With roots in the early 80’s DIY and punk scenes on the East coast, The Prefab Messiahs are enjoying a second coming in the digital age. Originating in Worcester, MA, the group’s quirky and nostalgic jams defy genres, and a recent 30 year reunion mini-tour inspired the Prefabs to pick up the pranks where they left off. They have two albums out on Burger Records, one being this year’s Keep Your Stupid Dreams Alive, as well as an anthology of earlier works released in 2013 titled Devolver. The group is currently working on new material, and I had a chat with bassist and synth-lord Trip (Kris) Thompson to get the lowdown.
Lindsay Krause (me): You all have managed to find a balance between being very fun and lighthearted while also being aware of social issues…..what is your attitude when approaching the more serious topics in your music?I think the title track is a great example of that on KYSTA…..
Trip:Right…OK…When we started out, we were kind of outsiders on our college campus…more seemingly bothered by troubling trends in society… on the other hand……we were really inspired by music…both 60s garage/psych/pop and 80s punk & New Wave……and we wanted to have fun forging our own thing — while infusing out cynical outlook a bit. We were inspired conceptually by Dada, Surrealism, Expressionism & other post-WWI Euro things. We had a catch phrase that summed up the dichotomy…”Peace Love & Alienation”
LK: Your videos follow that theme as well….they remind me of crazy psych pop-art….what is the creative process like for the visual component? There is a lot to be seen on a few of those! I imagine it must take awhile to piece together the stories.
Trip: Our singer Xerox is the video artist…He’s done many hours of video production over the years — that’s what he does for work — so he’s great at translating our band vibe into those vids…He uses lots of image clips from old band photos, posters, illustrations, etc…plus lots of new stuff that goes well with those. In a way, he’s fleshing out our band vibe with the vids too — they’re a part of our identity. There are 8 tracks on the latest album, and he made vids for 6 of them
LK: I found myself pausing/unpausing trying to catch some of the images!
Trip: Yeah, there’a a lot you can catch by pausing them!
LK: This is sort of off the Prefab Messiahs topic but I saw that you were in another band…Concord Ballet Orchestra Players…do you have any projects with them in the future?
Trip: I’ve been in lots of projects…”CBOP” was active 2006-2013 mostly. Things have slowed down with that. I think you’d dig Abunai! (1996-2002 + later reunion activities) — also psych legend Bobb Trimble is a friend — and was the Prefabs’ main supporter and guru when we started.
LK: I was just getting around to mentioning him!
Trip: Years later, I returned the favor by helping Bobb get his albums reissued on Secretly Canadian.
LK: He has kind of a cult following figure in some circles.
Trip: Ah…well he deserves it!
LK: How have your friendships w/ other DIY musicians contributed to your own work?
Trip: It’s just an ongoing tapestry of collaboration and inspiration… for instance, Gary War is a fan of Bobb (and the Prefabs)…he & I were in a live band of Bobb’s (live album on Burger), and I was in a live version of Gary’s band — and he reissued the Prefabs’ ‘Peace Love & Alienation’ on his now-defunct label Fixed Identity.…and now I’m contributing to a new project of his — “Dalton Thomas” — with Rob from Sunburned Hand of the Man.
LK: So it’s a constant exchange of ideas and you maybe don’t feel so fixed or tied down to one project? That must be very freeing to work in that way.
Trip: I feel like The Prefabs and (Boston psych group) Magic Shoppe are my main activities… but interesting side activities often arise. Yeah, it’s cool! (listening to The KVB right now…cool tune…”Until I’m Cold”)
LK: Are you working on new material for both of your projects right now or only Prefab? I know you said when we spoke earlier that Magic Shoppe will put an album out next year.
Trip: The Magic Shoppe 10″ EP is all finished
LK: What types of things are inspiring your work with PM at the moment? And what is it like putting ideas together while you all are not living in the same place? (The other members, Xerox Feinberg and Doc Michaud, are based out of New York and Tennessee).
Trip: Yeah, it’s interesting working distantly now…We did 2 songs that way so far…they’ve been on blog-curated Bandcamp comps. It’s an evolving process. These first two were done with drum machine + tambourine. Now Xerox has met a cool drummer with a workable little studio up there in rural NY…So the next set of things will be different. We’re starting to collect material and see how it best makes sense to use. Ideally saving some for a full-length — but we may do a split cassette with someone on Lolipop (before anything else).