by Leslie Ventura
Ex-Mars Volta drummer talks about new band, Las Vegas
Formed in 2009, The Memorials is the next musical project of Mars Volta drummer Thomas Pridgen and his two friends, Viveca Hawkins and Nick Brewer. Currently on tour, the group is stopping in Vegas on Sunday at The Beauty Bar.
Tired after their show in Santa Cruz, Pridgen and Hawkins called up The Rebel Yell on Wednesday evening to talk about being outcasts, their love of music and how Afro-punk is a movement giving African-Americans a voice.
The Rebel Yell: Can you tell us a little bit about what Afro-punk is?
Thomas Pridgen: Basically, it’s like, you listen to the radio and you know, on the rap station you’ve got all the urban rap going on and then you have one guy such as Eminem who is kind of like the voice for the white people. [He does] hip-hop from a different perspective.
So Afro-punk is the same thing but kind of a rock thing. You see all these [rock] bands but none of them are black. [It’s for people who] never were accepted and always looked different from the people they know and always felt like outcasts. So this is their place to not be an outcast, who are also African-American, who love the subculture.
RY: Do you describe The Memorials as Afro Punk?
TP: In some ways. I connect with them. I do feel it’s a lot different from what other people are doing, but I wouldn’t say that’s completely my movement. It’s more about just connecting with people who have similar views.
RY: Do you feel like you’ve dealt with being an outcast?
TP: I was in a big band, and I was one of the only black people I saw playing the style of music the way I was playing it. It kind of does outcast you. You grow up listening to Marvin Gay and Al Green and they’re like, “I’ve been listening to Led Zeppelin and The Beatles my whole life.” The experience is different.
RY: Viv comes from a different musical background than you. How do you blend your styles together?
Viveca Hawkins: For us, it wasn’t necessarily how to blend it. When we started this project, Thomas was like, “Here’s the music, do your thing.” Really, I can adjust to what people are looking for, I’m pretty versatile.
For him to tell me that he wanted me to just be me, and me knowing that I wasn’t coming from the same place as him and Nick [Brewer] were because they are definitely heavier, I tried really hard to make sure the things I was doing and adding to the music were things that I enjoy.
TP: We won’t always agree, but we can always agree that we respect and appreciate others’ talent and ability. And so the blend just kinda came naturally, as [did] our friendship.
We’re basically learning each other so we’re basically compromising all the way around.
RY: I read that you left Mars Volta because you weren’t interested in cars and price tags. How is being with The Memorials different?
TP: Usually, if you do something for money, you [do it] for money because you don’t like [what you’re doing]. For me, I don’t think anything is really different because I just love playing music.
The only difference is I’m playing with people I knew before I made this band. It’s more personal.
RY: Your first album took a week to record. Is there a new album in the future?
VH: We actually started working on our second record kinda as soon as we dropped the first one. We wanted to make sure that we keep the music coming. Our second record should be coming out by the end of this year.
RY: You’ll play here in Las Vegas in a few days. Have you made any plans?
TP: I’m trying to come out there and eat food. And I don’t really like to gamble. The last time I was in Las Vegas I didn’t really know what to do. Iwas like, “I don’t gamble. I don’t care about these stupid clubs.”
VH: We plan to have lots of fun. I haven’t been to Vegas since I was 21. I’ll at least spend five dollars on the nickel slots.