Posts Tagged ‘The Future and the Past’

The Future and the Past

Virginia’s Natalie Prass aimed to make an indie record that sounded like a lush, big budget pop blockbuster, a goal best realised on mini masterpiece single ‘Short Court Style’, its handclaps and taut production an indication of the musician’s technical wizardry and full-hearted songwriting.

In a new video for “The Fire,” directed by Alex Germanotta, Natalie Prass, dressed in pink hues, dances through the crumbling ruins, a colorful contrast to the presidential faces once held in esteem. Tight shots reveal the wear and tear of the faces of men revered, now weathered by the elements.

“This video is a statement on power and power dynamics between people in relationships and in society,” Prass says. “In the end, I gain power, but then I take it away from myself.”

After scrapping the follow-up to her 2015 self-titled debut, Prass wrestled with the results of the 2016 presidential election. The outcome, The Future and The Past, is a reflective — but not heavy-handed — meditation on what happened. “The Fire” captures a feeling of uncertainty, drawing strength in its soaring chorus.

“We felt like we were in a post apocalyptic world,” Prass says of the video’s setting. “I really enjoyed being so pink and so feminine around these massive, masculine busts. It was difficult sometimes, I didn’t really like being on Jackson’s shoulder, but it was empowering being up there and feeling bigger than him for the moment.”

The Future and The Past is out now via ATO Records.

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Natalie Prass The Future And The Past show at the Rescue Rooms recently was the concert we needed in 2018. On the record, Prass combats political polarization, a bleak national mood and whatever else is bringing you down with R&B-infused beats, delirious love songs and pure, danceable joy. She brings the same strategy to her live show, a positive-vibes-only, smiley hoopla. Backed by a troupe of dude musicians (including her fiance and Dr. Dogdrummer Eric Slick), Prass is the lone front woman. Her band mates wear blue jumpsuits.  Prass delivered a party as opposed to a set, treating her tiny but enthused audience to all The Future And The Past’s dance hits as well as standouts from her self-titled first album, like “Bird of Prey” and “Your Fool.” As the show neared its end, elation, or maybe exhaustion, consumed the band ,

Natalie Prass performing live in the KEXP studio. Recorded September 24th, 2018.

Songs: Never Too Late Ship Go Down Lost Short Court Style

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The album was written, the tour scheduled, the pieces all in place. It had been almost two years since Natalie Prass’ self-titled debut garnered rave reviews for its luscious, baroque-pop sounds. At the end of 2016, the singer-songwriter’s sophomore follow-up was almost ready to be released. Then the election happened.

“I had a record ready to go,” Prass says. “And I scrapped it.”

What followed was a trying time for the Richmond, Virginia, native, full of soul-searching, dark thoughts, and a protracted fight with her (now former) record label. But Prass was insistent. “I can’t release a neutral record right now,” she says. “I need to contribute to the conversation.” Her determination and focused songwriting has finally led her to her new album, The Future and the Past.

It’s been three-and-a-half years since Prass’ debut, and her newest effort has her returning in fighting form. She once again worked with producer Matthew E. White and the Spacebomb House Band, who are quietly earning a reputation as one of the best house bands around. Prass’ gorgeous orchestral strings are back, but with a smaller role this time around. Instead, she’s rummaged through the thrift shops of music history, dusting off artifacts of funk and soul, Brazilian tropicalia, indie folk, and bedazzled LA rock. The result is eclectic, fun, and thoroughly groovy — a polished statement of raw feeling.

“Oh My”:
At the time I was writing these songs in 2016 and 2017, right after the election, I was pretty raw and feeling so many emotions. The news was just pounding down on all of us. It was a lot to handle and feeling like my life was changing and the country was changing and the world was changing really quickly.

So, I would go to my little rehearsal space — I shared this shitty rehearsal space with metal dudes for a while. I would go there in the morning time when there were no metal people playing and lie on the floor and cry. Read, write, play piano for a little bit, and cry. I felt like it was my responsibility to try and put some positive energy into the world and talk about things that were very real. The only thing that was hard about it was convincing the label I was with at the time that it was a good idea, because they were not into it at all.

“Short Court Style”:
So, “Short Court” was already gonna be on the other record. For that one, I already wrote the music for a short film called Oh Jerome, No that was written by Teddy Blanks and Alex Karpovsky. They asked me to write the music for it, and I wrote maybe five or six tunes for that little short film. That was the opening track, the montage, without lyrics or anything. Then when the short film came out, people were hitting me up like, “Where do I get that song? I need that song.” So, I was thinking, “Oh, I should just write lyrics to this and make it an actual song I can put on my record.” Usually, the melody and chords come to me pretty effortlessly, and then I start building from there. Usually, when I co-write, I have people who help me fill in lyrics and help me put my thoughts together. Usually, the chords and the melody are what I feel most confident about.

“Interlude: Your Fire”:
It’s funny, I didn’t intend for that to be split up. Everybody was like, “”The Fire” should be a single, but we need to split up that intro and make it a separate track,” and I was like, “No!” But I get it. It was intended to be all one piece, but it’s kind of cool; a lot of my favorite records have interludes, so I was like, “Ok, ok, I’ll split it up.”

“The Fire”:
I wrote a version of that song in Nashville with my buddy Mikky Ekko. We wrote that a long time ago, and then I couldn’t remember how it went.  That song was on an old laptop that died. I’m really bad with technology, so when a computer dies I’m like, “Well, that’s it.” But that one…I went from memory, and kind of re-wrote the whole thing. I thought it was a good story of feeling in-between, of knowing you need to get out of something but feeling stuck at the same time. The whole…the future and the past… stuck in-between, very much in the present – knowing what has happened and what led you here – But what’s going to happen in the future?

“Hot for the Mountain”:
That one is a protest song, a political song for staying focused. You might feel like you’re the only one, but you’re not. “Hot for the Mountain”, like, it’s not gonna be an easy way, but just stay positive. It’s kind of like, “You’re not alone.” I feel really numb to a lot of stuff now. I’m just trying to focus on the big picture, doing what I know I can do, making sure I always vote — that is so important to me now. It’s like, “Oh, I’ll do it on the big election.” But now it’s like, “No, I am always going to stay up on it” and be involved in my local elections, especially. I knew it was important before, but now it’s a very high priority.

“Lost”:
That one goes with the Me Too movement. I really didn’t want that song to be on the record. I didn’t want to give the person it’s about any kind of ammo against me. The Me Too movement has been really hard on me, personally, because it’s really painful to remember things that have happened to you — but I’m so grateful for it at the same time. Now there’s all this language, there’s all this support, when you just felt like you were so alone … People were like, “You just have to deal with it and move on.” Which, yeah, you have to move on. You can’t live your life in pain like that. It’s nice to know there’s brave women out there and they’re telling their stories. I’m a pretty private person, but I think it’s important to have solidarity with people who have had experiences like myself.

“Sisters”:
Matt’s
the producer. He’s been my buddy for a very long time and is like a big brother to me, and he lives a 10-minute walk from my apartment. I went to his house almost every day during those couple months and spent a lot of time sitting in his kitchen drinking coffee. He had this drum machine, and he had this beat he made on his drum machine, and I was like, “Oh, that’s what I’m feeling right now. Let’s write to this beat.” It was a heavy-hitting kind of beat, and I wanted it to be kind of like a fight song for how I was feeling. I was feeling extremely hopeless at the time, feeling that people don’t want to listen to women, people don’t want women leaders, women cut each other down, men cut women down, there are so many deep stereotypes, and women are pitted against one another. Basically that entire song is A Minor. I was listening to a lot of gospel music when the election happened. I wanted to put some of that feeling into the new music I was writing.

“Never Too Late”:
The label I was with before I parted ways with them — after this record (laughs) — they were like, “How would you feel about going to LA and writing with some people?” I was like, “Sure, I’ll try it.” And that was the worst month of my life. These people… All right, they’re just trying to get by, like me, and they have to hustle way more than I do because I live in a very cheap city, and they live in LA. Of course, they want to write music that could potentially make money. But that’s not where my interests are. I was miserable. It made me feel like the one thing I know how to do very well I don’t know how to do. People were treating me like I didn’t know how to write music. We couldn’t agree on anything.

My publisher, who I’ve been working with since I was 23 years old, was like, “Hey, Nat, there’s this guy out there, Steve Lindsey, this old LA scene kind of guy. I feel like you might like him.” He’s this old LA session dude. Used to play with Toto back in the day. He knew exactly where I was coming from. It was this bright light in the middle of all the terrible. I was having fun, relaxing, like, yeah, “Let’s write this glitzy, shiny, Steely Dan kind of song.” Of course, I don’t relate to the people my age or the people younger than me. I relate to the people 70 and up. That’s so me. We wrote that song super fast. I had the melody already. For the chorus, either, “It’s too late,” or “It’s never too late.” They helped me tighten up the loose ends. But I had a pretty solid idea of what I wanted to do already.

“Ship Go Down”:
I really love psychedelic tropicalia music. Tropicalia music was a huge political movement, and I was taking inspiration from how they expressed their political views. Brazilian music has the most beautiful melodies, harmonies, and it’s groovy: it takes from jazz, pop, R&B, and american blues. The lyrics are really meaningful and thought-provoking and poetic, talking about politics in Brazil at the time.

No place is perfect, and I always thought America had a ton of problems. But I at least felt like we were moving in the right direction. I thought, “There’s no way people are going to vote for this…” I was so naive. I knew it was going to be close. Then the shock. Going out in Richmond — and Richmond is very progressive — but going out, thinking, “Who did they vote for? Who did they vote for?” Feeling like I don’t know where I live anymore. That’s definitely the darkest song on the record.

“Nothing to Say”:
I’ve had that one for a long time, and I’ve always wanted to record that one, and I thought the time is right now. There’s so many talking heads. That one was funny when we were recording it in the studio, because Matt was all, “I don’t know what to do with this song,” and I was like, “I got it, I got it, I got it! We’re going to record this marble bouncing off the floor, and then we’re going to have this bell sound!” And then Matt just basically cleaned up the huge mess I made.

“Far from You”:
That one’s written about Karen Carpenter. I’ve always loved her; I’ve always thought she was this beautiful soul. She’s very misunderstood, and people often only think about her in terms of how she died [from complications due to anorexia]. But there’s so much more than that. She was from a time when women didn’t play drums; women were up front and singing. She didn’t have a choice. Her label and everybody pushed her out from the kit. Once she got pushed out front, the body shaming started. It got to her head. She started to feel like she didn’t have any control over her career and what she was doing musically. The one thing she could control was her diet. Always in a competition with her family, who favored her brother. You can hear how kind she is and how much she just loves singing and gets a joy out of music. I wanted to write a tribute to her.

“Ain’t Nobody”:
That was straight up trying to bring joy into a harsh reality. You have to keep moving and stay energized. We weren’t intending it, originally, to be such an upbeat tune. We were thinking it would be a little more subdued, almost more of a piano, mid-tempo groove sort of thing. But once we got in the studio, I was like, “This isn’t what I need right now. We gotta pick this up.” It took a long time for us to figure out where that one was supposed to sit, but it got there. That’s what’s so fun about creating and putting a production together. If you have a pretty solid song you can mold it to be whatever you want it to be. I wanted to end on a high note.

The Future And The Past is bursting with a myriad of grooves and Natalie’s vocals float on top, light as a feather and tough as nails. Short Court Style dials the tempo into 90s R&B territory – punctuated by handclaps, sampled “woos,” and a Dr. Dre-esque whistling synth line. Lyrically she wields a sharp knife as well. The love torn Lost begins with: “Turn up the fader, its like a lightning bolt / we can’t be saved, so now I’m listening on my own / Once there was a time when you had me hypnotized / you realized that your finger prints were on my bones.” Funky feminist anthem Sisters is an empowering rallying cry: “I want to say it loud / for all the ones held down / we gotta change the plan.”

thanksconsequenceofsound.

In the two tracks already previewed from her upcoming second album The Future and The PastNatalie Prass has shown us her frivolous side on the sprightly ‘Short Court Style’ and her emphatic, political side on the anthemic ‘Sisters’. Today she delivers a third single, ‘Lost’, and it’s the most heart-rending and delicate song to be aired yet, and will certainly appeal to fans of her debut album.

Although it is similar to the songs from Natalie Prass, ‘Lost’ shows growth in many ways for Prass. For starters it’s the first of her songs that she’s produced on her own, and you can hear how she’s crafted and commanded her band to swell and resound so phenomenally well with herself at the centre. And Prass, as that central figure, is magnificent; her voice has never sounded so honeyed, as it is in the tripping and contemplative verses, nor has it sounded as rich as it does in the swelling undercurrent of emotion that comes pouring out in the chorus.

Taking a deep breath and releasing my new song “Lost” today. I was afraid to record this one, I fought it hard (and it almost didn’t make it) because it was written during a time that I needed to completely put behind me. But I wrapped my head around a new understanding of it’s lyrics…it’s empowering. It’s about putting your foot down when enough is enough. Most of the time it’s easier said than done. Thanks for listening. Natalie Prass

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After the election, the Richmond artist Natalie Prass threw out the introspective album she’d been working on and started over. What she made next was music for everyone. Prass’s forthcoming sophomore album The Future and The Past play through the car stereo. Completed only a few weeks ago, the record blasts at peak volume, straining the small vehicle’s inadequate speaker system. Listening there is a very evident shift in who Prass is about to become.

“I hear a lot of frustration,” says Prass “But also a lot of courage.”

When Prass introduced herself to mass audiences (and was met with substantial critical acclaim) in 2015 on her self-titled debut, the album was a work invested in the emotions of personal heartache. Utilizing warm brass instrumentation and lilting string arrangements—all complementarily flourishing around Prass’s songcraft and airily affected vocals—the collection of songs felt simultaneously delicate and vibrant.

The songs on The Future and The Past do away with such nimble intimacy, revelling instead in a newfound boldness and authority. While Prass’s voice remains deceptively unassuming, the words behind it are now far less concerned with matters of the heart than with matters of life, and where Prass fits in what has become an increasingly uncertain socio-political landscape. Accompanied by a well of deep, danceable grooves that make heavy reference to the late ’70s and early ’80s funk Prass has made an album that imbues protest with celebration.

“I feel like it’s an, ‘OK, we have to keep going,’ kind of record,” she explains. “‘We’re going to get through this. Let’s dance. Let’s clap. Let’s all sing. Let’s just keep going. We’re living. Life is hard but it’s also really rewarding.’ I didn’t want it to be just about me. It felt like there was just too much going on for me to write a super personal this-is-my-experience-and-I’m-going-to-be-really-vague-about-it-so-you-can-maybe-relate kind of thing. No. I wanted to make good pop songs out of subjects that are a little harder to write about, or that people are scared to write about. I feel like a lot of people are writing political songs, but trying to make it into music that you would actually want to dance to and sing back is another challenge.”

Natalie Prass admits that The Future and The Past wasn’t always intended to be so conscientiously charged. When she first started writing new songs last year, “It was basically turning into another heartbreak record.” Then, right before she was scheduled to begin recording in November, the results of the presidential election came in, hitting her in a way she wasn’t expecting. Though she doesn’t go into great specifics, she says, “The election brought back all of these ghosts from my past that I’ve just kind of pushed away. All of a sudden they started bubbling to the surface again. I started reevaluating things that I’ve experienced as a musician and as a woman—just thinking that it was normal—and realizing, ‘Oh, wait a second. That’s not normal.’ It all came crashing down on me at once.”

In one fell swoop, Prass decided to scrap her intended album. Keeping only a few holdover demos, she started over. “I was like, ‘I’m not releasing that record,’” she says. “There was no way. I needed to write more. So I wrote every day from January to early March. I wanted to give myself a chance to say something about everything. I would be so upset with myself if I just released some neutral record about love or whatever. That’s not what I need. That’s not what a lot of people need right now.”

“I would be so upset with myself if I just released some neutral record about love or whatever.”

Even before her inspirational U-turn, Prass once again sought out Spacebomb Records guru Matthew E. White to produce her album. White, who regards Prass as a sibling and lives just blocks away from her apartment, spent hours a day during this creative reset as a sounding board for Prass’s new direction and ideas. Looking back at his first collaboration with her, White admits that his own sense of musical style may have been more heavy-handed than it should have been.

This time around, he made a point to temper his influence. “My job on this record was to be as transparent as I could be and let her be Natalie,” says White, talking over the phone. After getting out of the way, White enthuses over the passion, directness, and clarity that Prass brought to the proceedings. “Natalie’s a very sweet person,” he says. “But there’s a lot of frustration, anger, and power in the record that comes from all the political and socio-political stuff, and hopefully that comes across. I think that’s very important to understanding her state of mind and the attitude she was asking of myself, the band, and the arrangements. All of that is tied together.”

With her rewriting blitz completed, Prass retreated with White and several of Spacebomb’s veteran session players to a small studio just outside Richmond’s city limits called Montrose Recording. Whereas Prass’s debut relied on the use of strings and horns to fill in musical gaps, for The Future and The Past it was simply other voices coming in for support. “I needed songs that made me feel part of a movement,” she says. “There’s a lot of choir on it. It’s not like gospel choir, but a group of people singing in unison. I needed almost warrior songs to get me out of what I was feeling. It’s a very groove-heavy record. There’s a heavy, heavy pulse to a lot of the songs.”

Vibe in place, The Future and The Past features tracks such as “Oh My,” which Prass says is about the daily frustrations of a non-stop media bombardment (“I feel insane if I keep up with the news—it makes me feel like I’m going out of my mind and I start to unravel”), and “Hot for the Mountain,” which Prass says “originally wasn’t going to be political.” Of the latter, she explains: “It was just going to be about outcasts and how outcasts are actually beautiful and strong people that have different ideas and don’t fit in, but can take over the world with their imaginative way of thinking. That’s still the case to me, but it’s also like, ‘We represent our country, too.’ In high school I was definitely the weird kid. I had four friends and we were all really weird, but we were inseparable—that typical kind of high school story. Any time I see young kids that are a little different I feel so near-and-dear to them. Those are my people.”

The new album from Natalie Prass, The Future and the Past, out June 1.

Natalie Prass has announced her sophomore album, The Future and the Past. It’s out June 1st via ATO. Prass also shared the lead single recently and its music video, directed and produced by Prass and Erica Prince.  In a press statement, Prass says she rewrote the new record following the 2016 election. She writes, “I needed to make an album that was going to get me out of my funk, one that would hopefully lift other people out of theirs, too, because that’s what music is all about.” The Future and the Past follows Prass’ 2015 self-titled debut; she also released her Side by Side EP the same year.

Watch Natalie Prass get the PledgeHouse SXSW crowd dancing with new songs from her forthcoming album.

Natalie Prass, whose 2015 self-titled debut earned swoons from tastemakers around the world. Its rich soundcraft fueled intense anticipation for her forthcoming follow-up ‘The Future and the Past.’ Be among the first to hear her new sounds at our SXSW stage.

Songs performed 0:33 Oh My 3:47 Hot for the Mountain 13:18 Bird of Prey 17:57 Short Court Style

New album ‘The Future and the Past’ available June

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In the process of writing and recording her new album, Richmond, Va.-based singer-songwriter Natalie Prass ran into what has become a familiar artistic roadblock nowadays: the 2016 U.S presedential election.

Prass had her album written, her band assembled, her studio booked … and had to change course completely after you-know-who somehow came out on top. The result was The Future and The Past, due out on June 1st via ATO Records, the follow-up to Prass’ breakthrough, self-titled debut and her covers EP Side by Side, both released in 2015. the press release for the new album “finds Prass tapping into deep, dancey grooves that glisten with ‘80s pop and ‘90s R&B, nestled alongside quivering, lushly orchestrated ballads.” The first of those is “Short Court Style,” the video for which debuts here.

Directed by Prass herself and Erica Price, with Jethro Waters (Angel Olsen) as Director of Photography, the “Short Court Style” visual features a colorfully dressed Prass bringing jubilation to an otherwise-dreary park in her home state. She spins on a merry-go-round, performs with ribbon dancers and generally delights. “Short Court Style” itself is equally joyous: Prass offers figurative revolutions to match the video’s literal ones, singing, “Oh you spin me round / Round and round / Had ups and downs / No but I can’t be without / My love that I have found.” The song’s irresistible groove makes for a slick and spirited showcase of Prass’ exquisite vocals, emphasizing her R&B leanings in irresistible fashion.

Prass recalls the rocky road that led to her uplifting new album:

The record was ready to go, and then the election happened. I was devastated. It made me question what it means to be a woman in America, whether any of the things I thought were getting better were actually improving, who I am and what I believe in. I knew I would be so upset with myself if I didn’t take the opportunity to say some of the things that meant so much to me, so I decided to rewrite the record. I needed to make an album that was going to get me out of my funk, one that would hopefully lift other people out of theirs, too, because that’s what music is all about.

Prass recorded The Future and The Past in Richmond with long-time collaborator Matthew E. White at his Spacebomb Studios, teaming up with artists including Blue (Solange’s A Seat At The Table, Blood Orange, Carly Rae Jepsen) and Michael Brauer (Elle King and James Bay).

The new album from Natalie Prass, The Future and the Past, out June 1st