SEMIOTIC FOR THE PEOPLE American Princes

Arkansas band writes the songs that make the whole world think.

BY HAL
BIENSTOCK

 

When music
fans hear the term “concept album,” they generally brace themselves for either a
pale imitation of Pink Floyd’s The Wall or a goofy, overblown epic like Rush’s 2112.
But when Little Rock’s
American Princes describe Other People (Yep Roc) with the dreaded c-word, they mean something completely different.

 

“You can
look at concept albums in one of two ways: having a narrative or just
channeling the feelings of the time,” says singer/guitarist David Slade. “An
illustration of the former would be Tommy or The Wall. An illustration of the
latter would be What’s Going On by
Marvin Gaye… That’s the direction we wanted to go in.”

 

The themes
of the loud, melodic songs on Other
People
are alienation, relationships and the ways people perceive one
another. Like What’s Going On, the album
is a reaction to the political climate. “The notion of [perception],
particularly in an election year and where America is right now with the rest
of the world, is a profoundly frightening thing,” says Slade.

 

Of course,
topicality means nothing without a catchy tune, so the guys turned to hip-hop
producer Chuck Brody (Wu-Tang Clan) to ensure the music hit as hard as the
words.

“[Singer/guitarist]
Collins Kilgore and I had a protracted conversation about how integral the hook
is in hip-hop and how important producers are for keeping an eye on that,” says
Slade. “A lot of indie bands lost sight of that.”

 

“There are
a lot of bands influenced by the Pixies and Sonic Youth who say ‘Let’s make our
music weird and experimental,’” adds Kilgore. “The problem is that [they
forget] bands like that were very hook-oriented.”

 

In the
end, American Princes know some fans pump their fists, while others give their
minds a workout. Either way is okay with them. “I don’t think the songwriter
should have all that much say in how your work is interpreted,” says Slade.
“One of the best things about pop music is you don’t need a degree in semiotics
to make it your own.”

 

[Photo
Credit: Stewart Isbell]

 

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