Interview: Awkward Prom Dates

After only being together for roughly three years, southern California natives, Awkward Prom Dates, just released their third record, Hellvetica. The foursome made up of James(vocals/guitar), Eli(vocals/guitar), Nico(bass/vocals), and Parker(drums) delved into new waters with their release by composing songs with fast pace tempos and sudden interjections of slow melodies. While keeping true to their dreamy, shoe-gaze roots—a genre that seems to have taken the music community by storm—APD audibly progress as a band, and give their listeners warmly vague tunes that are reminiscent of any slow-motion dream to be had. With songs like, Everglade, I am instantly reminded of one of my favorite Cure songs, Fascination Street, with the eerie strums of each guitar string and synth backing accompanied by a shadowy voice. Even with three contributing vocalists, there is a fluidity among them all and a haunting rawness. Overall, Hellvetica is nine songs of pure ecstasy and emits prismatic effects throughout, making it a more than ideal listen for anything to mindless wanderings to a lover’s dream soundtrack.

We had the chance to sit down with the guys of Awkward Prom Dates ahead of their release, and chatted about all things music while also getting the scoop on some upcoming gigs promoting, Hellvetica.

LD: Eli and James, you guys were the founding members of the band what initially made you want to start APD?

James: We didn’t want to be a band at first; we just wanted to write songs for ourselves. We didn’t have any intentions of showing anyone.

Eli: Then I showed my friend, Chris, Won’t Stop and Marjorie, and he really liked it, so we started showing our material to more people. We needed to build more confidence before we put ourselves out there.

LD: How did you all meet to form APD?

Eli: James and I met in another band; after a few months, we got a manager who started to take control of the band and stopped us from writing original music so we could be more like a cover band. I wasn’t about that so I left, and then James left. From there, we started making music together on the weekends and that’s how we got to where we are. We met Nico and Parker at a backyard show last summer and instantly knew we wanted to recruit them from their band to our band. Then, over the next few months their band faded away and we brought in Parker, and eventually, we could bring in Nico.

LD: ‘Awkward Prom Dates’ is a unique name, how did that come about?

Eli: It took us a long time to figure out a name, and eventually my sister started throwing out names and Awkward Prom Dates was the product of that.

LD: You released two albums in the past year and you are about to release your third album, which is unlike the timing that most bands put out their material. Are you afraid that putting out that much material will leave you without much to explore in the future?

Eli: Sometimes, but the way we’ve always ran our music, writing wise, is casual and was born out of our love to write it. We never get bored. I mean, we’re going to take a break after the release of Hellvetica, but that’s not going to stop us from continuing to write and make new material.

LD: Do you guys write based on your personal experiences or the perspective of others?

James: [laughing] I don’t. If I wrote about myself, it’d probably suck. I’ll notice some patterns in my writing, where I’ll listen to a song and realize in hindsight that it was about a certain situation but never intentionally.

Eli: For me, we started writing with a concept in mind. More recently, I’ve delved into exploring lyrics on a more personal note; I feel it adds more emotion to the piece.

Nico: It’s hard for me not write based on personal experiences and I often do it subconsciously. Initially I think I am writing lyrics about something random, but I’ll go back to it and see it was something I was going through at the time.

LD: Do lyrics or music come first in the recording progression?

Eli: The music usually. Music almost always comes first and then we decide what goes along with it. For this album, it’s conceptual, so every song is from a different perspective but there are still personal ties to each one.

LD: While making each song, is it a collaborative process?

James: It used to be more collaborative. The way it would work is, Eli would write the lyrics while I would do the music but with time we started swaying in to different things. On this upcoming album, I would say we each wrote about half the album and then maybe collaborated on one song. In the future, we are planning to collaborate more as a group [Eli, James, Nico, and Parker]. Overall, our focus is putting the best songs on the record no matter who originated it.

LD: Parker, being that your 6 months new to the band, do you actively add to the recording process?

I contribute more to the live performances as the drummer; I like playing really loud and being energetic, so sometimes the sound changes a bit but we kind of just roll with it. It tends to get more collaborative when we are practicing.

LD: Your sound is very reminiscent of artists like Wild Nothing, DIIV and could easily fall into the shoe-gaze category. Do those musicians/genre have an influence on you, or when you first formed the band was that the sound you made instinctually?

Eli: For James and I, in the beginning, we set out to write a dream-pop album and that’s what we did. The newer stuff, we were trying to set out to make a shoe-gaze record, but we pulled inspiration from our older projects so it’s sort of one big melting pot. It happened for a reason because it’s the music we love and what enjoy playing.

LD: What artists specifically  inspire your sound?

James: Well, as far as the first album of ours, we borrowed sounds from Joy Division, keeping to the bare essentials—guitar, bass, drums, and raw vocals.

Nico: I remember when James and Eli first started out, James said to me a couple of times he wanted them to be as big as Radiohead but by way of their own sound; I thought it was very admirable.

LD: What can we expect from the new album, Hellvetica?

Parker: I didn’t really help with writing as much this time around, but I did give them some ideas as I was listening to the album. What I can say is that it’s different from the other two records, but if you liked the previous material, you’ll probably like our new release even more. We don’t stray too far away from our old sound, but on the new album we took the best aspects of the last ones and combined them.

Eli: I agree. The new record, Hellvetica, flushes out a bit of what we did on the second album and takes pieces from the first while exploring new avenues and going on a tangent of its own.

LD: Was there any band, album or song that made you realize that you wanted to learn and create music?

James: mmm… not really.

Eli: When I was little, I really liked the Red Hot Chili Peppers and I wanted to play bass and be cool like Flea. Overall, music really interested me and that spiraled into me learning a whole bunch of stuff.

Parker: Well, I have ADHD and as a kid I was always tapping on everything, so my mom just threw me into drum lessons and IT WORKED. I picked it up relatively fast and kept wanting to learn more. My favorite musician would have to be Dave Grohl.

Nico: I’ve been playing trumpet for 8 years now, and around my junior year I started really getting into John Coltrane. Hearing some of the stuff he did and getting into other artists in that genre, like Charles Mingus, made me want to pick up bass, as well the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

LD: Being that you are quite a new band, is it hard getting used to the feeling of performing in front of people?

Eli: At first. I really enjoyed our first show, but it took a while to figure out how to get a crowd going. Now, I deal with being awkward and having fun with that.

James: Performing versus writing songs is very different for me. I like writing songs and trying to articulate them to make them a masterpiece, whereas playing shows, I realized people want loud music they can dance to a sing along with. It varies for me; I’ll always get a bit nervous before a show, even playing in front of my grandma of all people.

LD: What’s your favorite song to perform live?

Parker: For sure, Black Blizzard. It starts off at a good tempo that’s fun to dance to, but then it picks up and gets really heavy.

Nico: My favorite to play live would probably have to be Loosen Up because I love the bass line paired with James’ vocals on it. Annabelle is fun too—I love the way the crowd responds to it.

James: Even though we’ve only played it twice, Night Ride, has always been one of my favorites. As far as right now, it would most likely be Annabelle, because towards the end, Eli sings and I can take a break.

Eli: For me, Annabelle is also my favorite. We all love Anabelle because that was the first song we played that ever had a mosh pit.

James: The thing about that song, is that we have a good energy in it. The first time we played it, I went in the mosh pit with my guitar, and when I got out, it was crazy out of tune and I had to play the rest of the song with it sounding horrible. I was cringing after we finished, but then I looked over at the guys, and they all said it was the best song we’ve ever played.

LD: If you could curate a festival, who would make up your dream festival headliners?

James: Radiohead, Paul McCartney, and Smashing Pumpkins if they play their old stuff.

Eli: Gorillaz, My Bloody Valentine,

Parker: Twitch, Space Dot [James’ side project], and Nico Alter Ego (insert heavy sarcasm)

James to Parker: You just blew my mind.

Nico: Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Growlers, and Miles Davis.

LD: With the upcoming release of your new album, do you have any gigs lined up?

Eli: We currently have one we’re about to start promoting, but for now it’s under wraps.

James: We’ve got a lot more planned, so stay tuned.

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