Brighton-based duo PrissyLips describe themselves as a “strumming, singing two-headed monster, burning our bridges between glory and disaster.”
Otherwise known as Crysi de Milo and Reuben Drake, PrissyLips’ sound is a fascinating fusion of glam and grunge, taking musical cues from artists as diverse as both Cyndi Lauper and Divine. It’s hard to pin down exactly what their unique sound and look is – and that’s just fine with PrissyLips, a duo that seems hell-bent on destroying preconceived notions and to whom the idea of ‘labels’ is utterly abhorrent. Yet from their base in ‘Hotel Rehab’, the two of them are producing some of the most distinctive and unabashedly confessional music around. To describe them as counter-cultural doesn’t do them justice; these two are positively anti-cultural.
Indeed, Crysi de Milo might best be described as the prom night dumpster baby of Courtney Love and Patsy from Ab Fab, if said offspring had been been rescued from that dumpster and deposited somewhere on England’s south coast. I sat down with my dear old friend Crysi to find out more about what goes on a Hotel Rehab and exactly who their anger was aimed at:
Tell us about the name PrissyLips.
PRISSYLIPS is a joke versus a serious statement, and can really mean any damn thing you want it to. Could be me, could be him… Who knows? We wanted a great name that encompassed our glam/grunge vibe. We are far from prudish…the prissy-ness is a uniform reaction, a reference to the permanently stiff lips squashed up against the fish bowl. In suburban hell, we are always walking in the wake of car crashes and dropped jaws. It’s fun, it’s punk, it’s pouty and petulant. If you say it quickly it kinda sounds like pussy lips.. Can I say pussy?
Of course you can. Who inspired you musically growing up and who inspires you today? Apart from Miley Cyrus, of course.
Oh God, not her. Mainstream rebellion is so passe. No revolution ever came out of foam fingering yourself to a rape anthem.
When I was a friendless nobody kid I sat in my room and listened to Kate Bush and Cyndi Lauper and daydreamed. Cyndi was fun and Kate was ethereal and I love to merge the two. I guess they taught me to sing. Reuben has been the biggest inspiration to me – he opened me up to jazz, blues, classical music… The relationship between the guitar hero and the wordsmith is a very special bond indeed, and without nurturing that we may never have made any music at all. If you find your creative soulmate either nail them down or put a ring on it.
The hottest band right now is The Julie Ruin, Kathleen Hannah’s current project… She is an icon and a freedom fighter and she knows how to do ‘disco screaming’.
Art and culture seem to bleed into your music a lot – what are your influences outside of music?
Air, trees, water, earth, animals… That is a really big question…. The wonders of science and nature… We both love independent cinema. I’m really excited for new movies from Wes Anderson and Terry Gilliam, who I think is a soothsayer and an all round wise old tree! Surrealist art, cerebral art. BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS. A lot of our work focuses on survivalism which apart from being the MEANING is also the MUSE. The circus of celebrity, the WHY generation… The biggest cult of the last ten years is a digital psuedo-reality – no one can see themselves when they look in the black mirror. And honesty; screaming your heart out is the best feeling, and it raises awareness of the invisible illness. Talking about the enemies that live inside you is how we fight them.
What kind of statement would you say you’re trying to make?
We’re not trying to make a statement, it’s more of a battle cry. A primal scream. This is organic, cerebral art falling from the frontal lobe onto the strings. We are NO labels, NO agenda… It’s a kind of therapy… When you fall into the wasps nest, screaming to get out, covered in blisters and you think you’re done for… The music is the bridge. The way out. That neon exit sign. You have to love your disease and it’s imperative that you USE IT, or all is in vain. Art is life, so sing out your truth. I think it’s a tragedy that kids are taught to suppress their individuality rather than standing on the worlds roof and screaming ‘I AM DIFFERENT! HEAR ME ROAR!’. We are real and raw and we give it all.
Where did you both meet? And how did you start making music together?
We met in Brighton about 4 years ago. We were both on our own individual one-way tickets to oblivion at that time. It took us a while to get to the music because we had to explore other avenues of our relationship. I started stalking him first, sending him crazy ass messages – I am always impressed when a reaction lies in fear and intrigue. We have pretty much been everything and everyone to each other. Sex, love, violence – that all had to come before the music. When you’ve experienced desperate living together, when you’ve both tip-toed down the blade’s edge or tried to skip into the abyss, that bond is unbreakable – and that’s how we started creating, with ultimate faith in one another. Team work, baby. We are a strumming, singing two-headed monster, burning our bridges between glory and disaster.
Tell us about your creative process.
Music to me exists mainly on an emotional level. With the duo dynamic, it’s kinda like a gestalt entity. I’m the mouth, he’s the fingers. Primarily speaking I write the rants and Reuben makes them sound sexy, but he also writes sometimes. The songs are often created from old love letters, suicide notes, shit lists and death threats. Late nights with whiskey and crappy guitars. A song is the same as a movie, a painting, a book…it’s all about mood, emotion, the lightness and the dark. It’s so organic, the songs all write themselves. We can be really prolific and knock out four songs one day and then write nothing for a month. No song months are not good months.
Is it fair to say that Cuckoo is the most direct Kirsty MacColl influenced song?
I hadn’t really thought about that, but yeah. It was our Sergio Mendes/Brazil ‘66 moment, but it’s about dead eyes and demons so maybe it should be Brazil 666? Kirsty MacColl is another huge influence. Those lilting tropical rhythms, with Kirsty’s dreamy and depressive words floating along… ‘Tropical Brainstorm’, as an album, is a blinding masterpiece! It’s such a tragedy what happened to her.
Talk to me about the Nighty Night tribute song you recorded.
How do you even know about this? We were on acid.
Who was Liar Liar written for?
Liar Liar is about mental illness. It’s seeing a face that looks SO disappointed in you and then realising it is your own. Depression is an invisible illness, an almost unkillable imaginary friend that walks with you always. It pulls the last remaining stability out from under you and then whistles and looks the other way. The song focuses on that moment you think he’s gone, but he is never gone – just gone fishing. The same anvil will drop. A lot of our songs are about blindly rampaging through a dystopian night terror of critical voices and self-destruction. So, like the vast majority of our songs, it’s me trying to get one over on the nagging doubts – a vacation from the voices.
Where is Hotel Rehab?
It’s all in your mind! Really, it’s our little apocalypse hideout…recording studio, a rehabilitation facility on the South coast. When the city got too loud we jumped ship and landed in suburbia, to fix ourselves and to make our own kind of music. It’s a tranquil, slightly bohemian commune and halfway house for the disenfranchised or close to the edge. But really it’s a place in your mind that makes you remember that peace is about who you call your family, to ground you when the iceberg hits.
What’s the grand plan with PrissyLips? Where do you see yourself going with your act?
Its not an act, its more of an exorcism/confessional/group therapy/AA. We’d be doing this if we were just sitting in our wheelchairs in the asylum. Hopefully we can gather more people round to share in our catharsis, round the campfire – letting their deepest fears out.
What’s coming up in 2014 for PrissyLips?
MORE MORE MORE. More music, more videos, art saturation and multi-media happenings. We are taking the cult to the next level and becoming novice world dominators. Also we are in the process of evolving into a larger outfit, so the songs are evolving and the Prissylips experience will be shape-shifting, moving and shaking. A lot more adventures in sonic exploration are to come, be documented and then fly into your ears like art drones…. We are culturing and nurturing our own personal and shared universes. This is not a drill!
You can catch PrissyLips at Fag Machine in Brighton on February 13th at 9pm.
Words: Thomas Dearnley-Davison
Photography: Tom Udris