiple songs, so a few of them contain the same DNA. There are like six different song banks that I was triggering and improvising with, so some of the DNA from “Mr. She-Scary” is present on “You Think It’s Funny” and a few others.
DS: Alex would take these song bank tunes and slow them down or speed them up, and put different parts of them on top of each other. We’d take a certain moment from that and write additional parts to it, and it would turn into a song. And then another song would be birthed out of another moment from that same sample.
ABC: I was trying to come up with an initial groove to start the song. I wanted to create a jarring, weird polyrhythm I couldn’t conceive of consciously. I like leaving it up to chance. It often yields more interesting results for me, to the point where I almost depend on that too much and don’t trust my own creative voice a lot of the time.
DS: But all it takes is one moment from one of these tunes, one little motif we hear, to inspire an entire song.
ABC: The recordings of these song banks and the speakers they’re coming out of are so poor that it creates these fucked up overtones. And when you crank up the sample, you start auditorily hallucinating. You’re like, “Oh, wait! That can be a guitar part,” even though it might not even exist—it’s just from all the crazy digital distortion.
You used to start Primpce shows by reading from your diary from when you were nine, and you’re reaching back even earlier on this track. Why do you think you’re so drawn to source material from your childhood?
ABC: Maybe it’s a quarter-life existential crisis thing. The further I get from childhood, the more nostalgic I get about it. I digitally converted all my old home videos like five years ago, and I lost my mind watching them. It made me hyper-obsessed with my childhood.
DS: It’s still very much Alex. His individualism is inherent in the stuff he wrote when he was eight, or even younger. So it feels like really fitting source material that isn’t too self-serious but still very related to self. Some of the shit that came out of this little kid’s mouth is really bizarre, and it just works. It’s not all verbatim. Alex will whip up prose that uses little bits of phrases from stuff he wrote as a kid and then glue it together with even more surreal imagery.
ABC: “Mr. She-Scary” is a combination of the mythology of the monsters I drew and a recurring nightmare I have now where I’m in my childhood home and a boogeyman is knocking on the door and looking inside through a window… It’s funny talking about this shit because I have this voice in my head that’s just like, people won’t think any of this is interesting!
DS: Aw, man. I think that’s a) not true, and b) if it is true for some people, it is what it is. Don’t let that cause you to second-guess everything.
ABC: I need one of those pills they shove rectally up Donald Trump to make him perform well.
DS: Me fucking too, man.
Here, you’re taking some cliches—people being made on an assembly line, or being lined up at a slaughterhouse—and putting a Primpce spin on it. Did the Iraqi song you got the chorus from have something to do with any of those themes?
DS: All the lyrics were written after all the songs were completely done instrumentally, so very rarely was there any sort of influence from a particular part of the instrumental on the lyrics.
So the Iraqi song is just in the instrumental, not something you interpreted lyrics from.
ABC: Yeah, except we used similar vocal phrasing to what’s in the song. Lyrically, it’s all just a stream of consciousness based on a Uline catalog that included a bin cart. I was trying to write lyrics using imagery sourced from mundane office products.
ABC: This one references another recurring nightmare I used to have when I was a boy of being chased by a small clown. I ended up killing him in a dream. I knocked his head off with a broom, and I was never haunted by that clown again. When we first wrote the verse, we joked about how it sounded like a scary lullaby you would sing to a baby to give it bad dreams.
DS: The anti-lullaby.
ABC: So I started looking up old traditional lullabies and trying to subvert their tropes to make a really dark one. But it’s also weird because I’m addressing my dad in it. I’m like, “Have a horrifying sleep, dad.”
DS: I’m really fond of that one because it was our first time writing on a keyboard together. I was taking a piano class and feeling kind of confident with fingerings. As soon as we started writing together on piano, we realized it was almost as easy as writing on guitar. There’s some crazy polyrhythmic stuff later on in the song that’s sort of reminiscent of Philip Glass or Steve Reich. A lot of that happened accidentally.
ABC: We got the phrase from a sample from the Kawasaki keyboard. It had these weird, almost vocal-like overtones. The more you listen to it, the more you can hear this demonic voice whispering, “You think it’s funny.”
DS: The video gave it a different context. It was Eric’s idea to take TikTok videos and make them look like they’re dancing to Primpce. As soon as we started doing that, it seemed like this very pointed satire of bizarre YouTube culture or TikTok dancers. But Alex didn’t have any of that in mind when he was writing the lyrics.
ABC: I saw some documentary about Francis Bacon, where he quotes some artist saying something like, “The reek of death smiles out at me.” I love nightmarish imagery involving smiles. I think the smile, and the human face in general, is the scariest thing that exists.
Who else in that body horror realm are you into, other than Bacon?
ABC: David Lynch is the master of making smiles uncanny. In Inland Empire there’s a scene where Laura Dern confronts the antagonist, and they’re staring at each other, and then all of a sudden her face is superimposed on the antagonist’s face in this crude photoshop, and she’s smiling really garishly, and you hear this horrifying stab of strings. I remember seeing that shit in the theater when I was a teenager and jumping out of my seat. I had nightmares about it for weeks. I have it tattooed right here. [pulls down shirt to show scary chest tattoo]
DS: It’s the most terrifying smile ever. I couldn’t get it out of my head. The song is about scary smiles, if it’s about anything.
ABC: It’s a critique of humor too, how so much of comedy is a song and dance act and how annoyingly performative and fake a lot of comedy seems to be.
DS: A lot of what Alex and I find humorous are things that are meant to be humorous but are humorous for different reasons than they were intended to be. So much of what we have giggle fits about is bad comedy, people working really hard to be funny but totally failing, comedians that are so over the top that it’s funny in a surreal way. Jim Carrey is a good famous example. Daniel Songer is a good YouTube example.
DS: The name of this song is tied to the first album, as far as consistency goes. The title of the first album came about after Alex woke up with a long, nonsensical fragment of a sentence stuck in his head.
ABC: This time it was a waking dream I had. I could hear this man in a Southern accent saying, “Goodbye, marines! Goodbye, marines!” But the rest of the album title doesn’t come from that.
DS: “Hello Dad It’s Son” is a Primpce insider. I was joking about how when my dad leaves me a voicemail, he always starts with, “Hey David, it’s Dad,” as if I can’t tell from his voice or from the caller ID. So I was thinking how funny it would be if I called him and said “Hey Dad, it’s Son” in the same way. And “Mr. Worm the Monster” is another of Alex’s childhood illustrations. If you look at it, you’ll see he initially wrote, “Wilma,” and then it’s crossed out.
ABC: I think the counselor who was interpreting the title thought I said Mr. Wilma because I was a little boy with a speech impediment, and then I corrected her. I said, “No, it’s wowm!”
DS: We pulled out my old seventh grade yearbook and were reading all the notes. The “Devin” referred to in the song is actually me. Musically speaking, this is one of my favorites. We’re learning it right now as a band, and it’s so much fun to play. It’s all over the map. There are so many shifts in mood.
So this one samples both an Azerbaijani wedding DJ and a Nigerian televangelist.
ABC: The song started with that insane drum machine solo from the Cavad Recebov video. I was transfixed by it. I slowed down the rate of the solo and it sounded way cooler, like it was sourced from real drums. We were originally just gonna write a melodic accompaniment to the slowed down drum solo, but we got underwhelmed by that process. Then I had the idea to take different rhythms from that drum solo and combine them to create these monster polyrhythms that are constantly changing. And then we wrote instrumental accompaniment to it, which was a challenge because it’s the longest song we’ve written. And every time the rhythm changed, we had to change the guitar and the bass parts.
DS: It was a really cool but really frustrating musical exercise.
ABC: All the lyrics are quotes from different televangelist videos from SCOAN [Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, Nigeria] and Pastor T.B. Joshua. I made a supercut a few years ago compiling the most deranged, violent moments from these videos, which are primarily of exorcisms. It’s really disturbing. They have a very contemporary demonic mythology, where traditional religious mythologies interact with things like Facebook. A lot of the people having these exorcisms have contracted demons through Facebook, or through their phones.
DS: It’s sad. People are conned into this idea that they’re ailed by demonic powers, and they spend money at this huge megachurch to be healed.
ABC: What particularly fascinated me about it is that it seemed like the people making the videos all had this collectively unrealized fetish for violence and suffering. People make pilgrimages from all over Africa to visit this ministry. They have these bleeding, cancerous holes, and they’re like, “Please, T.B. Joshua, deliver me.” And as he’s performing the exorcism, the camera is constantly zooming in on their physical ailments, and there’s always this creepy robotic voiceover that’s like, “Look at the pus and infection.”
ABC: We built that whole song around cicada samples. I don’t really know shit about cicadas, but before they vibrate themselves, they make these sparser clicks. It usually goes, “K-k-k-k-k,” and then “Kccchhhhh!!!” So I would take those initial clicks and do a call-and-response, play the same thing on a hi-hat and write a whole drum part around it, so the cicada is leading the rhythm, and all I’m doing is trying to embellish and expand on it.
ABC: We were cutting up these vocal samples from these toy commercial jingles and fragmenting them. I don’t know exactly what they’re saying in the commercials, but it sounded to me like, “It’s a worm.”
DS: When you mess with these weird kids’ songs—speed them up, slow them down, stack them on top of each other—they create their own sonorities and melodies. It’s not totally unique to one person’s ear either. It’s pretty distinct a lot of the time. But it takes a lot of experimentation to get it to a point where you hear something that’s not there in its natural form.
ABC: Back in like 2013, I started recording covers of children’s toy jingles because I love the format. They only have a certain amount of time—like 15 seconds—so they have to really fragment the song, and they end up writing these irregular phrasings. I realized if I interpreted it on my own, it sounded like a weird, proggy punk song. And then I started getting really into the polytonality of combining two disparate songs. It’s a cool alchemy where you never know what you’ll come out with. There are these micro-loops that only last for half a second. When they’re repeated over and over again, they have a hypnotic effect. You’ll take one little fragment of a song and loop it, and all of a sudden there’s this menace. You hear this weird tension that’s not actually there. It’s like you’ve unearthed this evil thing that’s not meant to be heard.
You mentioned YouTube culture before, and this all reminds me of the nightmarish section of YouTube Kids where the algorithm creates scarier and scarier videos from existing content [“Something is Wrong on the Internet” (Medium, 2017)]. Have you seen any of that stuff?
DS: A lot of our stuff is accidentally nightmarish. That’s what’s so funny about it. It’s a happy accident, or not so happy I guess.
ABC: When I started writing “Worm Surprise,” I was listening to Macintosh Plus. I’d always avoided vaporwave because it was always so trendy, but I love the way she chops up some of these weird old muzak samples. It feels like how it would sound if a computer virus could make music. And I was like, “Oh, I really wanna try to do the same thing!” [Laughs]
Amidst a hellishly busy pre-Thanksgiving week, we talked one last time. The internet in my apartment was spotty, so we spoke over the phone. With little time to waste, we got right into it.
NOVEMBER 18, 2020, 6:48PM CST (Phone)
ABC: The failed demolition of the Hard Rock Hotel took place around the time we were recording this song, and I was working at Green Goddess in the French Quarter, so I was able to get a recording of it. It was a very loud sound, and it really scared me. I think I bumped my head on something, it was so loud. I hope I never hear anything that loud ever again.
And the lyrics are text from junk mail?
DS: Yeah. For a while I kept getting spam emails that would have these auto-generated non-sequiturs. They would congratulate me for the “upstanding clicks” I was making on my mousepad. They had words like “crediblepresent,” “trueclick,” “pleasantgenius.”
ABC: I Googled the text from the emails and found more digital footprints from the same source. There were these huge blocks of text, this spam generator creating this beautiful poetry. It was all on this Geosite with all these old, forgotten blog posts that had hundreds of spam comments left on them—huge, beautiful blocks of nonsense.
ABC: I’d just read [Toni Morrison’s] The Bluest Eye. It’s fantastic. In the passage I quote from, the protagonist is getting taunted by these neighborhood bullies who keep repeating this racist chant, spreading rumors about her father, how he sleeps naked and is the town drunk. But when she quotes the taunt, she also quotes this rhythmic pattern that correlates to it. So we started with that rhythm and wrote from there. All the vocal samples in that song are from a conversation I heard between two big thrift-heads at a thrift store in Chalmette. It was really just one of them, this guy with a really thick Chalmette accent scream-talking on and on about this blue leather couch he’d found. I stood next to them for like 15 minutes and recorded.
ABC: The instrumental sample is from a song bank on a children’s drum pad. And the lyrics are all from Facebook posts by someone I went to high school with who posted very prolifically in the early 2010s. She’d write these really confessional, touching posts about her unrequited love and loneliness, and I saved a lot of them. And all the lyrics are direct quotes from that.
Would you show her the song?
ABC: I would. I think she would appreciate it. I haven’t reached out to her, but I’d like to. I hope she wouldn’t find it exploitative, because I think there’s some real poetry in her words.
This one’s a classic. You’ve been playing it live for years. What made you decide to retool it for the album?
ABC: Well, we’d never really done a proper recording of it, and it just seemed right. That’s another one that’s a loose interpretation of a traditional western Saharan song [“Gourmi Praise Song for the Sarki (Hausa)” by Moussa and Issa].
When you say, “My new dream I’m in college, I am the Zumba instructor,” is that something else from one of your dreams? Or is it a dream of yours, in the figurative sense, to be a Zumba instructor?
ABC: Absolutely not. We took the actual lyrics from the traditional song and translated them phonetically into English, and I took some liberties. It’s the same notes and same exact phrasings. But I interpreted it in my typical stream-of-consciousness babble. And when I talk about how I’m in college, I am in college! I didn’t have a dream where I was a Zumba instructor, but my cousin is a Zumba instructor, so that was probably on the brain.
15. Extreme Demonic Possession
ABC: The sample comes from one of the first ever Primpce practices in early 2017. We were trying to record our practice, and when we listened back to it, the recording had glitched out. It was sped up like 20x and also looped, so that it would progress about half a second and then loop back like a quarter of a second, and these loops continued to slowly advance. The glitch had its own fixed rhythm. It sounded so psychedelic, so we wrote an instrumental to it.
We were talking about RP Boo the other day, and when I was listening back to this track, it occurred to me that it starts out sounding a lot like his song “Bangin’ On King Drive.”
ABC: I think we did that one before I’d even heard of RP Boo. He became an inspiration for me later. But his influence is definitely in the album, at least in the later stages when I was mixing and added in some extra percussion. It’s definitely there on “She and You and He.”
ABC: This is the other commercial song. It’s a progression from “Worm Surprise.” I was inspired by the way RP Boo combines samples that are in different keys to find a polytonality that’s dissonant but still works. We approached the latter half of the album from an electronic production perspective, but in a Primpcian way. That song is our attempt at making EDM.
This one is maybe the most abstract song on the album. It’s based around a sample of a urinal flushing, right?
DS: I think of this one as an atonal funeral dirge.
ABC: I was peeing in the bathroom at the Earl K. Long Library at UNO, on the third floor, which is where we took the picture for the cover of the album, which is a glory hole we found way in the back. I flushed the urinal, and the flush was very tonal. So I recorded that and slowed it down, and it was even more musical than I expected. And we were able to write the initial chord progression, all from the notes we heard in that urinal flush.
DS: This one is my favorite song on the album musically. The whole time we were recording this song, I was taking a 20th century music history class, and I was really inspired by the music of Alexander Scriabin and Igor Stravinsky, and then later Alban Berg and Arnold Schoenberg. The middle of “The Librarian” has an atonal piano section inspired by a lot of that music. And there are these whirling, deceptive cadences in the guitar parts. I’m really proud of how that song is really rapid-fire, constantly shifting, so dense, but there are several very distinct sections. It’s a strange musical journey.
Who is Paul G. Chester Alcantara?
ABC: In 2014, me and my friend and film collaborator, Zach Sharp, made a feature-length film called Chacing Pavements. We found the script on an old screenplay-formatting website. We were intentionally looking for odd, unpublished scripts by amateur screenwriters, and we stumbled across the screenplay for this truly bizarre romantic comedy that was written by a 16-year-old boy from the Philippines. He wrote it in English, but he seemed to be learning English at the time, because it was very broken. And it was hilarious, intentionally and unintentionally at the same time. We made the entire thing, word for word. We’d also found some scripts for a few short films that he wrote, and I’d had them on my computer for a while. One of them is called “The Librarian,” and we sourced a lot of the lyrics from that and Chacing Pavements. I found phrases that were interesting to me from throughout those scripts and pieced them together, so the song ended up being this nonsensical collage.
If there were to be a connecting thread for this album, would you say it’s that process of removing things from their original intention and incorporating them into Primpce’s artistic universe?
ABC: It’s good to hear someone able to come up with an overarching thread, because at this point, I’m not sure there is one. Every song has its own source of inspiration that we follow through on with our own ideas. So now I guess we have to step back a bit. I think we place a lot of importance on non-musical things. We try not to draw from direct musical inspiration, in terms of coming up with an initial idea for a song. We employ our musical knowledge and influences later. But I think it’s important that a lot of these songs’ ideas were generated from sources that are totally divorced from music. We didn’t want to just make an album directly inspired by some other experimental post-punk band.
Do you see any connection between the songs that draw from non-musical ideas and the ones that are interpretations of real songs, or other fully formed pieces of art, like the Ethiopian tribal song?
DS: I think it’s about framing them in a different context. In the case of those songs that were inspired by more directly musical sources, we made sure to abstract them, and then write our own music, and then mix the DNA of the two, putting what would normally be in one musical context in the complete opposite musical context. Hopefully there’s some alchemy there, and it comes out with something that sounds strange and new.
ABC: One of the reasons why we referenced the Ethiopian, western Saharan, Iraqi music that we did reference—besides the fact that it really appeals to us—is that I have a bone to pick with most Western bands. I think there are too many Western bands that are only listening to Western music. Even the more experimental bands, you can tell they don’t really branch out much from their Western bubble. I’m not trying to be on my high horse, but I do think it’s important that we show respect to non-Western music, as a Western band.
DS: Alex definitely made a point of that. I study mostly Western music, classical music of the Western tradition. So putting a Western interpretation of non-Western music in the context of electric instruments makes for something immediately different-sounding. There’s no way we’re gonna sound like any other band if that’s the way we’re gonna go about it. We want to make more of a genre soup than a genre stew, where you can immediately pick out what’s what.
When you’re making genre soup, do you still think it’s important to treat each ingredient as its own individual entity, or do you want pure chaos?
DS: It’s more like, “What happens if we pair two unlikely musical characters? Does it offer something unique?” If it does, we keep at it. A lot of the time, I’m not super conscious of where my musical ideas are coming from. My musical DNA comes out regardless. With my classical guitar background, I’ve played a lot of music from Latin America and Europe, and that comes out when I write melodies and harmonies. But if Alex already has some Kawasaki samples that he’s clashed on top of each other and some crazy polyrhythms from Ethiopia, that’s all the more exciting for me to work with. So as far as your question goes, I think the latter is true. It’s not like we’re handling each of the influences as its own unique thing we need to focus on more than the rest of the music. There are some exceptions, where Alex might want to stay true to the original rhythm or melody. But I think, for the most part, we’re down to just throw whatever comes to us in the mix.
ABC: The album is an amalgamation of the aesthetic we’ve been honing for years. It’s aged into this thing, and I’m not entirely sure what it is. It all came together unconsciously and intuitively. Each song starts with its own idea, and we just adhere to that idea and see what works.
DS: I think that subconscious, intuitive element of our songwriting lends itself to the soup analogy. The music doesn’t hinge on people’s ability to recognize something. I pride myself on that. It’s so exciting to hear what people might pick out of certain songs, what bands they connect us to. But I’m never expecting them to pull out one specific thing. It’s definitely soup.
Well, I think that’s probably a good place to wrap it, finally—
ABC: It’s not a pureed soup. There are chunks, there are many lumps. We’re not babies; we don’t need pureed soup.
DS: I disagree. It’s all pureed and very well-mixed.
ABC: Alright, Gerber baby. You have some nice pea soup.
DS: I’ll wear my bib proudly.
Goodbye Marines and Hello Dad it’s Son or Mr. Worm the Monster is out now on all major streaming platforms, including primpce.bandcamp.com.