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The Prophet Hens

The Prophet Hens

Interviewed by
Natalie Finnigan
Thursday 1st August, 2013 2:43PM

The Prophet Hens only make promises they can keep, so when they say their aim is to ‘jangle the shit out of you’, you should believe them. You could say the Dunedin four-piece have picked up where their musical predecessors left off, infusing melodic indie-pop songs with essence of Otago winter. UTR talked to vocalist/guitarist Karl Bray ahead of the release of their debut album Popular People Do Popular People this week and chatted about their new album and plans to tour.

Your album, Popular People Do Popular People, is out really soon – can you tell me about where it was recorded and how?

We recorded everywhere! Practice rooms, people’s houses – all over the shop. There’s this very old tech-college here in Dunedin where a lot of it was done. The place has a very rich history of incubating Dunedin bands so we just continued the tradition really.

I understand it took a while?

It was a bit of a slow, painful birth really - it took over a year to complete. We started with the first iteration of the band, and then when Robin and Darren joined it took a while for us to get up to speed again. That said, we’re really happy with it and pleased to put it out there.

That sounds like it could have been frustrating…

Pen and I have been doing this for quite a while, and we’ve done it before with other bands and do feel like the process has taken a lot longer than usual, but that’s life I guess. I think part of it is that I’m way less compromising than I was in the past. I know the sound I like and we worked until we got it right.

What is that sound?

It’s pretty Dunedin, in that we’ve taken jangly, loose pop songs, and infused them with maudlin minor chords reminiscent of church organs. The songs have a cold, loose feeling to them which is pretty Dunedin.

How has your taste changed as a musician over time?

In the past, when I was younger, I was in to heavier, faster, guitar driven stuff, whereas now I’m more interested in the melodic. I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from bands like The Chills and early REM stuff.

Where does the creative inspiration come from in your band? You sound like you drive things a bit?

Yeah it’s certainly my project and my concern, but everyone in the band contributes creatively.

Were you worried about the impact of replacing two founding band members and how has that impacted the band’s sound?

I was worried, but I think we’ve found the right balance and I’m really pleased with how it turned out. It could have gone badly wrong but it didn’t.

Why have you taken on a manager now?

Well I was devoting every bit of spare time I had to the band, and a friend of ours is now acting as manager which is great because I can focus on the creative aspects rather than administrative stuff, which takes up a lot more time than people think. It’s nice to hand that stuff off and hopefully it will result in more tours and better promotion in future.

Do you have a direction in mind or are you just taking things as they come?

I have no idea. I have been wondering that too, but I’m not sure. We’ve been getting some international exposure – one of our songs got played on BBC Radio 6 recently which is pretty exciting – we’re just going to take things as they come I think and let the band evolve as it will.

Do you have new material?

Yeah we have enough for a new album now and would definitely like to get into the studio again, but right now I think we want to focus on gigging and letting the songs from this album solidify.

How do you try to translate your recorded material into a live performance?

I think it’s actually the other way around. We wanted our record to sound as much like a live performance as possible, so kept it low-fi with as little post-production as possible. I think we achieved that and we’ve had really good feedback about it.

What tours do you have planned?

We’re going to do a nation-wide tour after our video release party. We’ve done a bit of touring down south but not nation-wide so we’re looking forward to it.