The Prefab Messiahs want you to keep your stupid dreams alive. After, they’ve been doing that for over 30 years.
Let’s make this clear—this isn’t a fortune cookie platitude, a “Keep your rock star dreams alive” or “Keep dreaming because everything will work out if you try hard enough” delusion held fast by a band on the verge of hitting it big. It’s meant quite literally; your dreams are stupid, and you should fight like hell for them.
“There’s a kind of a winking cynicism, or a sense of ‘Don’t be fooled,’” says bassist/vocalist Kris “Trip” Thompson of the album’s ethos, on the phone from his home in Watertown. “Then again, the weird thing is, I think all of us in our lives now are thinking, ‘What better thing could we be doing?’ What would we rather do than pursue this and see what happens with it as a creative enterprise, as an outlet for something we like doing that we think is important?”
Few bands have been so efficient in making a lasting impression; the Prefab Messiahs, founded by Xeth Feinberg, Thompson, “Doc” Michaud and Ned “Egg” as students at Clark University in Worcester, were active for only three years, and, until Devolver resurrected a smattering of their sparingly recorded material in 1998, never had an official release. Yet in that time, facing up to Ronald Regan’s new America and their own coming of age, they crafted a low-budget, high-energy psych-punk style that earned them reverence within the contemporaneous New England scene.
Decades after disbanding in 1983, they came back together for a quick run of shows in 2013, just as Burger Records was reissuing Devolver. With this momentum behind them, the band, now three, decided to get back together—Feinberg came in from upstate New York, Michaud from Memphis—to record a new album at the Lillypad in Inman Square. Getting back to their old stomping grounds was the first part, and finding the fuel that drives the album also required a step back into the past.
“The writing came naturally,” says Feinberg. “Somehow it was easy to remember how I felt and what I was trying to do [in 1981], and we purposely went exactly with that feeling. We didn’t want to just make stuff that didn’t have any relevance to what the band used to be. Maybe that’s another band, but there’s no point in pretending that that’s the Prefab Messiahs.”
It helps that the album is constructed as a loose story, comprised of their own and others’ experiences, tracing the journey from idealistic youth (“Ssydarthurr” a play on Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha) to college (“College Radio”) to the confusion and compromises of adulthood, with time for a ride in “Bobb’s Psychedelic Car” (a nod to Worcester cult hero Bobb Trimble) along the way. “We talked about what’s next for us,” says Thompson, “but this makes sense as sort of switching the thing back on.”
More than its content, the album’s very existence confirms that dreams—stupid or not—are worth fighting for.
“The process of getting back together, that’s the story,” says Feinberg. “That’s one of the things that the songs are about, that kind of experience of a band that never was, that still is.”
PREFAB MESSIAHS “KEEP YOUR STUPID DREAMS ALIVE” RELEASE PARTY W/ THE FAGETTES, FEDAYEES, SECRET LOVER. THURS 3.19 MIDDLE EAST UPSTAIRS, 472 MASS AVE., CAMBRIDGE. 617.854.3278. 8:30PM/$10/18+. THEPREFABMESSIAHS.BANDCAMP.COM