My obsession with dreamy noise-pop goes back long before I started musing this journal. I grew up on this shit. It is the ultimate mind escape. It is paired well with insert your favorite designer street drug here—–>_______________.
My latest noise dream-pop obsession goes by the name of Prison for Kids. The Los Angeles based duo pumped out 4 albums this year alone and finally caught my attention with their 4th 2013 release Ekduo. If you are an artist, take note, that is what you have to do these days in order to get my attention. You have to be obsessed, this in turn makes you stand out. I am obsessed with obsessive people. That is how this works.
Prison for Kids latest is definitely the most cinematic and gentle shoegaze offering I have heard this year. It is also very instrumental and musical in scope. With everyone riding the laptop wave, this was a refreshing escape to a world that involves instruments that have to be tuned.
I had to meet up with these guys and enlighten my soul. I had to find out who they are and what they are about.
Please Introduce yourselves, and what each of you contribute to Prison for Kids.
Chris: I’m Chris Dreisbach. I sing, play rhythm guitar, keys, and occasionally, drums and bass.
Cesar: I’m Cesar Ochoa. I scream, play lead guitar and some bass on recordings.
Chris: Our friend Keith Krey played drums on most of the songs on Ekduo.
How did you go about picking your band name?
Cesar: Chris came up with it, before we met.
Chris: Summer 2005. Amherst, Massachusetts. I had just finished a long, hot day stripping moldy wallpaper from dorm rooms at Hampshire College. I was about two beers deep and watching a local news report on TV when I heard a reporter use the phrase “prison for kids.” It sounded so weird to me; the lack of euphemism. Not “Juvenile Detention Center” but “Prison for Kids.” I didn’t even meet Cesar for another 3 years but I knew, at that moment, that “Prison for Kids” was the band name.
Every Artist has a statement they are trying to make, what is PFK’s artistic statement?
Chris: I think we try to create little worlds, little environments. Each song has its own statement, its own reason for being.
Cesar: We enjoy being transported to different places, traversing different moods. Music has fewer limitations than most arts to make you feel something with abstraction; you hear a sound and it can evoke many different moods or emotions. We want to transport our audience to our universe with sound.
Please explain a little bit about your approach to venturing into the more darker and dreamy soundscapes presented on your latest release Ekduo?
Chris: It’s a byproduct of us writing and living separately these days. Our next release, Swill Purl, which was almost entirely written by Cesar, is more steeped in indie punk and noise rock. Cesar and I lived together for a year or so around 2011 and we had a practice space set up in the bedroom closet. Naturally, the songs we jammed were a fusion of our sensibilities. The Dirty Numbers EP is one result of that fusion. Once we moved to separate places the writing process became solitary for each of us. We can’t afford a practice space right now so we write and track songs alone but always leave space open for a guitar part, a bass part, and/or a vocal for the other dude. Cesar has become a real pro at coaxing beautiful textures out of his Polyphonic Octave Generator effects pedal. It’s an essential part of the soundscape-y, dreamy feel of Ekduo. In general, I’m more of a dream pop/shoegaze guy and Cesar is more of a noise rock/metal guy but it’s not unusual for him to throw on a Cocteau Twins record or for me to freak out to The Jesus Lizard.
Cesar: Chris and I are good at starting songs from scratch, independent from each other, which we then build upon together. With Ekduo Chris had a specific vision which he wanted to expand. So it would then become a ping-pong of ideas, adding elements, switching our roles (recording guitar, bass, vocals, synths, mixing, etc). This is when our collaboration flourishes. Chris and I don’t dictate what to do or what to follow but rather let our instincts guide our way through the music. This musical direction has more in common with film directing, which pushes for a performance more than a specific blueprint. He won’t tell me “play it in D!!! Dorian mode.” Chris will talk about the intention and goal. Is it victorious? Is it brittle? Does it cut through or does it stay in the background. The song isn’t radically changed, it’s finessed and streamlined from the wall of sound it inevitably is when you add all the instruments. All the possibilities start getting strengthened as we go through it, rather than following a specific plan. So when you hear the dreamy and dark soundscapes, it’s us losing ourselves in the music. I could feel where to go but not where I was going, if you will.
You must be the hardest working musicians in Los Angeles, how did you complete 4 releases so far this year? What is your creative approach?
Chris: We’ve made demos together since 2009, so there’s quite a backlog of material. We don’t know what else to do. I want to keep improving at writing, playing, recording, mixing, and performing live. There’s no way we’re the hardest working musicians in Los Angeles but that’s very flattering of you to say.
Cesar: We don’t stop writing songs, really. There’s rarely a feeling of “I’ve said everything”, instead it’s “I can do more than that”. Your perspective becomes skewed a bit once you hear things differently than they were in your head, so you just try to go further into the unknown each time.
Can each of you give me an example of a song you consider perfect?
Chris: I’ve been listening to “Pink Frost” by the Chills every day for the last few weeks. The groove is hypnotic and the lyrics are…chilling. It’s perfect.
Cesar: I love The B-52’s music, and for the past few months I’ve been obsessed with their first two records. The song “Dance this Mess Around” makes me swing my hips and head-bang, full of emotion and comedy. Same with “Strobe Light.” More is happening in the background of those songs than it seems. Groove, interlocking melodies, use of harsh elements along with this party atmosphere. Experimentation in Pop music; what happened to that novel idea?
What are some of your favorite spots to hang out in Los Angeles that you draw influence from?
Chris: The house that Cesar and I lived in was inspiring for me. It’s owned by Dick Rude who is kind of a punk rock icon. He was in Repo Man and some other Alex Cox movies. He’s been in bands and made films and music videos and all kinds of great stuff. Anyway, this house we rented from him is amazing. Every room is painted a different color. The kitchen is like a Barbie-doll kitchen from the 50’s. It has a balcony with a killer view of the LA skyline. The master bedroom closet (where we practiced) was bigger than a lot of NYC apartments I’ve been in. To me, that house is the true birthplace of Prison for Kids.
Cesar: That house was the catalyst for many of our songs because it was unique. You didn’t even feel like you were in LA. I draw inspiration from the surreal nature of life. So a spot like a bar or club won’t necessarily inspire me. A random encounter with a Hobo dressed as Batman will though.
Everyone has a vice? What are each of your vices of choice?
Chris: Records. We should start investing in gear instead of records.
Cesar: Yeah, records. I could have probably saved enough for a tour van if it wasn’t for buying records.
Chris: We’ve both been mistaken for Amoeba employees.
If I were to vacation in your hell what should I expect to find there?
Chris: Film students. Just kidding, I love film students.
Cesar: Leif Garrett, he likes it down there.
Some are saying this is the greatest era to exist as a musician, others say it’s the worst, what has your experience been like?
Chris: The tools are accessible and powerful these days. Bandcamp is great. Getting good (non-pay-to-play) shows in LA can be tough without a booker and PR but I’ll admit I’m terrible at networking and “the game.”
Cesar: It’s certainly easier for people to access the music, but it seems to take way too much energy to convince people to click on our link and listen to our song. I understand it completely; we’re competing against the whole internet for attention. And if history is any indication people will rarely follow any links that don’t involve cats being cute.