Interview: Kevin Andrew Prchal

Kevin Andrew Prchal is a Chicago-based singer/songwriter. His recently-released record, Love & Summer, is a truly lovely record, embroidered with gorgeous strings and rich harmonies and supported by Prchal’s ability to tell story in song. His musical career began somewhere quite unexpected (to me at least!), but below, he explains why he has to thank his skater punk youth and bleach blonde hair for who he is today as a musician. Read on below as we discuss much more.

MFL: You recorded Love & Summer in three days and there are 14 tracks on this album. Sounds like a marathon! Lay out some of the pros and cons of recording a record in such a short time.

 Kevin Andrew Prchal (KAP): It was a marathon, indeed! The pros I’d say are, 1). Because we were so prepared, we didn’t waste time figuring out parts in the studio, 2). We captured honest performances filled with flaws, chemistry, and intuition, and 3). We never exhausted the songs (which can be a hazard of spending too much time on a record).

 The cons I’d say are, 1). Having to live with said “flaws” in our performances, and 2). Not having enough time in the studio because making records with my friends is a blast and I wish I could do it every day.

 

 Left: KAP with his band, The Wheeling Birds, who played on the record. Photo by Nicholas Wenzel.

Right: Rehearsing “Back to the Earth” just before they recorded it. With key player Nate Erickson (piano) and producer Adam Krier. Photo by Nathan Villotti.

MFL: The strings are truly stunning on this record. Who do we have to thank for this and how did you find them?

 KAP: Couldn’t agree more. The fiddle on “Make Me a Believer,” “Simple Thrill,” and “Illinois” were played by Katherine Andrick, and the sweeping string section on “Back to the Earth” was arranged by our producer Adam Krier and performed by John Morton. John has a talent that can’t be taught or reproduced. Everything he plays on is his own unique expression and this song is infinitely better because of it.

 

MFL: “Simple Thrill” is one of my favorites on the album. “Luke & the Universe” follows, a beautiful echo of the previous track. Tell me more about “Luke & the Universe” and why it lays where it does on this record.

 KAP: Very cool, thank you. “Luke & the Universe” is a song dedicated to a friend of mine who passed away unexpectedly in 2015 and it’s the only track on the record that wasn’t rehearsed before going into the studio. On the day it was tracked, I called the band into the recording room after a lunch break and my only instruction to them was to “make a wall of sound.” The intention was to create something brief and beautiful (like the life of my friend who passed away), yet chaotic and unscripted (like, well, the universe). The song is placed dead center at the heart of the album’s track list because I think the philosophy of this song is essentially the philosophy of the record: finding the beauty in a world of chaos.

 

 

MFL: Is there a particular track on Love & Summer that you enjoy playing more than the others? If so, what is it and why?

 KAP: I think it depends on the gig. When it’s with the band, the title track “Love & Summer” is a ball to perform. We’ve only played it live a few times at this point, but each time has felt like a circus pulling into town. When I play solo, “Back to the Earth” is a good one to play. I think that one requires a bit more of the audience’s attention in order for it to resonate, and that can be hard to pull off on a Saturday night in Chicago.

 

 

MFL: What kind of feelings do you hope to invoke in your listeners when they are taking in Love & Summer?

 KAP: Whimsy, optimism, existential dread, hope, nostalgia, running barefoot through backyards, sitting on a curb on a skateboard eating an apple with a pocketknife, etc.

 

3_KAP_Love & Summer Record Release Show

  Photo: Love & Summer record release show image, taken just last weekend. Photo by Mike Neerhof.

 MFL: I see you are Chicago-based but not Chicago-born? Where were you born and raised and how did that environment shape your life as a musician?

 KAP: Well, I was born and raised just outside of Chicago. City-folk tend to get up-in-arms about people claiming they’re from Chicago when they’re not, so I tread those waters carefully. But the town where I grew up was a fantastic breeding ground for me creatively. It was a town that introduced me to skateboarding and subsequently led me to discovering punk rock, going to garage shows, buying a guitar, starting a band of my own, dying my hair bleach blonde with blue streaks, etc. Skate culture is one that promotes creativity and self-expression and had I never been introduced to it, I would likely not be making records today.

 

5_KAP_Skater

 Photo (caption in the words of KAP): Skater punk me (relevant to question 6). Photo by god knows who.

 

MFL: For those that are new to your music, if we were to listen to your previous record, Sorrow Sings, what sort of differences would we notice lyrically and musically?

KAP: Lyrically, I think you’d notice a similarity in the themes explored on each record. Both juggle grim and heavy topics while still weaving a thread of optimism throughout. Musically, Sorrow Sings is much more stripped down. It was recorded in an old church with no drums and minimal accompaniment. Love & Summer, however, is like a VW bus of musical arrangements. Everything from hand drums, organs, fiddle, pedal steel, trumpet, and more, make their way onto the record giving each and every song its own unique life. Still trying to figure out that VW bus comment? Me too.

 

MFL: What is your favorite way to listen to music: vinyl, CD, stream, cassette tapes, whatever is on your favorite radio station, or any others you can think of?

 KAP: I’d say live music is my favorite. These days, music has become so accessible to the point that it’s disposable. People listen to 30 seconds of a song and if they don’t like it, they skip to the next like it’s nothing. Because they can. At a live show, there are no options to skip ahead or listen to something else. It challenges our instincts as music consumers and forces us to really listen to what an artist has to say or express. And that’s something no streaming service will ever be able to reproduce.

 

MFL: Besides your own record, what record are you most excited about that’s been released this year?

 KAP: I have been loving Bob Dylan’s foray into American standards and his new one “Triplicate” is no exception. There’s nothing cooler than an artist who has nothing left to prove. When listening, some might roll their eyes and hear nothing but old songs poorly sung, but I hear a soundtrack to a southern gothic. I see a tall shadowy man in an old suit, walking and whistling up a long country road with a full moon above him and a dog at his side. Beautiful stuff.

Also looking forward to new ones from The War on Drugs, Josh Ritter, Gia Margaret, Todd Kessler, Jessica Robbins, and Louise Kelly.

 

MFL: Finally, where and when can we find you playing live in the next few months if at all?

 KAP: Sadly, we won’t be doing much extensive touring but you’ll be the first to know if that changes!

 

Thank you to Kevin for all the emailing back and forth and for his thoughtful answers. You can follow KAP via his website and Facebook. You can purchase his new record and previous releases on Bandcamp and iTunes.

 

New video from Kane Strang: “Silence Overgrown”

“Silence Overgrown” is an example of just what Kane Strang does best. If you’re expecting something outrageous, infectious hooks or poppy melodies, you’re listening in the wrong place. If you’re hoping for some good old, even-keeled, simply solid drowsy pop, Kane Strang is the band for you. His clever cut and dry lyrics go hand in hand with the simple melodies.  The video for “Silence Overgrown” is a collection of shots from Kane Strang’s previous tour. Kane commented on this experience:

“Landing in New York ahead of our first overseas shows and walking around that night was hands down the most surreal moment of my life. I never even thought I’d visit America, let alone be there for my music and I’m so glad we managed to capture fragments of that and the rest of this crazy year on camera. This goes out to everyone who has come see us play or let us crash at their houses or bought the album. Thank you!!!”

 

 

String Cheese, Kane Strang’s previous release, was one of my favorite records of 2016. It was stark and kind of bizarre listening for me at first but once I settled into the austerity of it, I loved it. Kane Strang’s new record, Two Hearts And No Brain, is out now on Dead Oceans.

Photo Credit: Loulou Callister-Baker

Alex Cameron + Angel Olsen + Girls’, Jemima Kirke

When I saw these three names appear together in one email, I immediately stopped what I was doing. Who wouldn’t want a music video directed by and starring the lovely Jemima Kirke, set to the tune of the one and only, Alex Cameron and featuring siren songstress, Angel Olsen? The video not only features Cameron’s exceptionally eccentric dance moves but Kirke’s interpretation as well. Cameron’s lyrics, gyrations, and overall musical intellect is bizarre, undoubtedly from another time and so inexplicably delicious.

 

 

Cameron’s upcoming record, Forced Witness, is out September 8th via Secretly Canadian.

SoundCloud Playlist: More Summer Sounds

I’m unleashing what’s been tied down in my inbox for many hot summer months. Enjoy.

 

Beautiful oddity from Midnight Sister: Video for “Blue Cigar”

I’m not entirely sure what is going on during this video but I can’t manage to pull my eyes away from the odd movements, bizarre costumes and bright colors. Set in a small blue room, the video features Harlequin-esque characters, mimes and a somewhat headless being in a strange dress with some excellent dance moves. Midnight Sister is LA duo’s, Juliana Giraffe and Ari Balouzian, first shot and sharing their wildly creative musical intentions with the rest of us. Their debut record titled Saturn Over Sunset comes out September 8th via Jagjaguwar and features their first release, “Blue Cigar.” Check it out:

 

Follow Midnight Sister on Facebook and Bandcamp and catch them on tour with D.D. Dumbo this September!

9/8 – Los Angeles, CA @ Teragram Ballroom (w/ D.D Dumbo)
9/9 – San Diego, CA @ Casbah (w/ D.D Dumbo)
9/11 – Santa Cruz, CA @ Atrium at The Catalyst (w/ D.D Dumbo)
9/12 – San Francisco, CA @ Independent (w/ D.D Dumbo)
9/14 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir (w/ D.D Dumbo)
9/15 – Seattle, WA @ Barboza (w/ D.D Dumbo)
9/16 – Vancouver, BC @ The Biltmore Cabaret (w/ D.D Dumbo)
9/19 – St Paul, MN @ Turf Club (w/ D.D Dumbo)
9/20 – Chicago, IL @ Schubas (w/ D.D Dumbo)
9/22 – Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brendas (w/ D.D Dumbo)
9/23 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom (w/ D.D Dumbo)

 

 

 

 

New track from Protomartyr: “A Private Understanding”

Protomartyr always surprises me. Their sound is unexpected and unique, their rhythms and melodies are dissonant but harmonious. Despite lead singer, Joe Casey’s, almost lackadaisical vocals at times, he sings with unmistakable passion. The lyrics are thought-provoking and raw, matching the jagged instrumentals. With three albums under their belts, the guys (Joe Casey – Vocals, Greg Ahee – Guitar, Alex Leonard – Drums, and Scott Davidson – bass) are set to release their 4th full length, Relatives in Descent, on September 29th of this year. The record hones in on truth and our unfortunate familiarity with the fact that truth isn’t always truth. In Joe Casey’s words:

“I used to think that truth was something that existed, that there were certain shared truths, like beauty. Now that’s being eroded. People have never been more skeptical, and there’s no shared reality. Maybe there never was.”

The first release, “A Private Understanding”, sets the tone for the album. It begins quietly and builds unexpectedly: