Let’s get crazy because THIS is what it sounds like when the doves cry, and they did earlier this year when the world lost Prince. Like CREAM, Maya Rudolph and Gretchen Lieberum rose to the top with Princess, the ultimate Prince tribute band. They’ve got the look, but more importantly they’ve got the sound, and you can hear them this Sunday at the 9:30 Club. It’s the only Controversy in D.C. worth following.
Brightest Young Things: Hi Gretchen, I’m so excited to talk to you guys. I was doing some light Googling and I saw you went to UC Santa Cruz and I was laughing because when I was younger…oh hi Maya! I was just telling Gretchen I wanted to go to the same college she attended because that’s where they filmed The Lost Boys, a vampire movie. That’s not a reason to go to college but that was my reason.
Gretchen Lieberum: There are worst reasons to go to that college than that one.
BYT: Like the mascot is a banana slug?
Maya Rudolph: Instead of the football team you can be on the ultimate frisbee team and bongo your brains out.
BYT: Hacky sack for life. Hi guys! I was just so excited because I’ve never known anyone who went to that school.
MR: We both went there.
GL: That’s where we met.
BYT: You obviously went to college after they filmed The Lost Boys, and that’s not what this interview is about we’re going to move on from this, but were you aware of that at the time?
MR: I was very, very aware. When you get there you realize there’s a weirdness to that place. It’s also called the Murder Capital of the World.
BYT: I guess this interview has been brought to you by the Santa Cruz Tourism Board, go for the vampires and stay for the murders.
GL: If you go to the boardwalk there are no hot vampires there.
MR: Yeah I was always looking for Kiefer Sutherland.
BYT: Well thanks again for taking the time to chat, I’m really looking forward to your 9:30 Club show. It’s a pretty good venue.
GL: That’s what everybody keeps telling us. People love that place.
BYT: They have great cupcakes. I’m tempted to talk about Purple Rain for the duration of this call but that’s not realistic. When I was 9 years-old I used to change into my Purple Rain T-shirt every day after school and I didn’t understand the movie completely but I loved it. This year has been a shitty year.
MR: I’m nervous about Joni Mitchell because someone played a cover of “A Case of You” the other day and I was freaking out. I thought something happened.
GL: And we lost David Bowie too. Both David Bowie and Prince, although completely different, were similar in many ways. They were one-of-a-kind, mixing different kinds of music. Their sexuality was very fluid. I saw Prince sing “”Heroes”” not long after David Bowie died and I was crying my eyes out.
BYT: I do want to say of all the times I’ve watched Purple Rain, I’ve never been able to get over this once scene…when Prince pushes Apollonia into the lake. I remember thinking, “How is she getting those leather pants back on when her skin is wet?”
MR: That part is really magic. It perpetuates the fantasy.
GL: I have to say I also had a problem with that scene. It couldn’t have been comfortable.
MR: I’m just so impressed when she snaps that final button back on her top. She was really put together.
BYT: That’s another great thing about Prince. He was very supportive of women, performing with them and helping them in their own careers. Prince was really for everyone. So, how did Princess come about? Prince is very difficult to sing and you guys do a great job. Is it nerve wracking trying to sing Prince songs? It’s very intimidating.
MR: We sing him all the time with each other so it was more of an annoying hobby and when I say annoying I mean annoying to others but it wasn’t something that we really…I think it’s because we started singing together in college. When we sing together we sing in harmony, as one voice more or less. Everything we’ve done has been in harmony. When we’re fucking around and quoting lines from Purple Rain or singing songs. I can’t tell you how many times someone has given one of us a compliment and the other one goes do do do do do do do…
BYT: What’s the Princess timeline, and by the way not to diminish your creativity but how has this band name/idea not already been a thing?
GL: This was meant to be apparently. It was our calling.
BYT: How did you go from singing to each other to singing to everyone?
GL: I just had this idea and I brought it up to Maya one time. It was close to the end of her Saturday Night Live run and she was kind of wondering what she wanted to do and I said “Well, we can start a Prince cover band and call it Princess,” and to quote Purple Rain she said “Morris, you’re a genius!” It took a couple of years though. Our friends are in a band called That Dog and they had a show at the Troubador in LA. We had this opportunity to open up for them and we just did it. We did four songs and we walked on stage, no one knew what the hell was coming. We walked on stage in costume and started singing Prince songs. It was really well received so we decided to just keep going with it.
MR: Beautifully said.
GL: Thank you
BYT: Prince has a vast and impressive catalogue, do you try to stick with the more familiar songs? That’s like picking a favorite rainbow.
MR: We started playing the earlier stuff because the songs sounded kind of good and gritty with our band and I think that’s the stuff we connected to the most. It was the era we were falling in love with Prince. I would love to do Parade as well because that’s also a very big album for both of us but it requires some different instrumentation. With the band we’ve been playing with we found that great analog, rock sound that just sounds really satisfying and buttery and delicious, like the early Prince we both fell in love with. And we both in our own separate childhood bedrooms fantasized about being in the Revolution. It took us a while to even get around to playing “Little Red Corvette” because ugh everybody knows that song but it’s just such a good fucking song.
GL: But we do the long version of it, the 12-inch version. We try to throw in some B-sides, songs that maybe only Prince nerds would know but anything we do is something we love to sing. There are songs I love but I don’t love us singing them. Everything that’s done is because we feel like we can do that well. If it feels too much like karaoke we won’t do it.
BYT: Do you try to stay faithful to the songs or do you put a little twist on them?
GL: Well the twist is that it’s two women and that we harmonize through a lot of it. There are a lot of vocals where it’s just him singing, we’ll do harmonies. I think that elevates it in a different way but the music itself we try to stick to the original.
MR: I like hearing the original stuff. If there’s a hand clap missing it makes me twiggy.
BYT: Yeah, I don’t like when I go to a concert and a band does some crazed 30 minute version of a song. I know all the breathing parts of Prince’s songs so I want to do that too.
GL: Oh, we know all the breathing and all the screams, hand claps, everything.
BYT: Do you ever sneak in a Time song?
GL: Hold onto your pants, we might have something for you.
BYT: I’m going to bring extra pants.
MR: Bring extra pants because you’re gonna lose ’em, in case you blow your pants off. I just accidentally coined the phrase the other day “Blow your brains off,” which was really satisfying. It’s gonna blow your brains off! It makes absolutely no sense.
BYT: Oh, I get it. Another aspect of Prince that was so important was fashion. He was so stylish. Do you guys think about that a lot?
MR: We do but it’s too hard because there are always female versions of him. We kind of came up with our own Princess uniform early on which is the trench coat. If you look at early Prince stuff there were a lot of trench coats. It’s sort of militaristic, like we’re part of Prince’s army. We’re part of his Revolution.