"Do you think bands of our size that have been around awhile and don't get any bigger, do you think they're forgotten?" asks Mistina Keith, the raven-haired bass player and co-founder of Portland DIY post-punk institution the Prids. Her anxiety is understandable; few bands seem to survive, let alone thrive, into their second decades without some sort of commercial success or major-label support. But then again, few bands are the Prids.
Keith and her then-boyfriend (and now former husband), guitarist David Frederickson, started the band more than a decade ago in St. Joseph, Mo., with just a few pawn-shop-purchased instruments and a shared love of Morrissey (both have Moz-related tattoos). Since then the Prids have withstood cross-country moves, member shuffles and a frighteningly serious and costly van accident during its 2008 tour to create the third and best full-length of its career. But Keith, who over the course of the past decade has seen lesser bands explode into the spotlight that has long eluded her group, is worried that Chronosynclastic (the new album takes its title from 1959 Kurt Vonnegut novel The Sirens of Titan) will fall on deaf ears. After all, it has been four long years since the Prids' last record, ...Until the World Is Beautiful, and the fickle independent music world isn't known for its long memory.
"We had some hard times," she admits. "Our second full-length came out, and while we were on tour for that, David and I had a very close friend diagnosed with terminal cancer. So we were hanging out with him and not in a space to put out a record the next year. When we were ready to move on, we got in the accident. So that's what slowed us down—life."
But she needn't worry. Chronosynclastic is a fresh and energetic album worthy of attention—never has the band used its intertwined coed vocals so effectively or written such soaring riffs—and with guest stars like Built to Spill's Doug Martsch and Brett Nelson contributing, new fans should finally discover this too-well-kept secret of a thrilling band.
It is nothing short of a miracle that the band has survived this long. But tragedies that would have felled lesser groups only solidified the Prids' desire to make music together. When Keith and Frederickson divorced, there was never a question of whether they would continue as bandmates. "I was probably mean in practice for a while," laughs Frederickson, who at least still wanted to have practice with his ex-wife. "And we didn't even ever not live together." (They continue to be roommates to this day.) Then the van accident, which was so serious that Frederickson had to be airlifted from the scene, convinced the group to take new chances in its music. In fact, the accident and the subsequent outpouring of support and money from fans came at a fortuitous time, saving the band when it was starting to doubt its impact.
"After doing it for years there was a point where I was like, 'What's the point? No one cares about the Prids,'" says Keith. "It was a sad time. But then we had this accident and all these people were helping us out, and I was like, 'Well, I make someone feel good, so I should keep doing this.'"
And so they have. With a great new album to promote, the band is even eager to get back on the road, despite the still-fresh memory of blown-out tires on the freeway. "I like touring. I like long drives still," says Frederickson. "I can't wait to get back out there. I feel like a horse inside that starting gate, waiting for it to open so I can bolt."
It was widely reported that when Keith first talked to Frederickson in the hospital after the accident, she joked, "This is the only way our band's going to be popular." So now, almost exactly two years later, do the Prids feel more popular?
"No," laughs Frederickson.
"It was hopeful thinking, but it didn't do anything," Keith laments teasingly, "other than I read a quote on the Internet saying, 'It almost seems like they should've died, and then they'd be famous.' I was like, 'Thanks.'"
"Man, that's my life!" interjects Frederickson. "Fuck your legends and your stories; I want to live."
SEE IT: The Prids release Chronosynclastic at Doug Fir on Friday, June 11. 9 pm. $8. 21+.