Prairie Cat: Definitely Not the Disco

PrairieCatSittingVW: You’ve stated that much of your writing is based on observations and thus can be quite literal. How much of WKWTB? was written this way?

CP: I’m taken aback when people comment that they get a kick out of the lyrics and can relate to them. It’s such a crazy idea that you can write something down, and by the process of turning sound into electricity, it can be captured and broadcasted through different forms of media, and then a listener can hear and feel something you are trying to convey (even five years after crooning into said equipment). Trippy. I would say that the entire album is firsthand experiences, but sometimes, I’m playing a role of someone else when using the first person. “Upright Beast” would be an example of this.

VW: You’ve referred to Prairie Cat as “purely an exercise in recording and what [you] can do as an individual.” How do your songs as Prairie Cat change when you play them live with a full band?

CP: Prairie Cat has always been “art first,” and the concept driving it is one person in the studio… yours truly. I actually never thought of performing live before the show offers started coming in. Live, I am very lucky to draw from the finest of Vancouver (and Toronto) musicians. On stage, we like to extend the solo sections, have fun, and play our asses off. There’s also a lot of grunting and thrusting. Now that’s soft rock!

VW: The songs on WKWTB? sound upbeat, and the cover art is kind of comical. You look as if someone has just unexpectedly walked in on you, like you’ve been, as you sing on “On a Lamb”, “busted for something [you] never did.” Why did you choose that image?

CP: You are the first interviewer to comment on the album art this time around. Thank you. The last records had very in-your-face, almost cartoony pop/taxidermy art. I don’t like to associate any image bias with my music, so faces tend to be skewed on my covers. You’re not buying into a lifestyle with Prairie Cat, haha…. Well, maybe aging musician who loves what he does??? The album art is an unaltered, clean, stark image (like the production), and the concept of “phoning it in,” like so many people do in this biz, is loosely tied in there.

VW: Even based on titles alone, many of the tracks on WKWTB? are quite melancholy, yet all of the songs are cloaked by poppy veneers. How intentional is that balance? Can you just not help making jaunty, bouncy music as Prairie Cat?

CP: I could babble on and on of chord relations and Picardy Thirds being intertwined themes that live through the story of this album, and their inability to resolve is a personification of the lament of modern day artists, but the songs write themselves if you are open to it. I let it happen very naturally and don’t force chord progressions and lyrics together in that way. I don’t sit at the keyboard and think, “Sad song… Hit the black ones.” I would much rather channel something that is not a preconceived notion. We all know what the music sounds like when the villain appears on screen… That’s playing into genres, and to me, that is lazy and uninspired… Or at the very least, that’s commercial song-writing.

VW: “Upright Beast” stands out from the rest of the album with its unapologetic lyrics: “Watch where I’m walking / I’ll step on your feet.” “Drive in the fast lane but under the speed / You’ll hear me honking when you’re crossing the street / Excuse me is not in my vocabulary.” You even repeat, “Can’t blame me.” You seem to get knocked down and stay down elsewhere on the album, but here, you not only seem to get back up but stand tall as well. Where did this sudden jolt of self-esteem come from?

CP: This piece was written in the perspective of the assholes we encounter in everyday life. The people that lay on the horn the second the light turns green. (What’s with that, Vancouver??? We’re not in New York.) The people whose scope doesn’t extend much farther than the leash that their little dog is on and can’t be bothered to clean up after it. “Upright beasts” are people in our society that are in it for themselves and not looking out for their fellow man. They can often be observed in discos, their natural habitat, where they go to breed.

Who Knows Where To Begin? is available now at Zulu Records, Red Cat Records, Prairie Cat’s Bandcamp page.

Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu