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Sometimes, the Most Punk Rock Thing to Do Is Make Pop Music

Whether it says more about Jordan Prather or Tucson's downtown music scene that the Head Over Heart singer/multi-instrumentalist likens himself to a punk rocker is up to you, but what's certain is that he sees himself as an outsider in his community.

"I remember reading in an Arcade Fire interview -- Arcade Fire and I have a lot in common," the 30-year-old Prather says, dripping with sarcasm. "They said when they were first coming up in their music scene everyone was very different. And they said 'what we thought was punk music was to play pop music.' Nobody else was doing that. They were just doing this avant-garde . . . whatever. I kind of feel like that. In general now, it's almost punk to make pop music. It's not cool in a lot of ways. Certainly people who are looking to avoid the mainstream aren't gonna be interested in us."

Head Over Heart came together slightly less than a year ago in a soap opera-level chain of events that left Prather and Belinda Esquer, 26 as the full band.

"I sent Belinda's [now ex-] husband [James Peters] some of my music; I wanted to start a project with a good drummer," Prather explains. "I liked Belinda's voice and we all decided to do a pop band. My fiancee at the time was also gonna be in this electronic pop band that we were talking about. Both couples ended up splitting up almost at the same time, just by chance. Belinda and I decided to keep playing music together -- we were the most serious of the original four anyway.

"We write the songs together. She's more into getting melodies and lyrics first, and I start with the music. I try to challenge myself by writing on instruments I'm less used to than the guitar but I'm always more concerned with the structure -- 'where is this part gonna go? Is this the verse or the chorus?' She's more interested in what the song is gonna be about. We're working on both aspects at the same time, which works for us."

If Prather's statements and the group's stylish and mannered synth-pop sound like fragments of essays written in the early-'80s commenting on the Reagan-Thatcher era's so-called New Pop of acts like Culture Club and the Pet Shop Boys, who were reacting against punk and post-punk's nihilism with a semi-ironic embrace of mainstream values (see Pet Shop Boys' "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money"), there's a reason for that.

"We just wanted to make dance-pop music, electronic music -- just pop music," he explains. "There's not that much of it in Tucson, and that's what we're both into. Not Top 40 shit -- it's just music that's catchy to me, and obviously everyone has a different answer for that. But something that's structured in a pleasing way. ... A lot of music I find is just people just trying to be strange. A lot of things Pitchfork gives 'Best New Music' to I'll always hate because [the artists are] just structuring their music to be different. It's not like a verse and a chorus -- it's, like, a 10-minute bridge of bird noises. I'm not into that shit. There's structures and chord progressions that usually people universally find to be pleasing to the ear. It's no secret and I don't run away from that."

Head Over Heart is scheduled to perform Thursday, August 21, at The Lost Leaf with Clay Dudash and The Original Saku.
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Joshua Levine