MUSIC: The Prefab Messiahs, decades later, build young fan base

In Music
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Summer is here and while many people are headed outdoors, The Prefab Messiahs can relate to the sometimes gripping desire to stay inside.

“Sometimes Sunnydaze,” the band’s latest release, is about feeling the pressure to go outside and enjoy sunny days, but not wanting to, according to the band’s songwriter, vocalist and backup guitarist Xeth “Xerox” Feinberg.

“I can’t take the glare of reality/So much wasted potentiality/And I don’t want to go outside/And I don’t want to be outside/And I don’t want to look outside again,” Feinberg sings. The “Sometimes Sunnydaze” music video, shot by Matthew Horn, the band’s current drummer, follows Feinberg — disguised in a chicken mask — frolicking about on a nice day.

Feinberg, an animator, assembles music videos to accompany most of their songs, and the music videos have become a part of the band’s identity, bassist Kris “Trip” Thompson said. Though their latest 10-track album is complete, it will not be completely released until music videos have been made for each song, adding a visual element to their music. As the videos are completed, The Prefab Messiahs have been releasing them one by one.

The first track released from this year’s album was “The Man Who Killed Reality,” in March. This song was inspired by the recent presidential election, Feinberg said. The video, which features an animated version of President Trump, has more than 5,230 views on YouTube, making it the band’s most viewed video. “I think the theme and subject matter helped a lot with that,” Thompson said.

Feinberg, Thompson and lead guitarist Mike “Doc” Michaud have spent the past several years seriously redeveloping The Prefab Messiahs, which they started at Clark University in 1981. “We’re kind of a comeback band that never came in the first place,” Feinberg said.

The Prefab Messiahs began when Feinberg posted flyers around the university, in search of other musicians to start a band with. “At the time I could barely play guitar, so it was really just a story of some guys getting together and starting a band inspired by do-it-yourself music,” Feinberg said.

Asked to describe the band’s sound, Thompson said they are garage-psych-pop. “We try not to have a cookie cutter-type sound,” he said. “We try to have a sound that floats between genres.”

Their stage names were conceived in their college days and continue to be a part of their persona. “Xerox” came from Feinberg’s avid use of Xerox printers for producing the band’s posters. “Trip” came from Thompson’s passion for psychedelic rock. Michaud was called “Doc” because he was studying psychology in college.

The band’s name came all the way from Europe when Feinberg was studying abroad in England. “It’s a social criticism type of thing for how influential corporate advertising can be,” Thompson explained. “Those corporate mascots (such as Ronald McDonald) are like prefab messiahs because they’re part of a comfortable modern living that’s sort of replaced.”

The band underwent a natural breakup in 1982. Thompson transferred schools and Feinberg graduated, which led the three original bandmates down separate paths. At 22, Feinberg thought if The Prefab Messiahs weren’t successful yet, they never would be because he was getting too old. Now at 57 and gaining popularity, he knows that to be untrue.

After the release of a CD-R in the ‘90s, people began talking about The Prefab Messiahs and writing about them online, according to Thompson. Small labels became interested in the band’s history and intrigued by the sound of its old recordings, Feinberg said.

In 2012, 30 years after breaking up, the band decided to do a few anniversary shows, Thompson said. Worcester, the birthplace of The Prefab Messiahs, was the final stop. Since then, the band has produced three albums, “Peace Love & Alienation” (2011), “Devolver” (2013) and “Keep Your Stupid Dreams Alive” (2015), as well as several singles.

Feinberg, as songwriter, often pulls from his bachelor’s degree in cultural geography when writing music. For example, the song “Bobb’s Psychedelic Car,” off of the “Keep Your Stupid Dreams Alive” album is about “driving around in Worcester and city streets, and that’s what cultural geography is, believe it or not,” Feinberg said. The song is named after Bobb Trimble, a fellow Wormtown musician.

Now well into their 50s, band members have released their music digitally and on albums, vinyl and cassettes. They have managed to attract a fan base of 18- to 22-year-olds, according to Spotify analytics that Thompson cited.

“It’s interesting; we’re in our 50s now and we have a young audience,” Thompson said. “It’s hard for bands like us who haven’t achieved mass popularity to keep attracting younger fans, which is kind of what you want if you want to continue. We think it’s pretty cool that music still resonates with younger people and new young listeners are seeming to find it all the time.”

 



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