Interview: Hesta Prynn — "Watch Deadwood with the subtitles!"
Thu, 15 Apr 2010 08:40:00
Hesta Prynn Videos
"I watched the whole Deadwood series with subtitles because you can't understand a thing otherwise! That will change your world," laughs Hesta Prynn.
Hesta Prynn's music, however, is even more life-changing than understanding the epithets and euphemisms of Seth Bullock and Al Swearengen—though finally comprehending Deadwood is pretty cool...
Hesta Prynn is about to take pop by storm. Her sound is a Molotov cocktail of hectic electronics, raucous rappin' and rhymin', punk rock rhythms and a simultaneously angelic and intriguing croon. "Seven Sisters" treads a fine line between pure pop ecstasy and eerie trip hop elegance. "Can We Go Wrong" pulsates with the kind of energy that sparks up dance floors and fuels big budget movie set pieces. Then of course, there are those moments where Hesta Prynn drops rhymes. Emerging from rap trio Northern State solo now, Hesta's so goddamn good that she could've been the tenth member of the Wu-Tang Clan…
Hesta Prynn sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about telling stories via song, what Max Headroom sounds like musically and why New York just plain rules…No subtitles are required for this interview…
Your music is so vivid, and it's often cinematic. Is storytelling an important element of your songwriting process?
It's actually very cool that you said that. No one's really asked me about that before. I love movies. I try to write songs like movies, and a lot of my songs are inspired by specific films. I try to paint a picture with the words and music so the song can feel like a movie. I wouldn't say the storytelling is important in a Nas-style hip hop way. It's more about painting a picture and a mood. It's like a vignette. I write the songs with Chuck Brody [producer], and sometimes they'll start from one of my ideas and sometimes they'll start from one of his tracks. More often than not, the songs will start from one of his musical tracks. He'll give me a basic version of a track. What'll inspire me to write to the track is if I feel a mood; the mood always reminds me of a film I've seen. I just re-saw this film that I love called Quiet Earth. It's an '80s sci-fi movie from New Zealand. It's about this guy who wakes up and everyone's gone. The film's sort of a response to the Cold War, and it has these incredible saturated colors. I was really inspired by that. So I started writing a song about the idea of nobody being there and what that means. We put it to this piece of music, and we're filling it all in right now.
You can do so much with your voice, there's a real theatricality to the music.
It's not a conscious thing. I like stuff that's mixed-up. I've liked mainstream hip hop for so long. I've never thought of this, but perhaps what I'm responding to is the rap part and then the hook that's sung. The hook is typically sung cleanly or with a pretty rap under it. I can often be bored by a straight rap song or a straight R&B song. Mixing the song up gives it dimension.
Speaking of phenomenal hooks…what's the story behind "Seven Sisters?"
When I was just starting this project and figuring it out, I wrote "Seven Sisters" about being a girl in the music business. The lyrics say, "Women come and women go…" One minute it could be one girl, and then it's another girl all of a sudden. I wrote the section saying, "I will see you through," almost talking to myself. I can get myself through, essentially. There's another significant line—"Until my curls all unwind"—and I actually took that image from Lost. This song is all over the place [Laughs]. In Lost, Kate's got really curly hair when she's on the island. However, when she meets Jack in L.A., she's wearing makeup and she has flat-ironed hair. It's more dramatic because, at that point, she's in real life. I was very struck by that on a feminist level because I relate to it so much. Am I real when I'm just being me—I've got curly hair and I'm in a t-shirt and jeans—or when I'm performing? Then, I have flat-ironed hair and a hot dress and boys pay more attention to me [Laughs]. When I wrote the song's hook, that idea was also part of what I was thinking.
Does taking on a solo project allow you to be more personal lyrically?
When it's just you, you're admitting that you think you're important enough for people to listen to what you have to say. There's a certain audacity to that [Laughs]. To have people pay attention is really special though. Everybody doesn't get that, and I'm so grateful when people do.
It's amazing that you blend so many different genres into one cohesive vision.
There's two of us making this music. In the studio, Chuck and I are like an old married couple [Laughs]. He speaks with music, and I'm bringing the lyrics. The thing that makes the music all cohesive is it's everything I like and maybe there's just a lot of people who like the same stuff that I do [Laughs]. We want to do pop music, but make it cool—or what's cool to us. A lot of pop music right now is not cool to us. People seem to dig what we're doing, and that's so rewarding.
How did "Can We Go Wrong" come together?
Brody had the track for "Can We Go Wrong." Somebody played those crazy guitars to it, and we knew we had to add some other elements. Brody was at the board, and I just went into the booth to freestyle. That's often how songs will come together. We were like, "What would Max Headroom be like musically?" Right there, that was it. I did the bridge like Max Headroom, and it was hot [Laughs]. We liked it so much in the bridge that we put in the intro. It was so weird! We were like is that cool or is that too weird? I wanted to write a song about a relationship and a break-up, and the title didn't make sense but it did [Laughs].
What does New York mean to your sound?
Everything! [Laughs] What does New York mean to my life? I'm New York born and bred through and through. I live in midtown; I don't live in a "cool" neighborhood. I live in a real neighborhood that I love. I'm the ambassador of Murray Hill, that's what I say! It's fucking awesome! I love everything about New York. Everyone walks the same streets in New York from the homeless people to the mayor to the celebrities. New York is an egalitarian city. It's an anonymous city. Anyone who's into the private clubs and status-y kinds of things is not from New York, and I'm positive since I go to those places occasionally. That's not what New York City's about. It couldn't be less about exclusivity. That inspires all of the art from New York because it's a mix. If you can't be inspired by New York City, what can you be inspired by?
Have you checked out Hesta Prynn yet?