Princess Goes – The “Come Of Age” interview

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Michael C. Hall‘s band Princess Goes (formerly Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum) is returning with their most accessible, yet innovative record to date — Come Of Age, out October 6 via In De Goot Recordings.

Ahead of the full-length record’s release this fall, the trio have shared two singles (“Shimmer” and “Blur“), each alongside their own stunning accompanying music video.

Today, Montreal Rocks is honoured to premiere the title track from the record, “Come of Age,” as well as sharing an exclusive interview with the band led by the charismatic showmanship and signature voice of vocalist, lyricist, musician and actor Michael C. Hall (Dexter, Six Feet Under, Lazarus) alongside keyboardist Matt Katz-Bohen (Blondie, Cyndie Lauper) and drummer Peter Yanowitz (The Wallflowers, Morningwood).

Speaking of the song, Yanowitz says “”This beautiful track came out of Matt Katz Bohen’s incredible imagination. In Princess, we love the band Future Islands, and I think you can hear their influence in this tune. These are among my favourite lyrics Mike has written… too many lyrics to mention here, but one that sticks out to me is ‘Admit you wanna see me go down’. I really love the sentiment and the way the line unfolds in the delivery. I believe Mike intended it one way, but I also think about that line in the bigger picture, how so many people seem to want others to fail, maybe even want us to fail, and the delivery is seasoned with just the right amount of attitude… like you can be a hater, but we don’t give a fuck… deal with it. One nice touch is that we recorded that distortion live on Mike’s vocal. It wasn’t an effect added later…the distortion is married to the performance. For the production geeks… the pre-amp we used on Mike’s vocal was an Avalon 727. The original song all started with a discarded Yamaha synthesizer Matt found in the garbage on the street in Brooklyn.” 

Watch the visualizer for the song below:

We caught up with Princess Goes over Zoom to chat about the new album and how the songs evolve. We also find out what they consider their favourite albums of all time.

You all have different things going on. You were successful before this band. So why even start this band in the first place?

Peter: We were just three friends. We started making some instrumental music and Mike heard it one night and was like “Hey, you don’t have any vocals on these. Do you want someone to come in?

It was a very organic and easy start to a project. It was several months later when we had nine or ten songs and we were like, “Oh shit, are we a band?” We just took our time and let it evolve into what it was. It started out from friends collaborating and evolved into something else.

Was it more just for fun? No expectations?

Matt: I think there were no expectations but also Peter and I were on a Hedwig tour. We’d been playing together a lot, and Michael had played Hedwig in New York in the Broadway version. Playing other people’s music, as beautiful as it is, we were also itching to create something together. We’ve all written songs for years but, for me and Peter, we were gonna come together and work on some instrumentals, and then Mike heard them, sang on them, blew us both away and elevated the whole thing to this other level.

Did you have a mission statement for the band?

Michael: No. We never felt obliged to define our sound or the way we write songs. Our mission statement is a blank piece of paper.

Were you listening to similar music? Did you bond over favourite bands?

Peter: We all bond over David Bowie. We have a vast array of tastes.

You have an EP and the first album. Now, the new album “Come of Age” is coming out. Is it a step up?

Michael: I hope so. I think so. The album title “Come of Age” just felt right. We’re maturing and evolving as a band. The record is something we’re discovering like, “Oh, it’s called “Come of Age.” Who called it that?”

Peter: I was going to say it seems more like our question. We’ve been asked that a bunch, and it’s a question for our audience and for you to answer.

I like that. You can throw it back at us.

Michael: Yeah, that’s what we need to start. When people say, “What does “Come of Age” mean?” We can say, “Exactly, yeah. What does it mean?”

So can you give me a quick timeline of this album? When did it start?

Matt: As soon as the last one was finished, I would say, we kind of never stopped thinking about it, and it’s just been an ongoing process. Some of the songs on this album, songs like “Blur,” that was a musical idea that I had put down years ago and was trying to find a home for this musical idea.

Then we took it and ran with it. Then Mike wrote a gorgeous melody over it, and Peter and Brandon Bost, who’s our mix engineer, brought it into this more danceable territory, more electronic and danceable than it was. It was originally a guitar-y song. So yeah, just stuff like that, or like “Saving Grace,” that was an idea that Peter had had a while back. So I don’t know when it all started, but it certainly came together.

With so much else going on in your lives, how easy is it to get to this stuff? Do you get to jam in a room and flesh out ideas, or how does it work?

Peter: Yeah, in this very room, we make a lot of music. And with technology, it’s so easy to send each other ideas.

We really have all kinds of ways to work. Some songs come out of straight-up improv jams that Matt and I will do here. Mike will often sing into his cell phone and send us a vocal, and we can make a song out of that.

Sometimes those cell phone vocals actually even end up on the final track. Other times, like “Floating” on this new record, Mike wrote the chords and the lyrics, and we just arranged the song around that. So we have all kinds of ways of putting songs together. But a lot of it happens in this room in downtown New York near Union Square.

Michael, can I ask you about the lyrics? Do you listen to that music, and then does that inspire you to write something? Or do you have lyrics lying around that you can’t collect?

Michael: Both. I mean, sometimes, like in the case of “Blur” and also “Come of Age,” that was like a sort of fully constructed musical composition that I added a lyric and melody to. But then there are times where things kind of get built at the same time. Like the lyrics emerge as the music emerges, and then there are maybe some melodic or lyrical ideas that I present sort of in a more spare way, and then Peter and Matt discover a way to build music around that. So it happens in all kinds of ways, and there are certainly maybe lyrical ideas or notions that I have that maybe are waiting, that are homeless, and find a home when some sort of music emerges.

So it happens in all kinds of ways. And some lyrics I’ll come up with on the fly or even in the moment while recording. There’s no hard and fast rule… or soft and slow rule.

And at what point in the whole process do you think about how these songs are going to sit next to each other on the album, the sequencing?

Peter: Yeah, it’s a good question. I know I’ve been thinking about this a lot, like what makes an album and how do you know when you have an album, but it feels like it starts with one good idea. I think going back in my mind, I feel like we have Let It Go kind of close to when we were just starting this process. And it felt like a new direction. And it also felt really anthemic on a level of maybe more accessibly anthemic than some of our other ones. And at least in my mind, it was a great bedrock to sort of start painting over in other directions and seeing what else would go with this. And then you have two, maybe three ideas all of a sudden together. And you’re like, oh, shit, I can start to see where we can go with this. And so maybe that’s how it happened a little bit, but it usually starts with one or two good ideas. And then you after you have five or six, then it gets really fun because you’re like pinpointing where you can go.

And the three of us seem to be really interested in an album as a complete statement rather than singles, which a lot of music today I think is just distilled down to people releasing tracks. But we’re very interested in a whole album and making an album maybe in the old school kind of way.

I feel like bands are very deliberate about which songs they put first, which songs they put last. Was that something that came easy to you with this?

Matt: Yeah, I think the sequence makes sense, but we definitely played around a lot within that to see, you know, Peter would just spend hours listening to all the songs and everything possible from permutation. It took like 600 hours. It was a lot.

And are you going to sign off on the album? Do you know when it’s done? I think people struggle with that.

Matt: It’s just never really done. That’s the thing.

Michael: Yeah, it’s a picture of a moment in time or different moments in time. I mean, there are definitely things you can hear, maybe not on this record, but like on previous records, like, oh, you know, would have done that a little differently or discovered things about that song since we’ve been playing it live that would have had me deliver a lyric differently or modify it. But this one feels, at this moment in time, done.

But I’m sure, you know, especially going out and starting to play these songs live, I’m sure there’s all kinds of things we’ll discover about them that we don’t know yet.

Do your songs normally develop live? Is that like something that happens quite a lot? Do they change a lot?

Peter: Well, when Matt brought in that beautiful Blur idea. We did actually take that to the UK on our last tour. And maybe we did it on the West Coast tour. I know we played it live before it was out. And it was the early version with the guitars and we learned a lot from it live. And we came back home and just started messing with it. We stripped it back down. We knew something could maybe change with it and so we built it back up completely. We just took Michael’s vocal and one of Matt’s synth lines and took everything else out of it and started a new track.

And we did that with Whatever Whispers on this record as well. And we tend to not give up on our ideas if they’re not exactly where they, you know, sometimes we’ll strip it down and build it up and it was better before, you know.

We’ve heard a couple of songs already… kind of heard three-ish. Because Let It Go is a bit different from the original. Which of the songs that people haven’t heard are you most excited for them to hear?

Peter: I’m pretty stoked for all of them. But Saving Grace is a personal song close to my heart. I’m excited for that one. I just feel like it was written, I think, with a sentiment of a certain person in mind who was going through something, at least in my mind. I know it means something different to each of us. But I’m just excited for that one because I think it’s in a new direction. And also, I think it’s lyrically just, there’s something really beautiful going on there.

Matt: I’m excited for people to hear Whatever Whispers, I think. Because that’s very different from all of our songs. I mean, all of our songs are quite different from each other. But there’s something about that one, just the way it came together. It has our neighbour do this poetry cameo on there. It’s just got a ton of great percussion, love the sounds, love Michael’s high pitch falsetto singing.

Michael: I’d say “Glass Wing.” I think that one might be the oldest of the songs on the record. It’s one that we had and that we played live for a time. And then it just sort of floated away and then came back. And if for no other reason than the epic keytar moment that happens. I’d love to just play that for people. And they also don’t know quite what they’re hearing.

Is the keytar going to be going on the road with you?

Matt: Yeah, I think so.

So I have one last question for each of you. And I don’t want you to think about it too hard because it can be something that you overthink. I just want to know what you consider your favourite album of all time.

Michael: The New York Sessions version of Blood on the Tracks. Before he re-recorded and sped it up.

Peter: I’m going to go with the Boredoms. I know I talk about this record a lot because mostly I want people to check it out. But there’s this Japanese band. They’re not a band anymore, but they were around 1999, 2000. They’re a noise rock band, and they’re kind of heavy and Melvins-ish and Kurt Cobain was a big fan of theirs. But they had one record called Vision Creation Newsun, which was in 1999. And it’s just this beautiful prayer of a record. A lot of instrumental, a lot of tribal, two drummers and percussion. And they would play their shows at dawn on an island up in Japan. They’re just a trippy band. But that record I listened to as like a personal soundtrack to my life because it always inspires me. It makes me want to like do amazing things and write amazing jams.

Matt: I’ll stay with the Jane’s Addiction theme and I’ll say Nothing’s Shocking. Why not? Genius. Peter and I were listening to it in the car and it stood up really well. It didn’t sound dated. You know, it just sounded really cohesive and it’s such a vibe on that. I love that.    

Watch the full interview below:

Come Of Age by Princess Goes is out on October 6 via In De Goot Recordings.

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