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Tonitruale Live: Prize Horse's Jake Beitel on "Under Sound," Playing First Avenue, and Prince Impersonators

Since the supposed "death of grunge" signaled by the oversaturation of the genre during the early 2000's, it has become near impossible to identify a real grunge band from the plethora of wannabe's and posers in flannels and tattered jeans. As genre lines have become blurrier and we've collectively realized that the idea of categorizing a band is as inane as it is repetitive, the traditional quote-unquote "grunge band" has become a thing of the past. What qualifies a band as 'grunge' anyway? Is it the flannels or proximity to Seattle? Perhaps the mindset, the core values, the recurring themes? Or is it the sisterhood of the traveling Big Muff pedal that cements your grunge status? I'm of the firm belief that it's all in the feeling, and the closer you find yourself to the crude, melancholic nature of the genre that Nirvana perfected and popularized, the better the record can be.

Minneapolis three-piece, Prize Horse, have found themselves in the unique and exciting position to once again redefine and smear the grunge sound with their debut album, Under Sound. Produced and engineered by Corey Coffman of Gleemer, Prize Horse's latest LP stands out as a prime specimen of non-conformist music that exists to please itself and and only itself (and perhaps a few like-minded individuals). The record is a wandering, wonderfully eery piece of alt rock, drawing influences from grunge rock giants like Alice in Chains and hardcore heroes like Restraining Order. The band finds themselves playing across the heavy guitar music spectrum, with elements of shoegaze, emo, and new wave rock present on many of the albums best tracks, such as "Know Better," "Dark Options," and "Reload." Under Sound is overflowing with creativity and originality, due in part to Olivia Johnson (bass, vocals) and Jon Brenner's (drums) model musicianship and instrumentality, as well as Jake Beitel's (vocals, guitar) bedeviled vocal performance throughout the album. Even the heaviest of metal heads would have a hard time denying this band's raw talent and knack for hard rock innovation.

This series is usually video based, and this would normally be the part where I say "we caught up with so-and-so regarding their latest album!" Unfortunately, as is to be expected of a near five year-old laptop, some files get corrupted from time to time, and I was sadly only able to salvage the audio component. So, for one night only, Tonitruale Live, featurting Prize Horse's Jake Beitel, is transcribed in full for your reading pleasure.

Let's talk about Under Sound! It t comes out on the 16th, next Friday. You got any pre release jitters? What have y'all been doing in between releases, between singles to keep yourselves and the fans excited for the release, and to keep yourself calm in between singles?

Jake: Yeah, I mean, it's been a while. I mean, we, we've had the finished records since May of 2023. So we've kind of been sitting with it, with it ourselves, just listening into it a bunch, waiting for it to come out. Originally, we were hoping for it to be out by the end of last year, which didn't end up working out, but I'm pretty happy with the timing we ended up with. We just dropped this third single this week, the last single was like about a month before that, so it's been pretty consistent, but it's also been kind of a downtime in the band at home wise. We haven't been playing a ton of shows just cause we're got our release show coming up in a couple of weeks, so we've just been kind of laying low honestly. Definitely been getting nervous, ready to play some shows again and get the music out, but I'd rather have it not be rushed than have it be hastily put out. Y'know what I mean?

Absolutely. And y'all are coming out swinging with your first show, playing at the 7th Street Entrance, right?

Yeah, 7th Street is great. We've played there. I think it'll be our third time playing there. We got to play there with Narrow Head once and with a Militarie Gun. So it'll be, but it'll be our first time headlining so that'll be pretty exciting. It's a legendary spot, I've grown up going to shows there.

You grew up in Minneapolis, of course. Any favorite shows you've ever seen at 7th Street or at First Ave in general?

In recent years, at 7th Street I saw the band Pile, one of my favorite bands, they were amazing. The band Howdy, I saw there for the first time, loved them also. First Ave, in the main room, I guess probably my favorite in there was M.J. Lenderman this past year. It was amazing. He was opening Planes I believe and he honestly stole the show in my opinion.

You can tell a lot about a band by how they rep their label (please don't hurt me, NMZ)

Talk to me a little bit about how you put together Under Sound. You said you've had it kind of in the works for a little bit, but you worked with Corey Coffman on this, which you also worked with on the Welder EP. How did putting together Under Sound differ from putting together Welder? Or do you think it was a largely the same process?

Writing wise, it was kind of different this time because our bassist, Olivia, she lives in Connecticut now, so it was our first time being separated while we were writing. A lot of it was kind of me starting with some ideas and then me and our drummer, John, working stuff out and then we would get periods of time with Liv where we get to work on stuff more specifically. Before, we'd all lived in the same spot and it was practice once a week, then do some writing so that vibe was kind of different, but I think it worked out well. It's definitely weird being like a long distance band, but we've been making it work and I'd say that's the main difference of writing this album. I'd say we also took longer too. I mean, pretty much as soon as we finished recording Welder, we started writing for the album. It took about two years before we got in the studio for that.

Two years to get in the studio?? How do you mean? You just put it off or things came up, I assume?

We aren't one of those bands that are always writing full songs and stuff. I'm more of somebody who like gets bouts of "I'm going to work on this song right now," and I need to be feeling it and have it coming out of me naturally as opposed to totally forcing it. Also, John and I and Olivia are all just really specific about what we want it to sound like, and we don't want to skimp on any part of any song. It's all very thought out, I guess that's part of why we took so long. But it's also just timing. We did a fair amount of touring off the first EP so that kept us busy, and Olivia has been touring, doing merch for other bands. It's been a hectic few years, but eventually we got in May of 2023 and spent three weeks with Corey and ripped it out, and that was awesome. Recording with him for the second time was pretty similar to the first, but it was nicer to have more time, go really in depth, especially with all the guitars and drums. And I spent a lot of time on vocals too. It was nice to not be rushed unlike a lot of other recording experiences we've had, where it's like "all right, we got two days to do all these songs, you can't really like put much thought into it." So yeah, it was nice. Pretty laid back.

Speaking of which, when is Corey going to get y'all a gig on Audiotree? I know he's still working over there.

We actually are doing an Audiotree set at the end of this month. Big news!

That's going to be amazing, there've been so many good sets coming out of there. If you can tell us, what are you going to be playing on the show?

We don't know exactly what songs, we're definitely going to play I think the three singles. I think they usually do about five to six songs, so we got three singles, I think we'll do "3 Tiles" from our last EP, which is one of our most popular songs, and then I kind of want to throw in one of the deeper cuts from the album that might not get as much love. You know how it is with an album, people don't make it through the whole way, so maybe spotlight one of the songs that's closer to the end. But I also really love the first track on the album ("Dark Options"), so I'm hoping to maybe pull off that one at Audiotree.

Would "Know Better" maybe get up on that list?

Oh, yeah, yeah, definitely. I think that one will for sure be played.

I love that song. When we were writing this interview, I mean, I've been sitting on the advance copy copy like for like three weeks now, and "Know Better" has always stuck out. I'd love to hear how you put it together and why "Know Better"is at the end? Why not throw that at the front?

What we did at the end was more of an idea that we came up with in the studio with Corey. We had that song written for like a year before we went into the studio, and it was one of the ones that we had written and kind of put on the back burner for a while. Then by the time we got to the studio we were like "we could spice this up a little bit." We were just messing around with it and Cory was like "let's try like stripping this back down for a second here and like see how that feels." I started experimenting with running the drums through the pedalboard, turned on the Big Muff and the reverb and was messing around with that, and we tracked it, and it ended up being like "oh, that's sick!"

And yet you still sat on it and made it the third single. That's unbelievable!

Yeah, I mean, we spent a lot of time working on the track list and the order of the tracks, but it's scary these days. You put a song at the end and statistically, it's going to get the least amount of plays. So that, I think, is kind of why we decided to use that one as a single, we wanted to give it the spotlight. That and our merch guy ,Blake, that's his favorite song. We were only originally going to be doing two singles, but he heard ["Know Better"] and was like "that has to be one of them, that has to be one of them," and we're like "oh, we might not do it," but then when we decided to do a third single, and we decided we were doing that song for Blake.

For Blake!

For Blake!

That's actually surprising to hear. I mean, it's not surprising you that you guys have a merch guy, it's more surprising that it's not Olivia, with her degrees in printmaking and bookmaking!

Hah, yeah! Liv handles like all of our art, she absolutely kills it on that end. But when she's not with us, she's the touring merch person for the band, Anxious, full-time. So usually when she's on tour with us, if we can, we're like "let's give you a break." But Blake is like all of our best friend, so, we have him come with, but you go back to merch and Liv is still in the mix. Like sometimes she'll be like "come on, let me get back there and sell some stuff!" Olivia's the best, she really grinded super hard on all the art for this record and we're really, really happy with how it turned out.

So I can assume she designed the album cover then, if she was in charge of the art and all that. I would love to have asked her about how that put together, because I am by no means an art student. I'm not an abstract art guy, but that album cover is just something else. I love the way the imagery fits together with the album, so if you have any insight as to how it was put together, I would love to hear about the album cover a bit.

I don't know exactly like what medium Liv used for it, I would assume pencil and pen for the like black part, and I think she did some paint for the orange sun on the front. Right. But one day, we had just kind of come the point to where like "okay, we got to start thinking about album art." Me and Liv had been throwing each other pictures an d photographers we liked, because that was the direction we thought we might go at first. But then Liv one day was like "yo, I've got an idea, give me a couple hours," and then she sent me and John a rough draft of the album art, and we were both like "whoa, that is sick." We gave her no direction or anything, she just came up with that, and we all agreed that was it. So then she went in and kind of cleaned it up a bit and that ended up being the album art and now we can't imagine it being anything else.

It's so striking, it's so vibrant. And with album covers these days, anybody can pick anything to be an album cover, so to see one that's just so in your face, like "I'm going to remember that for the rest of my life," that's that's really something special. And I've always been a big fan of like hand drawn album art, I think a drawing or a piece of art as an album cover can really add a lot to the music.

Oh, absolutely. We're so glad we have Olivia in the band, who's amazing at doing that. She's really multi-talented.

Let's talk lyrics! New Morality described the lyricism of this new record as "subtly poetic," in reference to your ability to "craft imagery in your lyrics." As a bit of a contrast though, on the Quit Your Band podcast, you said that high school wasn't exactly your jam. So what I would like to know is when did you find out that writing was your thing and which English teacher was it that encouraged you?

I honestly never had an English teacher who told me that. I did pretty terribly in high school, honestly. In middle school and early high school, I was kind of into English, but I fell off pretty hard and I didn't get much, I didn't do too much in English class, and I didn't, so I didn't get much feedback. But I've always been writing. I don't really call it poetry, but just like little notes of things that I think sound cool. So then when I started vocals in a band, I just kind of said "well, I gotta work with what I got here, see what comes out." I really took a lot of inspiration from a lot of my favorite bands and favorite lyricists, but I never had an English teacher say "you gotta be a writer" because I never really turned in anything.

So would you say you were more a student of the game?

Yeah, definitely. I definitely had to learn by doing. I'd certainly written some terrible lyrics before, and some of the lyrics on the first EP, Olivia did help me do some of the writing on. We were kind of partnering on songs, she kind of had some ideas and would throw them my way, so some of those earlier songs are kind of amalgamations. But this recent album, it was awesome for lyrics, just sitting down and just letting it out, y'know?

Absolutely. Switching gears a bit, talk to me a little bit about the Minneapolis scene. I am not a Minneapolis native. It's on my list of cities to visit, it is Prince's hometown, Bob Dylan's hometown, Prize Horse's hometown. Now, Pitch Perfect described "Further From My Start" as being as "frigid as the environment it was developed in." What does that mean? Is Minneapolis that cold or is it just that rough?

No, no, it's cold. Well, actually not this winter has actually been pretty mild, it's like 50 degrees in February, which is unheard of because it's usually negative ten every day this time of year. But every other winter of my life has been absolutely frozen and frigid and icy and snowy, so it definitely has influenced the music a bit. Especially during the winter time, there's a lot of times with nothing to do other than meet up at the space, try to write some songs and see what happens.

Do you think that's indicative of the Minneapolis scene as a whole?

Yeah, I mean, I would say so. There's certainly a lot of artists here doing pretty dark stuff that you can definitely see is influenced by kind of the whiteness that we live in. But a lot of people who live here do really enjoy the winter and it doesn't stop a lot of people from going outside. Me personally, it does, so in the wintertime I'm pretty much just a hermit, and that's usually good fodder for some music.

Well, then let me ask you this-- in Charlotte, we're still kind of a developing as far as the music scene goes. We have some really great individualist stuff, we have some great bands like By George, some guys that started out of Charlotte and Raleigh, Babe Haven is really picking up in Boone and Charlotte, but on the flip side of that coin is that for every two or three of those guys, you get a hundred Toby Keith imitators (rest in piss, by the way). Do you find that there are a lot of imitators and copycats that start showing up in Minneapolis?

Yeah, but not necessarily copycats of like people from here though. Like, I don't think anybody can really imitate like Prince, but there is actually a band. There is actually a band around here right now that I've been hearing about, that if Prince was still alive, it would be like his favorite band. They're called FènixDion. I haven't seen them, and I haven't listened to them much, but I've been learning a lot about them. But yeah, there's certainly lots of people in Minneapolis making music that's derivative of other places. And I feel like the Midwest oftentimes gets kind of some of those trends a couple years later than the coast, so that's always a factor.

We're all a little bit behind. It's like anything, everything kind of blows out of New York or in LA and then ripples out.

Yes, definitely. So there's a lot of that, but there's also a lot of people doing really cool stuff here.

I heard only cool kids go to the Prize Horse release show.

Anybody you'd be interested in bringing along with you on tour?

We already have our release tour booked, but on the next, a band I'd love to go on tour with from Minneapolis is called She's Green. They're like classic sounding shoegaze band, kind of like Slow Dive-y. They're amazing. I actually saw them at First Avenue a couple weeks ago for the Best New Band show that they do every year, and it was amazing. They covered the Sunday, it was super sick. And also our merch man Blake plays in a really great hardcore punk band called Giallo, and they're playing our release show with us. Even though it'd be a kind of mixed bill tour, I'd love to do something with them one day, more extended. I mean, that's the name of the game right now is the mixed bill. There's no one person anymore that is like "I love this and I won't listen to anything else," there's no "I'm only listening to, like, heavy shoegaze, and I'm not gonna listen to hardcore too." Most of those people are also gonna like that type of music. Not just for the energy, you know what I mean?

Absolutely. Speaking of touring, are you looking forward to any other dates you have anything else you got the audio tree that we've just that we snuck out of. Anything else coming up after that? What other shows we got coming up?

We're kind of just in talks for a lot of stuff right now. Olivia, she does merch for Anxious, and we're about to do that full US tour with Koyo, and I think we're going to play one or two dates of that in the Midwest. That'll be in March. Other than that, it's all kinds of stuff that's in the works at the moment, so nothing confirmed, but got like one or two local shows coming up in the next couple months, but honestly, just as soon as this month is over, I'm just going to start writing for the next thing.

That's what we love to hear. That's what we love to hear. We'll definitely be looking forward to the next release. That's all the really hard stuff I had for you, man. The last question, we always like to finish it out with the fun one-- what are you listening to right now, other than Under Sound?

Well, my homie has a band called MX Lonely. They just put out a new EP called Spit. It's amazing, highly recommend. Similar vein to us, but obviously different, they're doing it really cool these days. I've also been listening to a lot of death metal recently. I've been listening to this band called Cerebral Rock. GEL's another band I actually saw at the 7th Street Entry this year. That was a sold out show, that was incredible. Yeah, I've honestly spent on a lot of really heavy shit recently.

Under Sound is available for purchase on Bandcamp and streaming everywhere.

Rob Lucchesi

Prize Horse


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