Prinze George on Prince, Band Beginnings and Musicianship

By Janelle Abad
Music Director

Austin’s beloved Zilker Park was flurried with anxious and excited attendees for the 15th Anniversary of Austin City Limits. This year’s line-up was stacked with some of the best synth-pop and electronica acts in the industry, including M83, The Naked and Famous, Flume and LCD Soundsystem. These household names have also sparked a light for many of the other breakthrough artists on the bill. One in particular: Prinze George, a glamourous synth-pop trifecta from Maryland comprised of Naomi Alquist (vocals), Kenny Grimm (producer) and Isabelle De Leon (drummer).

What have you guys been doing during your week floating around in Austin?

Isabelle De Leon: Trying all the foods, shopping all the really cool shops, and swimming; we went to McKinney State Park. When we travel, we love to absorb all of the local digs.

Kenny Grimm: Lots of tacos, too!

You guys just played a great set here at ACL. How did you guys feel on stage?

Naomi Alquist: It went great! I did mess up the Prince cover. I’m a huge Jack White fan, so I thought about what he said about mistakes and how mistakes are the best part of a performance. Luckily, I channeled Jack and I thought about how he always said that. He’s had fans come up to him saying “Oh, I’m so sorry your guitar wasn’t plugged in for that last song,” but he’s like “Don’t be sorry! That’s the best part.”

I definitely agree! My favorite part about live shows are how the music and the people become a reality. Moments like that are what makes the music and the experience more human.

IDL: To me, it felt really good and I base that off of how it felt between the three of us, plus the energy from the crowd and the interaction. I think that’s what live shows are all about.

You guys mentioned the Prince cover. I can imagine that he’s a big influence for you guys. Where were you when you found out that Prince died?

NA: I just got out of the shower when we were in Maryland, and it was really sad! Especially because we were already set to go to Minneapolis to film our music video for our single, “Freeze”. Our engineer that mixed and tracked the record also used to work with Prince. We made the record in Minneapolis at our manager’s house, recorded it there, finished some songs there and had the whole Minneapolis experience. Our name too – it was all just disappointing to hear.

What other influences do you guys pull from with your music and style?

NA: Fashion has been something that I’ve been passionate about since I was born. Whenever some sort of music project is conceived in the beginning, I always see a group of color scheme. The music and the color scheme – that relationship was evident to me the first week we even conceived a project. But we have a team in terms of aesthetics, styling and visual art. But it’s collaborative!

I’ve read that Brooklyn was the place where it was all started. Can you tell me more about that?

KG: We’re from Maryland, but we did get our start in Brooklyn.

NA: We launched Prinze George in Brooklyn, but we’re a Maryland band.

So how was that transition from Maryland to a big city like New York for you guys?

NA: Kenny and I had moved to Brooklyn after we started Prinze George as a side project. It was hard. We’re a couple. We were trying to find work and grinding it out. After about four months in the middle of two moves, managed to release two singles. The second one was “Victor”, and it took off. At that point we had gotten other jobs, doing other work. We were working paycheck to paycheck. “Victor”‘s internet success prompted all of the industry meetings that we all of a sudden had to go to. I was a nanny for two kids, so I had to run from work to industry meetings everyday for like six months. It was crazy. We ended up moving home because we got bed bugs two times. 

By then, we had already summoned [Isabelle] to come back because we had been trying to work with other musicians in New York, but it wasn’t working out. I think a lot of us saw it as an opportunity to latch on to what we’ve started. Isabelle – we’ve already had a preexisting relationship with. We had been in another band with her before and we wanted to feel like that again.

Was Prinze George a revival of that last band? How did that work out?

NA: [Prinze George] was an electronic-pop side project that Kenny and I started while five of us were in a rock band. So it was weirdly born from that rock band. It was largely experimentation.

So what were you guys listening to during that transition from rock to synth-pop?

NA: [Kenny] kind of pushed me to make that change. I was like “f*ck pop music! I’m not gonna write to pop music! I’m a folk singer.”

KG: I think it started from a rock song called “Feel Tonight”, which was borderline pop. Then I started getting into production, so we laid down the guitars and drums and bass, and I put some synths. It kind of transitioned from there. I’d say M83 is a big influence on me. I’m obsessed with the 80’s sound. That’s a big influence for me production wise.

IDL: For me as a drummer, I was doing a lot of jazz when I started working with them. That opened me up a lot, because as a drummer, it’s valid to say that drummers have a tendency to want to show off and play heavy; that’s the drummer thing. Having studying jazz and being trained to be more open and aware and approach it more as an artist is what helped me transition to the electronic and synth-pop genre. Instead of just playing whatever I wanted to play, I was a lot more aware of what Naomi was singing and what Kenny’s producing. I really try to respect what the music was doing, instead of just trying to be a flashy drummer.

It’s funny that you say that; my guitar professor has really been emphasizing what he read in a jazz magazine article: “If you’re a really great musician, your goal is to make the other people in your band sound good.”

IDL: Sound good and feel good! Definitely. That’s what I really appreciate about this group. I think all of us are really respectful of each other’s voices and the direction that we’re taking. When we’re creating and jamming we really try to hone in on that direction that they’re going with it. It’s a really great thing about this project.

Find out more about Prinze George on their Facebook.

Holly Henrichsen

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