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.
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.
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.