Tennessee Puts the Prowling Kind on the Map With a Runaway Debut

"With low expectations it's very easy to surprise people."

You'll never guess who said that. No, not Norman Vincent PealePamela Anderson said that! See how this low expectations thing works?

On a night when loathing everything came easy and liking anything new seemed doubtful, I caught The Prowling Kind — which turned out to be a pretty great discovery. This despite sporting a cutesy band name and two instruments that have a lot to answer for these days: the banjo, for obvious reasons that don't even address minstrel shows and Deliverance, and the glockenspiel, which has supplied more forced sensitivity than emo records even needed.

The Prowling Kind
The Prowling Kind

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Crescent Ballroom

308 N. 2nd Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85003

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Central Phoenix

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The Prowling Kind's CD release party is scheduled for Thursday, August 29, at Crescent Ballroom.

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Yet The Prowling Kind overcame all that within seconds of Mickey Louise Pangburn hammering the strings of her Les Paul goldtop with her fingertips as if she were Steve Howe or Bert Jansch.

Then she previewed "Babycakes" thusly: "This song is about running from state to state for 15 years hiding out from my ex-convict dad." Not even Johnny Cash Live at Folsom Prison had an intro so, well, fulsome.

It was a smart move to tease it like a local newscast and promise to offer more details later, and the upshot was that her intense first pitch informed every song that followed. Most of it was selections from The Prowling Kind's debut album Tennessee, a song cycle spanning her 15-year ordeal. "Melt Together" captures the moment her parents were once in love, while the title song is the GPS pinpoint to where all the troubles began, and "Wiser for the Wear" an itemization of the complete breakdown of trust between the stalker and the stalkees.

And did I mention heavy? Don't be fooled by their self-identification as blues-folk when they started a Kickstarter campaign to solicit album funds last December. Sure, there's blues-folk in there, but it's blues-folk as though it were being played by The Kills or Big Brother and the Holding Company with Bonzo on drums and with atmospherics seeping through its quieter moments.

The album, as formidable as it is, doesn't approach how ferocious the band's attack can be in concert, although "Vertigo" comes the closest. And even that track lacks the sense, at their live shows, that things could spiral out of control at any moment. Against the solid rhythm pummeling of Jesse Pangburn (drums) and David Maddox (bass) comes a smoking solo from guitarist Zach Tullis and a totally unexpected siren scream from keyboardist and second vocalist Erin Beal.

Mostly, Mickey Louise Pangburn's lyrics express a repressed anxiety and dread that the often-upbeat musical accompaniment masks, almost as a protective shield. According to Jesse, Mickey's husband of four years, it's by design.

"Mickey and I think it's great when a band is talking about something heavy but the music is played in a lighthearted way. Or a lighthearted subject is played intensely. It's fun to see people pull that off."

Sitting down at Giant Coffee with four-fifths of The Prowling Kind (Erin Beal is off doing whatever a keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist does on her day off), the closest thing to heavy at the moment would be a nearby cast-iron pot with an alarm attached to let you know it's safe to steep the tea bag.

It soon becomes evident that Mickey Louise Pangburn is a coffee connoisseur. Twice during the interview, a barista comes to ask her what she thinks of some blend, as if she were the second coming of Juan Valdez.

"We are all big coffee and tea drinkers," says Jesse. "Several of us actually work for Cartel Coffee Lab. Between that and needing some coffee to keep up with our schedule, it lends itself to a bit of barista snobbery."

Caffeine snobbery filters through the way they talk about their music, too, when Jesse announces his pleasure with the completed debut CD. "It covers our unique flavors very well," he says before everyone breaks into guffaws.

For such a young band, The Prowling Kind covers a lot of musical ground in a short playing time. They have some jazz and classical training, which sits not too uncomfortably with the band's metal skeletons in the closet.

"I went to school for jazz," says Mickey. "I studied guitar with Pete Pancrazi for a number of years and took jazz courses at Mesa Community College. And Jesse went there as well, for about two years."

So was that string hammering a result of her jazz training?

"No," laughs Mickey. "Hammering strings — that was my attempt to fit in with the metal guys."

"Yeah, I played prog rock and metal," Jesse says. "My goal was to experience as many styles as I could. Zach feels the same. Metal can get a little monotonous after a while; I still love it, but I wanted to branch out."

Zach Tullis, whose aforementioned face-melting solo on the live version of "Vertigo" probably wouldn't have been possible without some metal mooring, a very narrowly escaped indoctrination in a black metal band with a one-word name.

"Yeah, I was in a metal band that didn't go anywhere and started to splinter off," says Tullis with some trepidation. "They're a local black metal band now called Sovereign and they wear face paint. We had almost a solid set together and then someone brought up face paint and a light bulb went off."

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5 comments
ajcornett
ajcornett

The band kicks-ass live...I expected a mellow band ...but the Prowling Kind rocks.  See them in a smaller venue before they get really big.

JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public topcommenter

I hope that they're able to find they're way into a showcase like SXSW in Austin where they can really gain some national attention.

theprowlingkind
theprowlingkind

@JohnQ.Public We're sure trying to do that John! Thanks for the kind thought :)


JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public topcommenter

Saw you at Pub Rock Live in July and I was really impressed with both the music and the performance.  Best of luck with the new album.

 
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