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Let's Stay Together

Through disease, disaster and disappointment, the Prids reach 20 years.

The first sign that the career of the Prids wasn't going to go smoothly came early on. It happened when bassist Mistina La Fave and guitarist David Frederickson were still living in Lincoln, Neb., playing dark-but-danceable Anglophilic post-punk in a scene overrun with juvenile hardcore bands.

"We played with this band called the Pubes," says La Fave from a booth at My Father's Place. "I jumped out of the back of the U-Haul we rented to get our gear there, and I fucked my ankle up. Like, crack! And it just swelled. Dave's like, 'Oh God,' carrying me to the emergency room, and the Pubes are onstage going 'Fuck the Prids! Fucking pussies!' as we're leaving. I'm in the ER going, 'If it's broken, fix it! I've gotta play a show with these motherfuckers!'"

"And we did play that night," Frederickson adds.

It was a harbinger of much more serious calamities to come. As you might imagine, though, any group that would go through with a show on a freshly broken ankle isn't going to submit to adversity that easily. It has simply recovered and kept moving, after a 2008 van accident left Frederickson so injured he had to be airlifted from the scene; after an undiagnosed blood clot forced the best drummer they ever had to quit; after label deals fell through and big breaks never happened; and, most recently, after La Fave suffered a brain hemorrhage—which, miraculously, she came away from with no lingering effects.

Through it all, the Prids have remained in a sort of career purgatory: admired enough to inspire a documentary and tribute album, but perpetually underrated even in Portland, their home of 16 years. Now that they've reached the two-decade mark, the feeling among the two core members is, why stop now…or ever?

"We don't know how to do anything else," La Fave says. "We're in this for life, sort of."

For real, though: With all that's happened to them, you'd think the Prids were founded atop an ancient Indian burial ground. What's kept the band going is La Fave and Frederickson's commitment to each other—a bond that's endured even after their romantic involvement ended. They started the Prids with a drum machine and pawnshop gear in dead-end St. Joseph, Mo., and while an assembly line of drummers and keyboardists have passed through since, their relationship remains at the band's core. It's the key to the band's sound, too: While the music has evolved over three albums, draping layers of blissful shoegaze fuzz over its shadowy noise-pop foundation, the constant has been their shared vocals, which often intertwine into a single androgynous being. If the group was ever going to fold, it probably would've happened when Frederickson and La Fave's brief marriage ended in 1998. Instead, they moved to Portland.

"At that point, it'd been four years," La Fave says. "How many bands in Portland last four years? So it was like, 'Let's go. We can get through anything.'"

Over the next decade and a half, that declaration would get tested. It hasn't just been the accidents and near-death experiences, though they certainly haven't helped them maintain momentum: When La Fave suffered her brain hemorrhage back in March, the band was about to go into the studio to record its fourth album. But the Prids have also fallen victim to the fickleness of the music industry. One label once told them their songs sounded too different from one another, while another said they were all too similar. The band certainly doesn't lack admirers. It has many significant ones, from Henry Rollins to Doug Martsch, who contributed to their last album, 2010's Chronosynclastic, a record NME deemed a "neglected masterpiece."

Neglect has come to define the Prids. Twenty years in, the band isn't playing for a much bigger audience than it was a decade ago. But La Fave and Frederickson don't feel cursed, or like they've failed. The way they see it, they've just been living. And at this point, life and the band are inextricable from one another.

"When you're in a band 20 years, life happens," La Fave says. "That's the only way you can look at it."

SEE IT: The Prids plays Doug Fir Lounge, 830 E Burnside St., with Daydream Machine and Dead Leaf Echo, on Saturday, Oct. 3. 9 pm. $8 advance, $10 day of show. 21+.