The 50thirdand3rd Interview With….The Prefab Messiahs

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The 1st time , I did a post on The Prefab Messiahs was back in August 2013, a few months after we had started 50thirdand3rd. I am a big fan of theirs, love the politics, the pop sensibilities, harmonies, catchy as hell lyrics. I dig what they are doing, it is that simple. These guys are serious and fun at the same time and very few have been able to pull that off. Give a listen to the super cool new album and if you are lucky enough to catch them live, do it….

Interview answers from two of The Prefab Messiahs — lead singer/guitarist Xerox Feinberg and bassist Trip Thompson
For those not familiar with the history of The Prefab Messiahs can you
give us a little background?

Xerox:
Way back in the 80s, in the forsaken city of Wormtown (Worcester) Mass.,
I was sleepwalking my way through college and I wanted to start a band
even though I could only play two different bar chords and owned a
guitar that couldn’t be tuned. Kris and Mike saw a flyer I posted and we
stumbled on from there for about 2 years. The aim was some sort of
anti-80s cultural message mixed with some self-depreciating nostalgia
for (then) lost 60s jangly garage pop mixed with Ramones-y snarling new
wave. The ‘snarky psychedelic garage punk’ that came out when we played
was more or less accidental given our level of experience and resources.
By default I became the lead singer and as a cartoonist, basically the
songwriter. But The Prefabs was always very much a creative collective.
We hung around the local community radio station, ran through a vast
series of drummers, that sort of thing. We managed to be outsiders with
both the college crowd and the townies (which were pretty antagonistic
worlds.)

Trip: The flyer that Xerox posted said: “talentless guitarist and drummer seeking bassist and lead guitarist to form post-new wave pop pseudo-psychedelic band.” It’s possible that “psychedelic” was misspelled.

What has kept all of you busy since 83?

Xerox: I’ve been in various bands, recorded a lot of music on 4 track
cassette, now pro tools stuff. Sometimes music was a top thing… then
it would get pushed onto a back burner.

I’ve been involved in animation since the late 90s. But just like in the
music biz, you don’t really have a lot of control over what happens to
your projects or exactly how your career develops, especially if your
goal is basically to never work in a cubicle taking orders. So my
animation career has some odd parallels with my experience in The Prefab
Messiahs: Flurries of success and excitement followed by mind-bending
obscurity. But, you know, “Keep Your Stupid Dreams Alive”… maybe years
from now the animation no one is paying attention to now will be more
appreciated.

FYI… my favorite recent project is an original series I’ve been
messing with called RANSACK RABBIT… I do all the writing, music, voice,
animation, design… :

Trip: Since ’83? That’s a long time! I finished college and worked a series of jobs. The longest stretches were at a computer color-matching company and (more recently) a university library near Boston. I’ve played music throughout most of that time…with groups like Abunai!, Bobb Trimble, Magic Shoppe and Nisi Period, to name a few.

What ever happened to cousin Artie?

Xerox: He blew his mind out at a 60’s party!

Trip: Yeah, just like the song says! “They say it’s really terrible / Now he is a vegetable”

How did the reunion come about?

Trip: We did one-off reunion shows in 1998, 2003, and 2008. After doing a 30th
anniversary mini-tour in 2012, we decided that we’d had such a great
time that we needed to record some brand-new tracks. I guess I consider
us “reunited” as of that point, even though we’re split between Boston,
NY and Memphis.

Xerox: In some ways I think we all reached a point (musically at least) where
we sort of realized that we had nothing better to do with ourselves than
The Prefab Messiahs. The Prefab era was a really formative, intense
period for all of us and in retrospect it really was sort of what we
wanted to do all along. I’d began wondering what Prefab music might
sound like in the modern era and there seemed to be some interesting
answers so I started sending song demos to Kris and Mike to see what
would happen.

What are some of the challenges you face that are different from the 1st
time around.

Xerox: Blog interviews… the internet… portable phones… jet packs…

Trip: Music fans are flooded with choices of what to listen to, buy or download. So the trick is to get on the radar of some of the “trusted curators” if you hope to poke through the fog. And obviously for us (living so far from from each other), getting together as often as we’d like is a challenge.

Some of your most listened to Albums during high school that still make
it to your turntable….

Xerox: I was kind of a late bloomer cool music-wise… didn’t have great
musical influences… (I grew up in beautiful MONROEVILLE, PA around the
time they were shooting the original Dawn Of The Dead at the Mall…
“soul sucking suburban scene” par excellence!) I had a copy of Alice
Cooper’s Love It To Death… I found it hilarious (it still is.)

I guess my side of the Prefabs was motivated by discoveries like The
Ramones, The Undertones, The Stranglers… jumbled up with The 13th
Floor Elevators, The Flamin Groovies… Kris and Mike were increasingly
big influences on what I listened to. I am still not a great one for
keeping up on what’s what… I generally tend to gravitate most heavily
to influences a few years of either side of 1966. Pop formulas falling
apart and random rules being stretched.

Trip: From high school?? Wow. Well, I was lucky enough to have stumbled across Jefferson Airplane’s After Bathing at Baxter’s back then. Also Patti Smith Group’s Radio Ethiopia and Ramones Leave Home. I had to take a break from Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath for a while, but those sound good to me again now. Had my high school mind blown by seeing Devo and The Plasmatics on TV (on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert and Fridays, respectively).

Who are some of the new kids that you enjoy listening to ….

Trip: I’m pretty voracious for new stuff. Mind Spiders, Morgan Delt, Pink Mexico, White Fence, Acid Baby Jesus, Mr. Elevator & the Brain Hotel, Thee Oh Sees, Wall of Death, Tame Impala, Herbcraft, The Holydrug Couple, Soft Eyes. From here in Boston there’s Doug Tuttle (ex-MMOSS), Moon Tower, The Televibes, The Barbazons, Fedavees, Ghost Box Orchestra — to name just a few. And I also play regularly with a cool psych band called Magic Shoppe.

What do you think of the State of Rock ‘n’ Roll?

Xerox: Overall it’s no better or worse than the state of the world in general.
It’s best to avoid places like Syria or the Top 40.

Trip: I think there are too many current bands just chasing the tails of bands from 3-4 years ago. So there’s a sense of rootlessness. That’s just generally, though — there’s a lot to be excited for too.

What’s changed the most in the music business since your early days …

Trip: There was no internet back then. So that’s huge. It’s made the “playing field” more level, but also clogged up the field too. There’s a much bigger interest in new original bands these days — and so there are way more young underground groups undertaking tours.

Are you having fun?

Trip: I feel like Zippy the Pinhead should chime in at this point! Of course — we’re having a blast. At our age (most of us are 50+) there’s no reason to carry on like we do without having the burning drive to do so.

Your new album ” Keep Your Stupid Dreams Alive ” title song, seems to be
talking to the kids, does that come about from hanging out with the
“Burger” gang?

Xerox: No. We’ve never actually hung out with anybody from Burger (I think Kris
has met them.) The album is really sort of a ‘Garage Rock Operetta’ that
draws on own own experiences. Sort of like coming out of a deep freeze
and finding that the things we obsessed about in 1982 are still relevant
now. If we have been able to talk to ‘the kids’ it’s because we are
talking to ourselves.

Trip: Well, I know why you asked that… The whole Burger phenomenon is a new wrinkle on “DIY” and has been very encouraging so all sorts of people whose counterparts in previous generations would not necessarily have gotten into playing music. I personally feel that everyone who has any interest in music should take a firm poke at it. It’s good for you, it’s a natural part of existence. That’s part of what we were up to back in the day — deflating the ’70s rock star myth that playing music was only for an elite caste of cultural demigods — or “prefab messiahs”, as it were.

Burger Records, The Prefab Messiahs – Keep Your Stupid Dreams Alive – 10″

KLYAM Records, The Prefab Messiahs – Keep Your Stupid Dreams Alive – 10 vinyl and CD

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Scott

From Pittsburgh, now in Florida, Cool Canadian artist wife , 4 great kids and two granddaughters!! I'm a lucky guy!

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