Good People Brewery presents: Saturn Nights w/ Natalie Prass

Good People Brewery presents: Saturn Nights

Good People Brewery presents: Saturn Nights w/ Natalie Prass

Sam Evian

Tue. August 14, 2018

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

Saturn

Free

This event is 18 and over

Natalie Prass
Natalie Prass
The songs were written, the band was ready, and the studio was booked. Fans and critics alike were eagerly awaiting the follow-up to Natalie Prass's 2015 self-titled breakout album, a collection hailed by NPR as "a majestic debut," but perhaps no one was more eager for record number two than Prass herself. She'd waited what felt like a lifetime to release that first album and then toured the world relentlessly behind it, sharing bills with the likes of Fleet Foxes and The War on Drugs on her way to becoming one of the year's most talked-about artists. By the time recording sessions were scheduled to begin, she was absolutely dying to launch the next chapter, which made what happened next all the more shocking: she scrapped the whole thing.
"The record was ready to go, and then the election happened," explains Prass. "I was devastated. It made me question what it means to be a woman in America, whether any of the things I thought were getting better were actually improving, who I am and what I believe in. I knew I would be so upset with myself if I didn't take the opportunity to say some of the things that meant so much to me, so I decided to rewrite the record. I needed to make an album that was going to get me out of my funk, one that would hopefully lift other people out of theirs, too, because that's what music is all about."
The result is 'The Future And The Past,' a stunning work of art and a powerful feminist statement from an artist who's only just begun to tap into the full range of her considerable powers. Reuniting Prass with producer and long-time friend Matthew E. White, the album is at once celebratory and defiant, capturing all the joy, frustration, fear and hope inherent in modern womanhood as it synthesizes the influence of everything from vintage gospel and 80's pop to 90's R&B and Brazilian Tropicália. Prass displays a rare gift for transcending time and place in her songwriting, tapping into age-old struggles for autonomy and equality that resonate profoundly in the present.
Though she'd been honing her craft and paying her dues for years, Prass first emerged to international acclaim in 2015, when her debut record earned its rightfully rapturous reception. Rolling Stone swooned for the Virginia native's "beguiling voice and refined taste," while Pitchfork praised her album as a "smoldering perspective on passionate romance," and The New Yorker simply called it "timeless." She appeared on the Martin Scorsese-helmed HBO series Vinyl, performed on the BBC's Later With Jools Holland, and CBS This Morning, and racked up more than ten million streams on Spotify. Before long, she was headlining dates around the world and playing festival stages from Bonnaroo and Rock En Seine to End Of The Road and Forecastle.
Once touring for the album had wrapped up, Prass took a stab at writing in new cities with fresh faces, spending time in London, LA, and Nashville, but it only served to reinforce the feeling that she belonged back home in Richmond. There, she holed up with White for intensive creative sessions as she attempted to work through the difficult existential questions she found herself facing in a country that expected women to be seen and not heard.
"I went over to his house every single day, and we'd work from 10am to 5pm straight just writing and listening and talking," she explains. "It was very therapeutic for me, and I think it actually helped Matt to understand my point of view as a woman, too."
Recorded once again at White's Spacebomb Studios, the album showcases both a new political depth to Prass's songwriting and a bold willingness to follow her muse wherever it leads. While her debut was marked by elaborate horn and string arrangements, 'The Future And The Past' finds Prass stripping her songwriting back to its most essential elements. Groove reigns supreme as she channels Dionne Warwick and Janet Jackson and lets her dazzling vocals dance across funky instrumental arrangements. Album opener "Oh My" sounds like a lost slice of 80's gold, complete with off-kilter Talking Heads-esque guitar, but dig a little deeper and you'll find a song that's pure 2018 as Prass sings, "Seems like every day we're losing when we choose to read the news." Losing's not an option, though, and Prass makes it abundantly clear that women won't even entertain the notion of moving backwards. On "Ain't Nobody" she confidently promises that there "ain't nobody can take this from our hands," while the soulful, swaggering "Sisters" plays out like a mission statement for the entire album, as Prass and a chorus of female backup singers proclaim, "I wanna say it loud / for all the ones held down / we gotta change the plan."
"I didn't want to point any fingers, and I didn't want to sound desperate or defeated," she explains. "I wanted to stay positive and joyful. The world's obviously not perfect, but there's nothing we can't do if we love and support each other. It was really important to me that these songs make people feel that way."
It's a principle that guides Prass throughout the album, no matter her subject material. On "Short Court Style," she taps into Diana Ross disco and reflects on the bliss a healthy relationship can bring, while the hypnotic "Hot For The Mountain" assures all the outcasts and misfits that they're not alone, and the playful "Never Too Late" conjures up a world where a wish upon a star can bring back lost love. Even in the album's darker moments, like the Karen Carpenter-inspired ballad "Far From You" or the cooing pop gem "Nothing To Say," Prass refuses to let go of her rebelliously optimistic streak. "I will never kneel when power is in fear and aimed upon me," she sings on the South American-influenced "Ship Go Down," adding "no no I am never drowning" in a breathy delivery that's light as a feather and tough as nails.
Ultimately, 'The Future And The Past' is a record that's about neither of those things. Instead, it's about womanhood and the modern world and the things we can do right this very moment to make them both better through love and support and camaraderie. The album may have been born out of deep doubt and disappointment, but it insists on faith and optimism, and it succeeds because Prass leads by example, embracing her femininity on her own indomitable terms. "Music's supposed to make you feel better," she reflects, and in that respect alone, she's created a genuine triumph.
Sam Evian
Sam Evian
You, Forever

As it has been said: no matter where you go, there you are. With his new album You, Forever, Sam Evian, the project of New York-based musician, songwriter, and producer Sam Owens, is here to add some eternity to that sentiment.

“This is you, forever,” he says. “It’s about accepting that you are responsible for you, that you’re in charge of your actions. Everything you do affects others and yourself, so, no matter what you choose to do, be there and learn from it.”

It’s a mantra that powers self-starter Owens, a producer and sound engineer by trade who entered the scene with his debut Sam Evian full-length, Premium, in the fall of 2016. The notion takes on a dual meaning that is echoed across You,Forever.

“There’s a ton of romance on the record,” he says. “Maybe it’s all romance.”

You, Forever is Owens’s first foray into a more soul-baring sensibility and places the artist directly in the sightlines and heartlines of his listeners. The album (as well as 2017’s “Need You,” a collaboration with the multi-hyphenate musician Chris Cohen) was written on the heels of his experience touring Premium with his band and was recorded across the latter half of last year. The tours—which included opening shows for bands like Whitney, Teenage Fanclub, Luna, Nick Hakim and Lucius—taught him much about feel and interaction. Further fueled by a desire to escape from the glow of screens and to embrace a sense of limitation, he quickly developed a new set of instrumental songs written for a band rather than just himself and recorded them on a Tascam four-track cassette recorder in his parents’ house in North Carolina.

“Just like most people, my recording studio day job had me staring at a computer eight hours a day,” he says. “I just needed to get away from the glowing rectangle. The only way to do that was to work on tape. The four-track is so limiting; you’re forced to get only the bones of the song down. You can’t do any overdubs, so it was fun to work on that with the experience of the live band behind me. And something about playing my family’s instruments in the garage where I grew up spurred a set of songs that became the new record.”

Inspired by these limiting techniques, Owens borrowed an eight-track reel-to-reel tape recorder from a friend, rented a house in upstate New York, and took his band – Brian Betancourt (bass), Austin Vaughn (drums), Adam Brisbin (guitar), and Hannah Cohen (backup vocals) – there to record the new album in July of 2017. Focusing on instrumental grooves and the vibe he had achieved on the original four-track recordings, Owens found the process so enlightening he decided to up the ante yet again by banning tuning pedals from the house.

“Tuning pedals make it so easy to sound good together, so when you eliminate them it takes everything back to the ’60s, which is when all my favorite records were born,” he says. “It makes everything more questionable, weird, and unruly in a really simple way.”

Dreamy album opener “IDGAF” explores the notion of embracing one’s passions and pursuing one’s goals no matter the impositions in their path. On one hand a subtle stand against the current political climate and on another a call to be responsible, Owens calls it a romantic song that embodies his act of self-mixing his record: “I had to put myself aside and let the music happen.”

“Health Machine” is a crunchy, slow-burning but deliberate stomper glowing with warm electric guitar noodling, saxophone wailing, and Owens’s reverb-laden lyrics that he says detail an abstract version of how he relates to his own physical form. “It’s about the unattainable health that I would like to imagine for myself on tour. The line ‘We slither out on a Tuesday feeling tired and hopeless’ is such a hilarious picture: four people in a minivan slithering out of Atlanta, Georgia, stopping at a CVS and getting a bunch of Zicam. Health is your job if you’re touring as a musician, although it’s a job I don’t do so well.”

“Country” is a fleet, nimble driving song written after Owens and his girlfriend (Hannah Cohen, who also sings throughout the album) took a cross-country road trip and encountered what they perceived to be a dust storm in rural Nevada. “For a hundred miles we didn’t see a person or even a tree, then all of a sudden this giant dust cloud appeared which turned out to be ten cowboys on horses lassoing cows. It was the most real thing I’ve ever seen.” In fact, Owens wrote every song on the album with the act of driving-while-listening in mind, and says many of the lyrics came together following that life-changing road trip—the only time he has ever driven across America without anyone waiting on him to show up for a soundcheck. But despite the allure of the transient life, his heart belongs to one place.

“The record is about romance, and about my love for living in New York and trying to separate myself from any idea I had previously of living in New York,” he says. “I’ve kind of designed my own world there.”

Whether behind the wheel in the dust bowls of America, navigating the bustle of his adopted home, playing festival stages with rock legends, or getting back to basics in his parents’ garage, no matter where Sam Evian goes, there he is…forever.
Venue Information:
Saturn
200 41st Street S
Birmingham, AL, 35222
http://www.saturnbirmingham.com/