Interview: Prawn [August 2014]

By Glen Bushell

Prawn have been steadily making waves on the indie/emo scene now for the past few years thanks to successful US and European tours, and a number of critically acclaimed releases. Now the New Jersey four piece have released their sophomore full length ‘Kingfisher’ through Topshelf Records, which is receiving fantastic reviews across the board. We caught up with Prawn vocalist/guitarist Tony Clark to talk about the new record, the influence of the New Jersey music scene, and being a post-rock nerd.

Your new LP ‘Kingfisher’ drops on August 12th. How was the recording process? Is it self-produced in the same way ‘Ships’ (2012 EP) was, or have you worked with an outside producer this time?

The recording process was great this time around. We recruited Greg Dunn again (he previously mixed ‘Ships’ and the Joie De Vivre split). On ‘Ships’ and the split, we self-recorded everything and gave the stems to Greg to mix. This time around, we tracked everything in a studio. We bounced back and forth from a studio in Queens and a studio in NY. We also spaced the process out a lot as well. We tracked drums and bass before going on tour with You Blew It. We came back and finished guitars and vocals. It was nice because everything felt much more relaxed that way.

Thematically ‘Ships’ seemed to carry a nautical sense about it, both in the song titles and lyrically. Are there any such themes or concepts this time around?

The themes of this record aren’t as concentrated as they were on ‘Ships’. However, some songs still carry that nautical metaphor. I personally spend a good amount of time on the water and always thought explaining life on the sea through lyrics was a great outlet for what I was experiencing in real life.

Your songs tend to be very well constructed and intricate. Is there any sole songwriter in the band, or is everything more of a collaborative effort?

It’s a mix mash of song writing. I usually come up with a riff or some lyrics that I’ll bring to the band. We usually focus on drums first while everyone else is tinkering around with parts. Once the music is finished, we’ll all go back and rework parts and add vocals. We usually go through about 20 drafts of a single song.

The two songs that have surfaced so far, ‘Thalassa’ and ‘Glass, Irony’,  both seem to bring new elements to your sound, particularly in the former with the introduction of trumpets. Do you feel it has been a natural progression in sound as you become more accomplished writers?

I’d say so. We’ve always loved incorporating other instruments into our sound. There have been trumpets and strings on most of our other releases, but I think they shine more on this record. We spent more time messing around with trumpets and strings. In Thalassa, Matt (who plays trumpet for us), really just ran with that song and basically came up with the lead.

Your sound has elements of 90s emo, indie and even post-rock, all the while sounding original. Are there any particular bands from these genres that you draw influence from or look up to as a band?

Oh yeah. We’re all huge post rock nerds. When our music started being labelled emo, we all kind of looked at each other confused because we thought we were a post rock band with vocals. We started playing shows while bands like Algernon and Snowing were still around, so we always looked up to them. The new crop of bands coming up like Foxing and The Hotelier (to name a few) are also really inspiring. And then there are the classics like The Cure, The Smiths, Broken Social Scene and Explosions in the Sky. I don’t know, we basically admire all the artists we really love.

The New Jersey music scene is something of legend, and has spawned influential artists such as Lifetime, Thursday, Saves The Day and of course Bruce Springsteen, all of which draw inspiration largely from their NJ surroundings. How has being from the Garden State influenced Prawn?

The NJ music scene is the stuff of legend. We probably wouldn’t still be a band if it wasn’t for NJ. I guess the biggest way NJ influenced us was that it taught us perservance. You see all these amazing success stories coming out of NJ (even our hometown, see Real Estate and Senses Fail), that make you want to keep going. It’s along the lines of thinking, “Hey, if these guys can make a profession out of being a musician and they live right next to me, why can’t I?”

Have you ever played a New Jersey basement show?

Too many.

In the grand scheme of things, Prawn has had a relatively short lifespan that only began in 2007. In that time you have released several EPs and splits, and a full length, as well as some members finishing school if I’m correct. Was it a conscious decision to be quite prolific?

It was never a conscious decision to produce so many releases. For the majority of Prawn’s life span, we were all attending college. That made it difficult to tour, but easy to practise and write music. So most of the time we’d write music year round and only tour a month out of the year. That cycle is changing now though, with three quarters of us graduated. With the release of ‘Kingfisher’ we plan on being on the road as much as possible.

The last split you put out with Joie De Vivre was fantastic. How did that come about? Were you guys friends before that?

Thanks! We met the guys in Joie De Vivre in France on my birthday and the former drummer of Joie’s birthday. We were both on separate European tours and met up for one show in France. We basically hit it off by playing foozball and consuming way too much alcohol. We talked about doing a split at that show. Somehow or another that drunken night manifested itself into an actual split release.

You are currently on the fantastic Boston based label Topshelf Records. The label boasts heavier bands like Pianos Become The Teeth, alt rock such as Diamond Youth, and more expansive sounding bands in The World Is A Beautiful Place… How are you finding being a part of the Topshelf family?

Topshelf is great. We’re actually one of the older bands on the label. We put our first full length ‘You Can Just Leave It All’ out with them in 2011. So we’ve been with them for the better part of four years. It’s been great to see them grow so much as a label and really grow into themselves. Kevin and Seth are also two of the nicest guys in the game, so that really makes working with them super easy. Can’t say a negative word about Topshelf.

Prawn has undertaken some extensive touring in the US in the past few years, as well as a mammoth five-week tour of Europe in 2012. I assume the band is a full time deal for you all now. How is your touring schedule shaping up in support of ‘Kingfisher’? Can we expect you back on our fair shores any time soon?

We wish we could do the band full time, but unfortunately we’re not there yet. We all have part time jobs. Jamie and I are substitute teachers, which works perfectly with touring. We are trying our very best to make it back over to Europe this year. Honestly, touring Europe was the best touring experience we’ve ever had.

Do you have any set goals as a band, or are you content to take each day as it comes and enjoy any opportunity that comes your way?

Totally content taking each day as it comes. Prawn has been a wild, super enjoyable ride for all involved. Being able to see the world and play music with your best friends is a cool life.

One last question: if there was any band, or artist you could share a bill with, who would it be?

Explosions in the Sky, Bombay Bicycle Club and The National.


‘Kingfisher’ is out now through Topshelf Records, and  you can check out our review of the album here.



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Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]