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November 2003 - Prairie Psycho

This will be the first time Iím interviewing a band Iíve never heard before. I knew who Scott Stansfield was through his association with Floating Opera, but had no idea he had a band of his own until Tim Scahill from Rent Money Big once mentioned that Scott was in a band called Prairie Psycho, and that they were an awesome garage band. The name has popped up a few times since then as a band I should check out, but theyíve only had one show since then that I know of, and I already had plans for that night, so didn't get to see them. Several people have requested to see an interview with them in SCS. I got a hold of Scott Stansfield to get the lowdown on Prairie Psycho, here's what he had to say:

SCS: Let's start with the usual bio stuff. Why donít you give us a rundown about the band, itís members, and itís history, how and when Prairie Psycho formed as a band?

Scott: Our current personnel includes Noel Eicher (guitar), Larry McClain (guitar & vocal),Scott Stanfield (bass & vocal), and John Talbird (drums).

Larry and I decided to try playing together as an acoustic duo in 1996. Larry thought a few of our songs would sound good with a violin, so we recruited Kelley Raab; then we decided a banjo would fit in nicely as well, so we recruited Noel. We were playing a kind of folk music set with certain gonzo touches -- hence the name of the band.

We had been playing parties and coffeehouses for a few months when Kelley developed arthritic pains in her wrists and unfortunately had to quit. Larry, Noel, and I kept up with the basically acoustic act, but what with gradually adding Sex Pistols and Gang of Four covers, I was playing more bass than guitar, Larry was playing more electric than acoustic, and Noel added a pickup to his banjo. We seemed to need a drummer -- and so we added Mike Catron early in 1998.

With Mike in the lineup, we started to get louder and began playing more original material; at this point, though, we were still basically playing parties and coffeehouses. We put together our first CD at this point -- imaginatively titled PRAIRIE PSYCHO -- with a second to follow in 1999, THE STORY OF MIKE AND HIS PANTS.

Mike left to teach English in Japan in the summer of '99, at which point we were joined by a new drummer, Jon Ritz. Noel had pretty much switched from banjo to guitar at this point, and we were getting louder by the week, so we decided we had to give up the coffeehouse gigs and play bars. We also decided we ought to stand up, as we had hitherto always performed sitting down. But can you play a bar gig sitting on stools? Nah.

John moved to Minnesota in the spring of 2000, and it took us a few months to find our current drummer, John Talbird, who has been with us since early in 2001. We put together our third CD, FINNEGAN (named after Noel's dog), in 2002.

SCS: What other Lincoln bands have your members been in over the years?

Scott: I've been in several versions of the Floating Opera -- usually on guitar, sometimes on bass. I've sometimes played bass for local folk blues legend Dr. John Walker. Back in Chicago, where I lived before moving here, I was in a punk band called the Fingers.

Larry and Noel were in bands in Texas and California, respectively, but Prairie Psycho is to date the one and only Lincoln band they've been in.

SCS: How would you define your sound to someone whoís never heard you?

Scott: Well... I don't know. It's rock but not exactly RAWK, if you know what I mean. Our common touchstone for all four of us is alternative-indie music of say 1977 to 1984 -- Pixies, Gang of Four, X, Joy Division, Replacements, Soft Boys -- not that those bands have a hell of a lot in common , but that's our world. We also have a strange streak of No-Depression-alt-country a la Uncle Tupelo that comes out once in a while. Lately we've been doing Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation" as a Texas two-step.

SCS: How would you describe a Prairie Psycho show? -- If people come to see you live, what can they expect?

Scott: This is a tough one. We don't know what to expect ourselves. It might be incandescent, soaring, ecstatic -- it might be a soggy mess. We just never know.

SCS: What types of music and which musicians/groups influenced the band members?

Scott: Larry loves Richard Thompson; Noel loves Neil Young: I love James Jamerson; John loves the Fall. We all love the Pixies.

SCS: Which do you prefer, writing/recording or live performance, and why??

Scott: Live performance, for me -- when it goes well, that's definitely the best. Big, loud, THERE, people shaking and sweating and shouting...! When it goes badly, though, it's the worst.

SCS: How would you describe the band's working relationship, as far as the musical process is concerned? Is there a single songwriter in the band, or is everything worked on together?

Scott: I write most of our original material, but Noel and Larry also write -- just not as prolifically. I usually record a 4-track demo of a new song at home and play it for the band before or after practice. If they like it, we start working on it, and in a few weeks it begins turning into something I would never have foreseen but which I usually like a lot more than what I envisioned in the first place.

Anyone in the band might suggest a cover -- we give it a go and see if it works.

SCS: What was your first local show?

Scott: Mo Java Coffee House -- October 1996, I think.

SCS: What do you like and dislike about the music scene in Lincoln?

Scott: I think it's great for a place this size. Radio stations that play local music, several congenial places to play, good local recording facilities, musicians that are generally friendly and supportive of each other. Even a local scene website. What's not to like?

SCS: Who are some local bands or musicians that you admire or feel should be recognized?

Scott: Let's see: Mr 1986, the Marianas, Bugs Meany, Susie Dreamer & Her Nightmares, the South Davenports. I haven't seen Dave Marsh in a band for a while, but I think he's impressively talented and versatile.

SCS: I'm not familiar with Dave, what bands has he been in?

Scott: He was in an Irish music band called "Paddywhack" which has been defunct for a while, and in the Nightcrawlers, who often played with John Walker. He plays the bodhran -- that hand-held drum used in Irish folk music -- and a variety of other percussion instruments. He's more a folk-circuit kind of guy.

SCS: Youíre wizened veterans of the Lincoln music scene, what things have you learned over the years that you could pass along to newer local bands to make their path smoother?

Scott: Well... We're really not all that well plugged in to things. In fact, I'm a bit amazed that you asked to interview us! We have no idea how to make a splash in Lincoln.

SCS: What was your most memorable live performance and what made it so?

Scott: Well, there was the show when the other three members, unbeknownst to me, had all ingested ... No, forget that one. I'd say the most memorable to date was a wedding, of all things. The reception was at Morrill Hall, right there among the giant skeletons. We had learned a few songs at the special request of the bride and groom and started out with those, which seemed to loosen things up nicely. Then it turned out the crowd -- those of the same generation as the bride and groom, at least -- knew and loved exactly the sort of music we knew and loved: Ramones, Magnetic Fields, Jonathan Richman. We wound up even playing a few songs we had never played before, and pulling it off. And the bride came up to sing "This Monkey's Gone to Heaven"!

SCS: That sounds like a fun wedding to play at! If you could tour with any band throughout history, who would be your dream band to tour with?

Scott: Gang of Four. Great musicians and probably great to talk to.

SCS: Who do you think is the most underrated artist in the music industry?

Scott: Matt Wilson

SCS: I'm not sure If I know who this is either, who's Matt Wilson, what band is he in?

Scott: He WAS in Trip Shakespeare, which turned into Semisonic when he left. He's done at least one great show at Duffy's, but apparently he doesn't even have a record deal at the present, which seems a shame. After I sent off the interview, I thought of Cotton Mather as well -- a great Austin, Texas group whose last record came out in England but not here -- how under-rated is that?

SCS: I've been hearing about Cotton Mather since about 1996, but I only just heard them for the first time about a month or so ago when Ted Alesio from Ideal Cleaners/The Return/The Skinny turned me onto both of their albums. Kon Tiki is an awesome album. So what was the first album/CD you bought?

Scott: Beatles, REVOLVER

SCS: My first was Abbey Road by The Beatles. Whose music are you listening to right now -- What other bands would you recommend people check out?

Scott: I was listening to old mid-70s King Crimson today -- STARLESS AND BIBLE BLACK -- got the urge to hear it again after seeing a great set from Mr. 1986.

I'd recommend the Warlocks, BRMC, And They Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead.

SCS: List off you top five albums of all time.

Scott: This is hard.

  • Beatles, REVOLVER.
  • Patti Smith, HORSES.
  • Elvis Costello, THIS YEAR'S MODEL.
  • Flaming Lips, THE SOFT BULLETIN.
  • Rolling Stones, BEGGAR'S BANQUET.
  • Beach Boys, PET SOUNDS.
  • Smiths, MEAT IS MURDER.
  • Pixies, DOOLITTLE.
  • Magnetic Fields, 69 LOVE SONGS. It's hard to stop.
  • Oh, and the 3rd V. U. album.
  • And FUNHOUSE! Can't forget the Stooges.

    SCS: What single song, in the entire history of music, do you most wish you'd written?

    Scott: "Caroline, No"

    SCS: Ooh, good one. What can we expect to see from Prairie Psycho over the next year?

    Scott: I wish I knew.

    SCS: Thanks for the inside scoop on the band, let me know when you guys have any shows coming up so I can get out to it, and get it listed on the Star City Scene calendar.

    - Tery Daly