Catching up with Young Prisms: new video, new process, and those pesky Cure comparisons

Pub date April 18, 2013
WriterLaura Kerry

At their show at Elbo Room on Friday, Young Prisms are going to play new material that they’ve never performed in front of an audience.

“It should be interesting,” bassist and singer Gio Betteo told me last week at Mission Pie.

Vocalist Stefanie Hodapp added with a laugh, “Especially for us.”

That sort of relaxed good humor seems to define their whole attitude toward making music (past characterizations have used the word “slacker,” which doesn’t quite fit). The band, currently comprised of four members, including Jordan Silbert on drums and Matt Allen on guitar, produced albums in 2011 and ’12, and now wants to take its time creating a third.

Young Prisms have been experimenting with a new process that removes the pressure and constraints of their past songwriting. Now, they create when something comes to them. Betteo has been the primary writer of new material recently but only because he has been feeling inspired to write.

The result, they say, sounds more like genuine emotion and less like grasping at genre such as psychedelic rock or dream pop.

Not that they attempted to fit into any specific category in the past. When asked about the many comparisons that have been drawn between the band and noisy shoegazers such as My Bloody Valentine or the fuzzier Mazzy Star, Betteo and Hodapp looked at each other warily.

“I’m not dumb. I definitely hear it,” said Betteo. ”Whether it’s bands like No Joy and Weekend, that are currently doing it, or bands like Chapter House and My Bloody Valentine and stuff from 20 years ago, we like those sounds. It plays its own role in our writing and ideas, but never intentionally.”

Once, a fan came up to them after a show and praised the song that sounded like the Cure. Though they didn’t know which the fan meant (and suspected the fan didn’t know which he meant), the comparison was apt; they had spent the entire tour before they wrote the second album listening to the Cure. Though they don’t strive to mimic the band, they admit that they are drawn to certain musical ideas.

Over their years of playing together, these musical ideas have shifted. In the writing of their first album, Friends For Now, they didn’t care about creating relatable songs. “We just wanted to make fucked up sounds,” Betteo said. “I wanted this guitar to sound like a fucking car accident, and this drum beat to sound like a headache, a pulsing headache.”

In Between, the second album, represented a few steps toward developed structure and audience accessibility. They wanted to allow people to “find the song in it.”

Their new material, they say, will be a few steps further in that direction.

But they don’t want to lose their experimentally hazy sound, their relaxed outlook, or the sense that they’re in this to have fun. That seems unlikely.

With three out of four members of the band living together (they assured me that their home lives are too boring to merit a sitcom or reality TV show), one can imagine either the chemistry or the easygoingness required to sustain the bandmate-roommate relationship. Whatever the formula, it seems to have worked in the past and will seemingly continue to work as Young Prisms release their next album, maybe in early 2014.

Until that time, they have a new video for their song, “Runner,” a side project called Breathr that’s going to come out in the next couple of months on the label Dream, and shows around the Bay Area.

Young Prisms
With SISU, Chasms
Fri/19, 9:30pm, $12
Elbo Room
647 Valencia, SF
(415) 552-7788