Portland transplants' turbulent tunes transcend tidy tags

David Frederickson has heard all the descriptions of his band more than a few times: The Prids are new wave. The Prids are Goth. The Prids are shoegazers.

'It's just so boring,' he says with a touch of exasperation. 'If that's all you're hearing, great! But it's like you've given up trying to figure out what you like about the music and just reach for a safe label. It all goes back to choices. It's like everything's about these decisions you have to make, and they're the only choices you have, apparently. You can be a Goth band or a shoegazer band or a reggae band or a heavy metal band.

'You can't just play music, let it come out of you and not think about it,' he says. 'You have to name it and prepare it for the consumer. É We're just a pop band.'

This pop band's cell phone cuts out occasionally during the interview. Frederickson reckons he's 'somewhere in the desert' between Phoenix and San Diego. Bassist Mistina Keith and drummer Lee Zeman are complaining because their ears don't seem to be working at the moment and the noise of huge diesel trucks roaring by is audible.

The Prids tour a great deal, having adapted to a claustrophobic lifestyle that many bands never seem to get used to. 'I don't understand bands that don't like touring,' he says. 'This is what it's all about, reaching as many different people as you can.'

Frederickson, who plays guitar and sings for the Prids, relocated his quartet to Portland three years ago after exhausting all the distractions in Omaha, Neb., and immediately found this town to his liking. 'I like to go out dancing, I like to go to clubs,' he says. 'Portland has nightlife.'

Compared to Omaha, maybe.

'Besides, I'm a vegan, and there's lots of good places to eat here with vegan menus.'

Traditionally, bands that move to Portland have a rough time of fitting in with the locals Ñ unless they're really good. Fortunately, the Prids are really good.

'For the most part, the Portland bands we've played with have been great,' Frederickson says. 'There have been a few Ñ I won't name names Ñ who I think don't like us for whatever reason. Maybe we wear too much black; maybe we put on too good of a show.

'Maybe we don't do shows in the clothes we went to bed in,' he says. 'Maybe we don't want to wear shorts onstage.'

The Prids have just released their first full-length album, 'Love Zero' (Luminal Records), and it's a triumphant assortment of overcast pop that certainly does call to mind the moody Manchester band New Order. Keith's upfront, trebly bass lines are a dead ringer for those of New Order bassist Peter Hook, while Frederickson provides an aggressive guitar sound to toughen up the mix.

Frederickson and Keith both sing and occasionally overlap their somber, downtrodden voices. Zeman keeps the music flying, propelling songs such as 'Panic Like Moths' and 'Not Even Sometimes' with his hypertribal beats. This leaves keyboardist Jairus Smith to fill in the blanks with icy chords that swell up in the din like nagging doubts.

Even bearing a stormy sound that suits Portland's damp days perfectly ('I love the weather here,' he enthuses), Frederickson clearly wants to steer his group clear of any Goth or new-wave clichŽs.

'I like to dress in black, sure,' he says. 'People kid me and go, 'Hey what's you're favorite color?' Ha ha! That's so funny!

'But our crowd, the people that come out and see us and get the most out of our music, are really normal people. They're not Goths or retro new-wave kids. In fact, our biggest fan in Atlanta is an African-American guy named Jamal.'

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