So far, the most talked about band from Tucson this year is Prom Body. During the month before the release of its second album, Naughty by Natural, the band has gotten coverage from Spin and NPR, among others, and are poised for a breakthrough not seen since The Bled or Calexico.
In reality, Prom Body is two separate acts. On record, Mike Fay writes the songs, plays all the instruments and sings, and is both producer and engineer. One year ago, he was the drummer in post-rockers Sleep Like Trees. In his downtime, his four track recorder picked up the sounds of drum pads from old Casiotone synths, mutated guitar fuzz, and his Robert Pollard (but snottier) whine. Taking cues from '80s trashiness -- Roxette, most notably -- he submerged his yuppie pop aspirations into a garbage disposal, resulting in last year's sublime Creep the Strange (Topaz Records). The new album, Naughty By Natural, to be issued on July 29 again on Topaz, is more of the same, but refined and fully realized.
"The stuff I'm influenced by at the moment is just '70s and '80s pop," he explains. "It's not what my music sounds like and I don't want it to sound like that, There's just certain bass lines, synthesizer lines, and vocal hooks that are in these songs that for some reason, even if they're horrible and cheesy, I just love them. They're popular for a reason. They speak to a large audience. I'm not trying to veer in any sort of direction intentionally -- I just wanted to write songs that I can dance around with my bandmates and the audience to and sing and have people sing along."
Version two of Prom Body is the live recreation of Fay's scavenger hunt for the perfect hook. Flanked by guitarists Ryan Chavira and Gilbert Flores, and drummer Matt Baquet, the confessedly "awkward" Fay is interested in spectacle -- to make Prom Body's audience equal participants in the event while shifting the focus away from himself.
He says, "I'm just trying to mix in a theatrical element and have a certain counterpoint to the music. The music is fun to write and perform, and I think having costumes and balloons and confetti and weird backdrops turns into something more. Not that's it detracting from the music; I appreciate going to a show and seeing a band that puts in the work to make it an event that an audience will remember. Even if the outfits are tacky or whatever, I appreciate that these people are going that extra mile. Different genres require different approaches and I think that it's a good fit for Prom Body to do this."
Naughty by Natural's lead single "My Paradise" reconciles Fay's love for popular music and populist presentation. The static, processed beat and blippy synth melody played on guitar provide a foundation for his uncharacteristically naked vocal. The hooks are as undeniable and ingrained as say, Kim Carnes' "Betty Davis Eyes," but it's clear that Fay's paradise is one where he's left to his own devices, imagining his own summer soundtrack, and distantly passing it on to the masses. When asked what he's most looking forward to with Prom Body's growing public profile, he responds as if he's daydreaming, "I've always just wanted to hold my own LP and put it on my record player. This is something I've been waiting for since I started playing music and now I'm about to have it."
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