Without a doubt – musically, vocally, and visually – Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum should be on your radar. You might not recognize the band’s name or their music just yet, but you most likely know who these guys are.
The band is comprised of frontman Michael C. Hall (yes, that Michael C. Hall), best known for his roles in Dexter and Six Feet Under, and for starring in Hedwig and the Angry Inch and the late David Bowie’s Lazarus on Broadway. Hall is a formidable vocalist who has been singing professionally for more than 20 years. He is joined by Peter Yanowitz, the original drummer of The Wallflowers, and Matt Katz-Bowen from Blondie.
This trio has been making music – a blend of classic rock, funk, and electropop – together for more than two years. Their name? It was inspired by Katz-Bowen’s daughter. When I first listened to their debut EP, which was released on April 2, I couldn’t imagine them having any other name. It was a psychedelic evocative soundscape of smoldering guitar, warbling synthesizers, and iridescent vocals. Reminiscent of swallowtail butterflies, the largest and showiest of them all.
They make music to vibe out to.
I was so stoked when Press Here Publicity gave me the opportunity to interview everyone in the band. Back in April, I chatted with the guys about new music, what inspires their lyrics, how they’re finding balance these days, and what fans can expect from them when this crisis is over.
Chances are, once you check out their music, you’ll be just as captivated to follow their transformative journey as they add new wings to the museum.
Where are you guys at right now? Both physically and in regards to your head space?
I'm in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and my head space is Bushwick, Brooklyn.
I'm in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. My head space right this moment is feeling hopeful and healthy and trying to maintain as much patience as I can with this situation that we’re all in.
MICHAEL C. HALL
I'm in Upstate New York, and currently I'm a little frazzled because I'm being asked questions by someone, and my dog is barking. But, in all seriousness - my head space is pretty good. In these current circumstances, you're kind of screwed if you don't find a way to just live day to day and stay in the present. The future is kind of blurry. But I'm doing alright. I'm very thankful that I feel okay, and I'm trying to be vigilant without giving in to fear.
Your self-titled debut EP was released on April 2nd. How has it been received so far?
We've been talking about releasing records for so long, and it's finally here. So, people are just giving us love. And I think judging by online, it seems like a lot of fans have favorite songs... and I guess for me, that's kind of interesting to see what people are really responding to. "Vicious" and "Sweet and Low" are really killin' it.
I watched a video of your guys’ live performance at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn. That looked like a sick live show! What have been your takeaways since performing live together? Most memorable moments from your shows?
MICHAEL C. HALL
The last show we did, because it felt like it was the last live performance in New York. It was three or four weeks ago now, and even the band that was playing after us in the later slot cancelled. So that was kind of intense. I think all of the shows are pretty memorable. And yet, you can't quite remember them. I mean, they're all like dreams you have… taking a ride. I think we learn a lot about the band, about one another, about our songs - playing them live. It's really valuable.
I would add that the show before that in February, we got to perform on Michael's birthday. And Debbie Harry came up on stage and got the crowd to sing Happy Birthday and that was so cool.
Do you have a favorite track off the EP that you most enjoy playing live?
Yeah, "Vicious" and "Love American Style."
I love how the band’s name came about. What kind of world/physical space do you guys feel you’re bringing to life with your music?
MICHAEL C. HALL
Something simultaneously earthy and otherworldly. Somewhat psychedelic.
In terms of pushing yourselves to stay creative, what are some things you’re doing? I heard that there was a lot more music coming down the pipeline. Will that have the same eclectic sound?
We're trying to find ways to stay creative while we're not in the same place, which is a new and unique challenge. Luckily, we've been able to successfully end each other stuff and we continue to be inspired by each other, even when we're not together. So, I think we’re just keeping the music coming in. I think our sound is always evolving, so I imagine our next record (which we're mixing right now) will be little bit of what people are familiar with. And then hopefully we’ll take some new directions and throw some curve balls. We have this new song called “Angela Peacock" that I think might be a new wing to the museum. It's got some 90s in it. But yeah, we're always trying to keep things in sync for ourselves, first and foremost, and hopefully, people will get that but, we're also the same three guys writing together and we're hopefully developing a sound that people will say, ‘Oh, that sounds like Princess.’ Hopefully. We're working towards that.
What’s it like playing music together? How did you guys both find and lean into your sound?
There’s something about 70s glam rock that we all definitely agree on. Bowie, obviously… the Hedwig show is pretty glammy, pretty queer, pretty out there. And that's of course how we all came together. So, I think there's definitely some sort of wild and outrageous energy that we all kind of love. Whatever it is, it could even be an acoustic balled if it has that feel.
What’s life like being home during this time. How are you finding balance these days?
I've just been doing yoga, reading and cooking like a maniac actually. I haven't really eaten out in like three weeks. I’ve gotten really good at making chickpea stew with coconut milk. Red Lentil soup with a lot of rice.
I made a really good beet soup the other day, and I have a steady diet of drumming. I've been trying to get over to the studio when the sun is coming in so I can just take my shirt off and play the drums. It really helps me calm myself down. Yoga, like Matt said, is really important. I also keep creating, and I've got two badasses to keep me engaged because I would definitely go crazy. Oh and going out at seven o'clock every night in New York is really cathartic too. If I'm at the studio, I'll open my window and I'll put one of my amps out, and I'll put the microphone into the amp and just yell into it. There's just a thing about being with New Yorkers at seven o'clock that I'm finding really healing. And it's going on all over the city. When I'm at my apartment, I'll be on my patio and everybody is just hanging out their windows and banging on pots and pans, and it's emotional. It really chokes me up every time. In Italy, they were opera singing .. and in Spain. But in New York, it’s just a bunch of awesome slobs yelling out their window and it's really incredible.
MICHAEL C. HALL
Early to bed early to rise. Walking the dog. Trying to find ways to exchange creative ideas with the guys, cooking, reading, hanging out with my wife.
I know the band’s sound is influenced by a varied degree of artists and genres … what’s currently on your playlists?
I haven't been listening to it this week, but this year it's been a really big influence on me. It came out a couple years ago. It's this band Low, and the record is called "Double Negative." And it is one of the weirdest sonic experiences I've ever had. I'm not sure it's soothing, but it's really fucking weird and unique and cool. I really want to work with that producer. His name is BJ Burton.
MICHAEL C. HALL
I keep coming back to this EP by this band called Young Jesus called "The Whole Thing Is Just There."
Idles, and I've been listening to a lot of really uncool 80s soft rock. It’s just kind of been putting me in the right mood, I guess. Hall & Oates, Christopher Cross, I just put it on in my backyard and pretend that I'm sailing somewhere. I've been listening to the Spice Girls with my daughter. We listened to "Wannabe,” and it was great. I got to introduce her to that. It's perfect music for little girls.
Michael, what were the first lyrics you wrote for the band? When and where do you do most of your writing, and what inspires the lyrics?
MICHAEL C. HALL
The first song that I sang on was "Love American Style." The first line of that song is "We've come so close. I will always love you. We've both got fish in the tank. I'll never put anyone above you. I'll keep walking your plank." That was it, that was the first lyric I wrote for the band. I write at home, I write while I'm walking around. And I'll write things into my phone or say things into my phone. Sometimes, late at night, I'll wake up with an idea and try to write it down before I'm fully awake, and then it goes away. And I write in the studio too. There's no specific thing that I'm consciously sort of trying to emulate in terms of inspiration, but I’m influenced by everything that I've heard or read.
What can fans expect from the band when this crisis is over? Touring plans? I heard you had plans to record out in the desert and play Pappy + Harriet’s.
I think every band in the world is gonna want to go out and play live. Our goal is to get as much music out this year as we can so we can be one of those bands that can go out and play as well.
I keep thinking about how the Spanish Flu hit in 1918 and then it kind of went on until 1920, but then you had the roaring 20s and everyone was like Fuck Yeah, we're gonna party and we're gonna go out and listen to jazz and go crazy. I'm kind of hoping that will be the case when things come around.
It's gonna be a party.
Watch Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum’s latest video for “Vicious.”
Featured Image Credit: Paul Storey