Princess are the collective project of Michael C. Hall (Dexter, Six Feet Under), Peter Yanowitz (Wallflowers, Morningwood) and Matt Katz-Bohen (Blondie). During the conversation, the band detailed the origins of their new song as well as their broader work as a group.
The video for “Nevertheless” was directed by Dylan Greenberg (Dark Prism, ReAgitator: Revenge Of The Parody), known for work in alternative film and cult horror. The band attribute the adventurousness and distinctive concept to Greenberg’s vision.
“I think we owe a lot, if not everything, to Dylan, who came up with the concept and directed the video,” Hall says. “They shared with us their take, and we just said, ‘Yeah, run with it. We’ll show up and be your guinea pigs,’ basically. But it felt like Dylan had an intuitive sense of what the song was about or how it felt. The visual landscape of it felt in sync with how the song, at least to me, feels.”
It’s clear from the video that Greenberg’s creative approach inflects the video with an experimental quality and openness. The video has a distinctive retro aesthetic—falling somewhere between Tron and the early years of MTV, according to our discussion. Even so, the feature feels wholly its own, straddling the fine line between horror and camp that makes up Greenberg’s hallmark.
It’s a perfect partner for the band’s song. “Nevertheless” comes from the band’s 2021 album, THANKS FOR COMING. The record is also infused with an experimental quality, pushing the limits of style. “Nevertheless” in particular generates a complex sonic palate from minimal material. The track is constructed around a basic two-note figure that repeats throughout. Layered around the motif are minimalistic house beats, glitchy synths and a sinewy melodic line sung by Hall. Gradually, it reaches a furious conclusion, decaying into a sea of cacophony.
The band are already at work on a follow-up, and they also plan to head off to Europe soon for a run of shows. See below for more about the origins of the song and video, the band’s full-length and their future plans.
Can you start by talking about how “Nevertheless” came about?
PETER YANOWITZ: This track came into the world in a really cool way. Mike came over and had this vocal before we had any of the music recorded. He had a vocal and a melody, and I just found the right note on the Rhodes back there and just went [sings]. It just seemed to work with what he was doing. You sang that to me, Mike, and I was like, “Oh, I’ll play that.” So we recorded the whole song just like that, no drums, no craziness. Then, we sent it to Matt, and he just went crazy with the house sounds and just Princess-y vibes. It was a really cool way to build a skeletal version of the song and then build on that.
Is that process typical of how you write songs?
MATT KATZ-BOHEN: I think it’s all different. We definitely build songs where Mike will start it from a phone recording that he’ll make, and we’ll just build a whole song around that. We’ll build songs where Peter and I will be jamming or I’m just coming up with something or Peter might have something, just a loop or a whole song. We don’t have a formula. It’s all [about] if it fits into the museum or not. If it does, then we just run with it.
I saw you released a short video about the song. One of the things you said about the track was “It’s none of my business what it’s about.” I found that comment intriguing. What did you mean?
MICHAEL C. HALL: I just don’t think that whatever we do or don’t think [what] a song means necessarily has anything to do with what it means to anyone who might encounter it beyond the song itself.
Can you tell our readers about the video?
KATZ-BOHEN: I think we’re all terrified of that actually happening in real life, so this is where we deal with our fears. [Laughs.]
HALL: I think we owe a lot, if not everything, to Dylan, who came up with the concept for and directed the video. They shared with us their take, and we just said, “Yeah, run with it. We’ll show up and be your guinea pigs,” basically. But it felt like Dylan had an intuitive sense of what the song was about or how it felt. The visual landscape of it felt in sync with how the song, at least to me, feels.
The visual is very different from your past projects. It looks like it was a fun one to shoot.
YANOWITZ: A lot of times with our videos, we’ve just gone out and day of seen what happened and worked with different directors and had a loose idea of “Let’s try this” and let the videos just unspool as we go. This one, Dylan had a very specific vision. We shot more on this video than we have on any of our other ones. It was like three days. It was hard. I actually sprained my ankle on the first day because I was jumping around like an idiot on the green screen because we couldn’t wear shoes because it would rip the paper. The guy was really paranoid about us ripping the paper, so I was jumping around in socks, and Matt and I were fake fighting—which actually is really hard. I actually hurt myself that day, so I was hobbling around for a couple weeks after.
The style of it is also very interesting to me. I feel a lot of that ‘80s Tron vibe.
YANOWITZ: When we saw it for the first time, in my mind, it reminded me of what I loved about the old MTV videos, like way back. The spaceman and the flag, that MTV vibe.
HALL: Yeah, it felt like lo-fi Tron on acid or something. I think it was [an] eclectic sensibility in terms of the music we make, and I think the videos reflect that. We don’t really feel bound to any aesthetic. Things have been overtly silly or really gothic and dark, or bucolic and serene. And this is its own thing, too.
KATZ-BOHEN: I would add that Dylan’s young. Their knowledge of film and video is pretty amazing, like talking about what came before. And they really know quite a lot and have seen it. I think this was a playful reference to all that stuff that we were talking about in terms of Tron and ‘80s, but seen through the eyes of the youth of today, as it were.
The video follows your album THANKS FOR COMING. Can you talk about that project?
YANOWITZ: I think we established [a precedent] on our EP, which came out maybe six months before the record. The first thing we released had six songs, and I think each song on that was very different, and it reflected very much all the kinds of music that we love. I think it was natural for us when we were making a full-length to expand on that. I think even with the new music we’ve been making, I don’t know if we’ll ever be the kind of band that sticks to one sound and one vibe. Maybe we will. Who knows? It was nice to create a tapestry like that with new ideas and some ideas that had maybe been laying around for a while and, as Matt said, just see which ones fit in the museum.
On this record, it is a really cool exploration of all the different sides. The record was made over the last year. We sometimes couldn’t all be together. Like all bands, we were working remotely at times and sending each other voice messages, and it just became this really neat way to share ideas and also keep the balls rolling and just be creating during a time of uncertainty and anxiety. The record was a real safe haven, like, “Oh, we’re working on this thing.” We had booked some time in California, right before the pandemic at Rancho de La Luna with Dave Catching. We were going to do a desert-rock electronic odyssey. That got thrown out because of the pandemic. It just became clear that we can make our own record, just like we did with the EP.
Speaking of COVID-19, how did the pandemic and shutdown impact you? I know some artists have found it creatively frustrating, while others have been really productive.
HALL: I think our appetite was whetted. We’d been playing a lot of shows and had, as Peter said, made this plan to go out to Los Angeles and play and record. When that became an impossibility because of COVID, I think we had all this energy, and we just rechanneled into focusing on deciding on the songs, finishing songs and continuing to write songs for the full-length. I think we had enough material going and had enough ideas coming that it made sense to focus our energy on that. We were still able to get together some while operating remotely. I think it was just the timing. I think for all of us, it was a bit of a lifesaver to have something to focus on when the plug had been pulled on our initial trajectory.
What comes next for the group?
KATZ-BOHEN: We have a whole other album. That’s coming. We’re still putting the finishing touches on it, but we’ve been hard at work on that. We also have a tour that’s coming up in the U.K., which we’re all really looking forward to for obvious reasons. And then we have a show in New York, which will be a homecoming of sorts at Mercury Lounge in October.
YANOWITZ: The Mercury Lounge show is on Oct. 30. Actually, the last time we played was March 12 at the Mercury Lounge, the day before New York shut down from having shows. That’ll be real sweet to get back on that stage and, you know, not have all that behind us—even though there’s still a lot ahead of us.