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Rock/Pop

The gospel according to Prussia

The power and glory of darker psych pop

Cross purposes: Prussia strikes a pose.
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Published 2/4/2009

Ryan and Drew Spencer are brothers with a musical knowledge that's well beyond their respective 23 and 20 years. With a few like-minded musical partners, they are Prussia, a Detroit band that has gained momentum and earned critical praise over the past year. The brothers use their combined musical knowledge to create psychedelic pop that could've been recorded when the Zombies' did Odyssey and Oracle, while also containing the anxious and youthful excitement of something that's brand-new. Best of all, their music suits their personalities — charming and free of pretense.

On this particular day, the Spencers' dad has turned 50 and the brothers have just returned, with bandmate Andrew Remdenok in tow, from a celebratory birthday dinner at their parent's home. "Our mom made fish," Ryan says, grinning. "I think it was stuffed with a different kind of fish. It was good!" Totally unpretentious.

They've brought along a burned disc of their brand-new CD, Blessed Be, Yours Truly in Spirit & Soul — and to say these guys are excited would be a disservice to their level of enthusiasm. We're at the Woodward Avenue Brewery — but everybody's still too dinner-stuffed to order from the menu. Regardless, Remdenok orders a veggie pizza, just to keep the waitress from losing her patience, despite that Prussia played a show here the previous weekend.

"That show was kinda like goodbye to the old," Remdenok says. "We've recently made some big changes, after all."

He's talking of a musical revision within the band, which has resulted in an entirely new stage show and set, not to mention the digital-only EP that has arrived less than a year after Prussia's well-received debut disc, Dear Emily, Best Wishes, Molly. So why all the changes now?

"We were bored," Remdenok says. "We are always recording; we basically never stop. So we decided that just as soon as we found enough material consistent with each other's approval, we'd put out another record."

"We don't like doing the same thing for too long," Ryan adds. "We want people to keep guessing as to what we're gonna sound like next."

Included in the band's changes are Brenton Bober, who has gone from bass to keys, guitar and sampling; Andrew's the bassist now, and new member Jake Brusokas fills the latter's stand-up drum-playing role. Prussia has also added some estrogen in two sisters, Mallory and Megan Schram, who bring dueling violins.

Blessed Be, Yours Truly in Spirit & Soul features the entirely new lineup, which not only shows growth musically but also a penchant for a darker side unheard on the group's previous disc.

Where's the dark side from? The members say it's Bober's obsession with Dario Argento's 1977 horror flick, Suspiria.

"It's a little more [based around] minor [chords] and definitely darker," Ryan says. "It's surely not as 'happy' sounding, but it still has its hooks. It may take more time to grow on people — but then maybe they'll hopefully like it longer," he laughs.

This darker and possibly less easily digestible sound is a primary reason the band decided its new EP should be a free download. "It's a different sound and we want to have people hear it," Remdenok says. "It's good for smaller bands to be more accessible."

Ryan jumps in: "It's sometimes hard to commit to buying a record at a show if you don't know much about a band, even if you're into the set they just played," he says. "I know a lot of times, people see a show, enjoy the band and then get online to see what they can find to download for free. This way, people can do just that and not feel guilty about it!"

But how do you get a bunch of drunk indie Detroit kids to remember to download a record the day after a show when Pabst is still pumping through their veins (and that term paper ain't gonna write itself)? Well, if you're Prussia, you might give the Catholic Church a chance.

"Due to the title, we thought it would be cool to do something religious-themed," Ryan explains. "So we ordered a bunch of these Catholic prayer cards and put the download info on them to hand out at our gigs." He pauses. "I wasn't raised Catholic. But it just seemed really fitting."

Indeed, the youth of today can still often find salvation in music. And the audio prayers of Prussia will surely lead to some kind of temptation. ...

The EP release party is Saturday, Feb. 7, at the Pike Room, 1 S. Saginaw St., Pontiac; 248-858-9333. With the Silent Years, Javelins and Wildcatting. No cover. Download the new EP at tinyurl.com/b8fa2m.

Laura Witkowski writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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