Annapolis native, Mary Prankster, has been a steady presence in the so-called cow-punk scene since the 90s and can still wow them in live shows. At her yearly Pranksgiving show at the Ottobar in Baltimore, her die-hard fans were reminded why they loved her so much in the first place. Ms. Prankster was also generous enough to give an exclusive interview to the Arundel Patriot. After you read this fun and intriguing interview, download her latest effort entitled “Thickly Settled.” If you don’t, you are, well, kinda dumb. It’s that good. https://maryprankster.com/home
JM: I love the way you bash clichés into your own meaning. On the new record, the song Rock and Roll Degenerate, has a line that goes, “I’m the best laid plans of your worst nightmare.” F-ing Shakespeare?! (Actually Robert Burns, 1875) Are you kidding me? This, to me, is RnR at its best. How did end up so clever? Were you a very literary kid? I’ll bet you are one of those people who can do the NYT crossword puzzle.
MP: Bookish, indoorsy and awkward – you betcha.
JM: Where did you go to high school? Was school a waste of your time?
MP: I am a proud product of Anne Arundel County Public Schools. Waste of time? Quite the contrary, but I didn’t appreciate until years later what a quality education I received (see: excessive Shakespeare references).
JM: Some of your songs tend to clock-in at about two minutes. Is this a punk approach (screw a middle eight and get out)? Or does it depend on what each song needs?
MP: I used to say if it you couldn’t leave it on an answering machine it was too long, but the new album has one that clocks in at over six minutes, so clearly I am getting self-indulgent in my dotage (see: out-of-touch answering machine reference).
JM: Does versatility get in the way or record sales? Let me clarify: I find that the artists I love the most have the ability to switch genres in a genuine way. Storm Large, Mike Patton, Beyoncé, hell, even Brian Ferry did a standards record. You are, in my opinion, in that league; especially on the new record. Yet, stardom tends to love a sure thing (AC/DC, Britany Spears, etc.) Will you talk biz in this regard?
MP: Probably not the person to ask about record sales, considering my historically modest showing in this regard. I will say this, though – if your goal is to launch songs you love into the ears of as many people as possible, there’s never been a better time. Digital distribution technology is absolutely miraculous and tunes seem to have a way of finding their audience.
JM: Continuing with this thought; The Thing is a soul tune right up my alley. Good God, it’s beautiful. I mean, is there a genre you can’t dominate? Any new horizons in view musically? Barber Shop Thrash? Acapella Punk + Reggae?
MP: Funny you should mention Reggae – there’s a duet I did years ago with Baltimore Rock-Reggae band Colouring Lesson, “Love Has A Rumble,” that’s now available on Spotify. One of my all-time fave collaborations.
The next release will most likely be tunes I recorded with Vapors of Morphine in Boston a while back. I had a duet I heard as “if Morphine were signed to Dischord” and was able to get in touch with Dana Colley & Co. to make it happen (f-ing PINCH me, right?). The session went so well we ended up recording another song too – a lonely, aching Jazz lament. It was a magical experience.
I’ve had a number of conversations recently about genre and the formative role that freeform radio programming – specifically the old WHFS – played in how I hear music. The way that WHFS back then (and spiritual heirs WRNR and WTMD today) present songs – it’s a mix of wildly different genres, but located on the same plane – none privileged over another and all equally valid. If that’s what you grow up listening to, it makes sense that the music that comes out of you would have a similar sort of variety.
JM: Is being banned in Annapolis so many years ago a point of pride for you?
MP: Seems awfully quaint now, doesn’t it?
JM: There is a wonderful, sultry (almost Chrissie Hynde) quality to some of the new songs. Can you talk about the production of the new record? How in God’s name can you go from, seemingly, the Carter Family to Marvin Gaye? Your voice is beautiful.
MP: That versatility comes courtesy of co-producer/engineer Steve Wright and the crack squad of musical Avengers he assembled: Bryan Ewald (guitar), Jason Butcher (drums), Walker Teret (bass), Bronson Hoover (keys), Nick Reider (trumpet), Craig Considine (trombone), Russ Kirk (sax), Amy Shook (fiddle) and The Bellevederes – vocalists Denny Finnerin and Kelly Butcher, Ryan Finnerin (bass), EJ Shaull-Thompson (drums), Rose Hammer-Burt (baritone sax), Tiffany DeFoe (tenor sax), Jimmy Baseman (trumpet), and Bronson Hoover (again, on keys).
Steve has spent the past 20 years at Wright Way Studios recording every genre of music – from Big Band to Trap and everything in-between – and has a great sense of how to bring out the essence of a song. The musicians he recruited are those he had worked with in innumerable sessions over the years who all have the ability to take absolutely anything thrown their way and make it shine.
JM: Stardom vs. Indie. My favorite musicians are the ones who eschew big label support for the independence to pay rent and play the music they love. Thoughts?
MP: When I was starting out, musicians went into the studio to make demos of their albums to send to labels to try and get signed. To me, that seemed like asking permission to do the thing you’re already doing. I wanted to skip the demo part and just go straight to making the albums. My independence (such as it is) is less an artistic choice than a lack of patience and aversion to asking permission.
JM: Thanks for your time and I’ll see you at the show at Ottobar. I hope to get some cool pictures for you. Best wishes.
MP: Thank you so much for taking the time to come out and share your talents! Looking forward to seeing pix…
Buy this record!!! https://maryprankster.com/home#tunes