Smile Politely

From Prussia with love

I had the opportunity to speak, via phone from Iowa City, with the Detroit-based group, Prussia, the night before they visit Champaign-Urbana for the first time. They’re playing tonight at the Canopy Club, with friends Ohtis, local acts New Ruins and Common Loon, and Oxford, Mississippi’s Junk Culture. It’s a 9 p.m. show, and there’s a $7 cover.

Being only my second “real” interview to date, Prussia’s Ryan Spencer rattled my nerves in an email stating, “I have to warn you in advance, we’re quite an awkward interview, but that usually doesn’t stop us.”

But setting my mind at ease, Ryan explained that he was usually caught off guard with interview questions, resulting in “ums” and “uhs” on his end.

My interview with Prussia turned out to be quite an easygoing conversation, giving me insight into the band, their music, and what might become of this interesting “soul influenced” group of down to earth young musicians.

We’ll have to wait until tonight to see how they perform live, but in the meantime, you can check out their latest EP as a free download through their website. They also posted an mp3 on the SPlog a few days ago. After you listen, I am sure you will pony up the seven bucks for what promises to be one of the best shows of the summer at Canopy.

Smile Politely: So, first off, tell me about the band name?

Ryan Spencer: Actually we used to be called “Russian” then we were going to be sued, by this DJ from Russia called “Russian,” who sent us an email and was like, “hey, you guys can’t call yourself that or I’m going to sue you.” So we just added the “P” and ripped off the “N.”

SP: So why “Russian?”

RS: Um, I don’t even know. We all thought it was a cool band name. None of us are Russian. I’m half German, so I guess this one is a little more fitting.

SP: So how long have you been around, touring and such?

RS: Well, our first show was New Year’s Eve, 2006 into 2007, and we have been touring on and off since then.

SP: And who makes up the band?

RS: Well, we have almost always had two drummers, and have had band members on and off since. This tour has included two violinists because our most recent stuff has had a lot of strings, so yeah.

SP: Yeah I kind of caught that on your website, members coming and going and whatnot.

RS: Exactly, and I don’t know if we’re going to have the strings [when we play Canopy]. It’s going to be more of a rock n’ roll setup.

SP: So, do you guys have any pre-show rituals or superstitions?

RS: Well, I always stand on the left of the stage when we play. [Asks Andrew if there are any other rituals/superstitions]. Oh yeah, I almost always check my guitar, or tune with the beginning of “This Charming Man” by The Smiths.

SP: Nice! So, your site lists your genre as Acousmatic/Tape Music/Soul/Dub. Care to elaborate?

RS: Well, we feel we have a lot of Soul influence and MySpace doesn’t really have a “four-track” genre so we listed it as tape music.

SP: Yeah, a lot of bands down here don’t seem to fit into any one or two “genres” so I think you’ll fit in well to our scene.

RS: Awesome, we can’t wait to play. Think it will be a good show?

SP: Yeah, I’m really excited for you guys to play. I hope they open the main stage for this show. Canopy tends to use the side stage near the bar for smaller shows, but with five bands playing I hope the turnout moves the show to the main stage. Either way, should be a great show.

So, another question regarding your site on MySpace: you state “If you like us, buy us food,” which is great by the way. But in addition to it’s great venues, Champaign-Urbana has some awesome late night eateries and all-night diners. If I like your set enough, where would I take you to eat?

RS: Ha ha! Well, one of our band members is Vegan and I think two are Vegetarians, so…

SP: Oh, no problem. We have two or three Vegan places down here and a slew of restaurants with Vegetarian menus.

RS: Oh, that’s awesome.

SP: Yeah, I’m sure you guys will love it here. And once you play Canopy, I’m sure it will be your favorite venue, but until now, where is your favorite place to play?

RS: Well, Pittsburgh and Baltimore are great places to play, but back home (in Detroit) we play there all the time.

SP: So, good music scene up there?

RS: Yeah, there really is an awesome scene up there. It seems like everybody is kind of doing something different than everyone else, but everybody is really supportive of each other’s music up there.

SP: After Champaign you’re playing Chicago?

RS: We stop in Bloomington-Normal and then head to Chicago on the fourth to play at Morseland with a Chicago band and one from Louisville, Kentucky.

SP: Ooh, Chicago on the fourth. I’m from there and it’s a chaotic scene with the Taste and everything.

RS: Yeah, we have never been in Chicago for the fourth, but we’re either expecting a small crowd (due to the Taste and holiday) or a big crowd (who might be avoiding the insanity of the celebrations).

SP: Well, I hope it’s a big turnout. So anyhow, seeing as July 4th is the last tour date, what are the plans after that?

RS: Well, we have been working on a lot of writing lately and we hope to go back home, take some time off and record a full length album with Adam from Ohtis, who will also be recording/producing it.

SP: Hence, the Ohtis mini-hiatus?

RS: Well, that and some other stuff I guess.

SP: Well, it sounds like it should be great. Can’t wait to see you guys at the Canopy and for the new album.

RS: Awesome, can’t wait to play [tonight]!

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