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Escape Velocity

The Priscillas: Garage Rock and Milkshake Punk
Julian Marszalek , November 27th, 2008 03:32

Things have never looked brighter for London's glam bubblegum rockers The Priscillas. Julian Marszalek catches up with them over a drink or five.

Prowling the stage in a skin-tight leather cat suit, feline vocalist Jenny Drag is every inch the star; not a move is wasted, not a note out of place. To her right is guitarist Guri Go-Go, a peroxide rock & roll cocktail mixed from two parts Jean Harlow to one part Link Wray that's perfectly matched by the rumblings of the equally bleached bassist Kate Kannibal. Holding this glorious ramalama together is drummer Phil Martini, the band’s sole male presence.

Thanks to high profile support slots with forebears The Cramps, The 5-6-7-8s and The Damned as well as their own action packed gigs, Holloway's bubblegum queens The Priscillas have justifiably developed a reputation as one of the capital’s finest live bands. Embracing the New York Dolls’ trash aesthetic as much as creating a universe of their own making, the quartet is about to unleash their latest long player, 10,000 Watts on their own Nag's Head label. Fiercely independent in the best possible sense, The Priscillas have taken a stylistic left turn to deliver a collection of three-minute pearls that are pop in intent and delivery while taking in bursts of punk, sweet melodies and mariachi trumpets.

"That’s what we set out to do," confirms Kate Kannibal over drinks in a quiet North London hostelry. "The older material sounded different for a number reasons. First off, those songs on Damaged Goods were written by our old drummer and essentially they were demos. Not that we didn’t have any pop aspirations but they were written and recorded fast and furious as we just put them out. We just wanted something better this time and we worked with [Elastica producer] Marc Waterman and he was into the same kind of pop music as we were. I think that this sounds like 70s pop music. It’s like when Blondie recorded Parallel Lines and they were criticised for sounding pop because they worked with Mike Chapman but it still sounds absolutely brilliant today."

It's certainly an album that's devoid of cynicism. What's more, it actually seems to smile at you.

It's view that Kate concurs with. "Well, we're all quite cynical people but we've made an album that people can listen to not in a cynical way or an ironic way; it's really likeable. I don't think that there are many records that do smile at you."

Jenny Drag nods her head in agreement. "There are different levels to it. There is the pop factor but it's really catchy, you can sing along to it but I think it’s like a greatest hits. It’s definitely the best of The Priscillas."

"We tried to write a series of pop singles and we've tried really hard not have any filler on it at all," elaborates Kate. "It's an old fashioned idea but we wanted tunes that people can whistle to and I'd hate to make an album that didn't appeal to lots of different people because that’s not what we're about."

Indeed not. If anything, The Priscillas have tapped into the old-fashioned though none less valid idea of actually entertaining people. Remember that concept? Certainly not the floppy fringed indie-schmindie chancers more concerned with pension plans than having fun. Come on – you do remember fun, right? Putting on your finest and making a night of it? The Priscillas sure do and in the process have created a day-glo world of glamour, boots, make up and the ups & downs of romance and heartache all soundtracked by their fizzing nuggets. In short, The Priscillas do what so many guitar-totin’ pretenders don’t: they take you somewhere special.

"During that half an hour or whatever that we’re onstage, we want to transport you somewhere," says Kate. "Even if we’re playing the shittiest toilet venue in London we want to take you away from there by putting on a proper show. There’s nothing worse then walking out of a venue and you can’t remember a band’s name let alone what they look like."

Jenny Drag is no less enthusiastic. "We all came together because this is the music that we wanna make. We’ve played with so many bands that are like, 'Oooh, we’ve got an agent! Ooooh, we’ve got major label backing' and you’ve never heard from them again."

"People always say 'Oh you look like you’re always having fun onstage'. Well, what else are we supposed to do? I play the best music in the world with all my best friends in the world and we sound great and we’re having a great time," states Kate. "I’m not going up onstage to look glum and I think all the best bands look like they’re having a great time. It’s like Arcade Fire always look like they’re having a great time and that’s really important for the audience as well. They’ve made the effort to go out and they don’t want to see some band that look as if they don’t want to be there. That sort of attitude fills me with dread and horror."

"Yeah," says Jenny. "We want people to leave saying how great it was not how intense it was. And I think we’re really funny onstage."

Quite so for amongst the riffs, choruses and handclaps, The Priscillas don’t ever look as if they’re ever taking themselves too seriously and this sheer exuberance is exactly what rock & roll should be.

"Yeah, a lot of bands are really scared of being funny onstage," confirms Kate. "It takes a lot of balls to be funny and to have a good time on stage. Standing on a stage looking at the floor is not a difficult thing to do. We’re not that bothered about being perceived as super-cool onstage and a lot of bands have a lot of hang ups about that but we’re beyond that."

Jenny is more circumspect about their attitude: "We just don’t give a shit!" and with that, the pair fall about in gales of laugher.

"It's not artifice," continues the bassist. "We’re just suggesting that’s there another world out there. It’s what all the best pop stars do and what the best rock & roll bands do; there’s very little distinction between what the best rock & roll stars and the best pop stars do. Bowie’s still the best example. It’s about creating you own little universe and I think that we do that really well."

"At the end of the day," say Jenny, "we’re here to stay so fucking get used to it!"

They’re not wrong. The Priscillas aren’t here to make a stake on originality or to make any pretence about making music’s great leap forwards. They’d sooner leave that to someone else for this is a band that wants to rock & roll all day and party all night and frankly, with the things the way they are, who can blame them? With 10,000 Watts, The Priscillas have laid an early claim to providing a soundtrack to a place where worries are saved for the real world and where every day is a weekend. And really, what more could you want from a band?

The Priscillas’ new album 10,000 Watts is released on February 2nd 2009 on Nag’s Head records and is preceded by the single 'All The Way To Holloway' on January 12th 2009. The Priscillas play The Water Rats on December 3rd 2008.