American Princes are an indie rock band from Little Rock, Arkansas, and their bluesy garage-rock sound is breathtaking in its intensity and emotional release. Their unique lyrical, vocal, and musical combinations create a sound that is raw but cultivated, passionate yet intelligent, retro and cutting-edge rock with provocative blues undercurrents.
Their new CD Less and Less is a triumph of talent and imagination, and for me it was almost a sexual experience. It's like making love outside in the pouring rain. You'll love every minute of it. Less and Less is a sensual, sexual, throbbing, rock & roll/ blues classic.
So with such intense feelings about their music you can imagine how very excited I was when American Princes agreed to be Band of the Week. I interviewed frontmen Collins Kilgore and David Slade over the phone and discovered that they are not what you’d expect of indie rockers. David is Yale Educated (film studies) and Collins attended Hendrix College (a prestigious liberal arts college in Arkansas) and studied Philosophy.
Both are intelligent, witty and they share a deep bond. David in particular is a very deep thinker. When I called David to arrange the interview I asked him a friendly, chatty question about the weather and he had me contemplating my own mortality within two minutes. Deep folk, but not without a sense of humour.
How did you all become the American Princes?
Collins: Take it away, David.
David: Well, apart from a bloody coup, three of us (John Beachboard, Matt Quin, and myself) started playing music in NYC in 2002. We quickly decided that it would be impossible to be in a touring band there, so John and I, having grown up in Little Rock [Arkansas], figured that'd be a good, equidistant headquarters — with a low cost of living and a thriving DIY music scene. We headed down at the end of '02 (Matt moving sight unseen, mind you), and played a show within a few weeks at Collins' house. We asked him to join up with us (John played in a band with him in college) and, a few personnel changes later, we came to our current line up of Luke [Hunsicker - bass], Matt [drums], Collins , and myself.
Collins: In fact, John literally asked me if I'd be interested in joining that night, before they had even played. It was quite good though. They played in my living room, and I watched from the stairway above. It was pretty packed, actually.
Why were you playing a gig at Collins’ house?
David: House shows. Good times. I'm not sure the origins of the phenomena, but you know, a keg, a house, a ton of kids.
Why did you ask Collins to join? What happened to John Beachboard?
David: John is still a dear friend of ours, but by the end of his tenure, he just wasn't having a good time. He'd be really late to shows, or not show up at all (the final straw). But largely, I think it had to do with the fact that he's a pretty successful cook, so his creative and professional needs were being met elsewhere. The band, in a lot of ways, was probably weighing him down.
Collins is the best. He's a phenomenal musician, as well as arranger, and he's just a great friend. His dedication to the band and his prowess has gotten us through the rough times when nothing else would. I know I wouldn’t be playing music today if it weren't for him.
Explain to me who writes and sings your songs, please.
Collins: We both write and sing for the most part. Usually one of us will come with a bit of song, or more and we'll mold it all together.
David: We all write the songs. Collins and I sing 'em. Whoever sings the main part probably came up with the lyrics (but not always). Everyone throws his two cents in.
Collins: Some songs I just sing, some songs just Dave. But on some, “This is the Year” for instance, we both sing. Also, I sing back up vocals on some songs that Dave sings primarily.
David: “This is the Year” is also an instance in which we each wrote respective words for our respective parts
What kind of sound were you trying to achieve or did it just come?
Collins: I'd say that it just came, really. There are things I was trying to achieve, of course, but it came out way different. I almost always have this grand vision for a song. But it always turns out way differently. Not detrimentally, either.
“Annie” for example I was thinking about it being way stripped down. Everytime the guys tried to add other parts to it, it wasn't working very well. We might not even have recorded it, but when we got to the studio Al, our producer, suggested trying out some Chamberlin, and Mellotron on it. We stayed up until about four in the morning or so. Al would give me a new sound, and I would lay it on. That's actually the only song we've ever recorded where just one member of the band played all the parts. I take that back, the song "Revolver," on Little Spaces [their first album] is just David, I think.
How do you guys (meaning all of you) go about writing music? Do you write the lyrics first?
David: Things happen in a variety of ways. I can't say that we would try and subordinate one thing to the other. Sometimes it's a vocal melody that starts you off, sometimes a guitar line, sometimes a phrase. No one thing is going to kick the writing process off all the time, though.
Where do you find inspiration for your lyrics?
Collins: Oh man. Everywhere. [Brian] Eno, the Beatles, the Stones. Actually, I get a whole lot of my inspiration from David, to tell you the truth.
David: Oh come on. You're the one referencing Aristotle. That's one of my favorite moments in lyricdom, by the by. Is it Aristotle or Plato, now that I think about it?
Collins: Plato. I was actually just thinking about how some of our best lyrics we've ever written were on our first album [EP], We Are The People.
David: If I may interject on the subject of lyrics, I'd say that the process is kind of like taking a standardized test. There's not really a way to prepare for it. You just let all of the stuff filter out of your head. That said, it doesn't hurt to be topical or referential a bit. I think we've gotten away from that and it kind of bums me out. I was listening (this is so embarrassing) to Don McLean today and I really got into the reference. I'm not saying anyone needs to be pouring over “Ms. American Pie,” but what a cool, epic idea, to have an ode to rock n' roll that's so laden (and at times encumbered) with little pieces of evidence.
You guys are going on tour in a few weeks is that correct?
Collins: Yes, we will be leaving for tour next week. We're pretty excited; it's only our second time going out west. West coast. We're kicking it off with a show with White Whale in Fayetteville, Arkansas. They're this new band on Merge that a couple of our friends are in. They're awesome. Then we're motoring it over to San Diego. That's two days later. We're playing a free show, outdoors, with Spank Rock, The Roots, and Mudhoney.
You two are best friends aren't you?
Collins: Yeah. We're a tag team. Sometimes like a married couple, though. Like, if I get pissed at Dave for taking too long in the gas station looking at magazines. That's lame.
David: I think it goes deeper than that. It's a lot more like family. The love's a lot deeper, but the button-pushing can go a lot deeper, too. I definitely think Collins knows me better than probably anyone on earth, which is a tough cross to bear, eh buddy?
Collins: Yeah, but you should be able to look at magazines all you want.
What kind of magazines are they?
Collins: I don't know. I was just BSing. He was probably in the bathroom. I'm sitting in the van with the engine running. Honking the horn and shit.
David: I'm usually perusing the truck stop t-shirts, which justifiably would make anyone mad.
It's great, though. I think that the relationship we've got has a foundation rooted in all of these incredible events we've experienced together. We built this artistic collaboration from the ground up and sort of made this hive mind in the process. I don't know. It's a really nice thing to be able to pursue your dreams with someone else.
Collins: Dave's right. If it weren't this, we'd probably be running some crazy business together. Oh wait… I suppose that's exactly what we're doing.
David: I think we've made some informal plans to that effect, already. Strictly drug dealing, though.
So you found your soul mate at a house party?
Collins: I would say that Dave's wife is his soul mate. I'm more like his "soul train".
David: Why not find them there? Less interesting than prison, more interesting than church.
To hear American Princes for yourself, visit their MySpace site.