Even if you don’t know the band name, you’ll know the players. Based out of New York City, Princess Goes is an avant-indie supergroup made up of actor Michael C. Hall (“Dexter,” “Six Feet Under”) on vocals, keyboardist Matt Katz-Bohen (Blondie, Cyndi Lauper), and drummer Peter Yanowitz (The Wallflowers, Morningwood). Blending a unique mix of 70’s disco, 80’s new wave, 90’s alternative, and contemporary electronic dance music, Princess Goes have crafted a sound uniquely their own. And with the recent release of their second full-length album Come Of Age, the band has journeyed even deeper into their darkwave synthpop sound, drawing immense praise from numerous mainstream media outlets in the process.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
LEO: So what happened to the butterfly museum? [The band used to be called Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum, a name dreamt up by Katz-Bohen’s daughter.]
Michael C. Hall: We just felt like the princess shouldn’t be confined to that albeit fantastic destination. She should be able to go anywhere.
For those of us who’ve never been to Princess Goes show, what can we expect to see?
Peter Yanowitz: No museums.
Matt Katz-Bohen: Animatronic horses and elephants, and there’s a lot of zip lines. [laughs]
MCH: Yeah, we’re gonna pass out paintball guns. [more laughs]
I would follow you all like the Grateful Dead if you did all that! That would be great!
MCH: It’s just a three-ring circus of the three of us.
I know you are all busy with other projects. How do you all go about getting together and writing?
PY: I think we just started maybe six years ago, and writing was what we bonded over initially. We were writing for a while before we realized that we were an actual band, because we were just having fun and making music. I think our energy just leans towards writing any way that we possibly can. Sometimes we’re not in the same city or in the same place, but we can send each other ideas or a couple of us will get together and then we’ll send the ideas to the third. So we have many different ways to try to get the songs out.
MKB: Our home base is the studio in Union Square in New York City; that’s pretty much where we recorded the bulk of everything. That’s where we get together and bang things out, rehearse, whatever it is. Though we do, as Peter said, kind of construct things remotely and then come together and try to finish them together.
Michael, did you have any aspirations of being a singer before Princess Goes?
MCH: I’ve always done a lot of singing. I’ve been singing since before my voice changed and I was a first soprano in a boys choir. I’ve always focused on acting, but I’ve done a good number of musicals. That’s how I met Peter and Matt, doing “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” on Broadway. I also did “Cabaret” in Chicago. I never focused on or even aspired to front a band, but I heard some of the instrumental stuff Peter and Matt were making and, because I thought it would be fun, asked if they would be interested in having somebody sing on their stuff. And one thing led to another and all of a sudden, we had written more than a handful of songs and thought we should book a gig and play for people. That’s kind of how it started.
Since you have more of a Broadway background, was it hard to adapt your style of singing to the band?
MCH: No, I think it’s a lot harder to adapt my style of singing to musical theater. Doing the band, I just sort of instinctually sing what I want to sing; I’m just making it up. There’s no style beyond whatever comes out. It’s not like I’m trying to plug myself into something; I’m more just singing it like I feel it.
You’ve said the song “Ketamine” was influenced by actually being on ketamine in a clinical setting. How did that come about? And how did that influence the lyrics?
MCH: It came about through a relationship that my wife and I have with a therapist who does that kind of therapy. We agreed to do a couple of sessions, and the lyrics are totally informed by the experience of going on a sort of mind adventure alongside someone who’s going on their own mind adventure when that someone is someone you care about very much, and you have an awareness that their mind adventure is very different than the one you’re having.
In the “Let It Go” video, there is a thing you all do where you fist bump then raise your arms up, almost like a prayer. Is that a pre-show ritual?
MKB: Yeah, we’re still asking ourselves that question. We just started doing that and it felt good. Sort of our little meditation pre-show.
MCH: It just happened one time and we never really talked about it. We just kept doing it.
PY: I think it’s just a good way to come together, feel our body temperatures, and unite before we go make music for people.
MKB: It’s like synchronizing our heartbeats and our watches and our sweat, everything. It’s the best.
Do you think there will come a time when you’ll, I don’t want to say play acoustically, but you all will strip away the electronics and just jam?
PY: I was just telling Mike and Matt this week that I feel like we’re the opposite of Radiohead, where we started as a band mostly using electronic sounds and computers. And I think as we go, it’d be kind of cool if we just went the opposite way and ended more like Radiohead started. They started as just a regular band but eventually experimented more with electronics. I would love it if we went a totally different way than we started.
Is Princess Goes something that you all would love to see become the main aspect of your career?
PY: I think we’re all just in the moment and excited to be in it with each other. We’re committed to seeing it through and continuing to create a conversation. But yeah, who wouldn’t want to reach as many listeners as possible? To be honest, it’d be awesome to keep building on what we’ve started and reach as many people as we can. As long as we’re making music together, why not shoot for the stars?
Princess Goes plays Headliners on Sunday, Jan. 21, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance and $28 at the door.