I hang out at Bamboo Cafe sometimes. Sometimes Eddie Prendergast is my bartender. A local music legend, which we have covered before, and someone I have seen over a dozen times through out the years with Bio Ritmo, Amazing Ghost to Mikrowaves. Always a great show. Big songs. Big sounds.
On this particular day, he passes me my usual and I ask, ‘what have you been up to Eddie?’ That turned into listening to his newest album 20 Up 20 Down months before anyone else had heard it. I immediately asked to do a video for one of the tracks and so began a long journey to get it done. You can see the fruits of that labor below.
I always wondered about his story, his full story, so I asked him. Here is our conversation on the ups, downs and around of the music business, no filter.
R. Anthony Harris: You have been making music for a while. What was the first album you put out and with who?
EP: I went to the University of Miami and started a band called Pencil Grass and it was pretty much a soul band. We had six or seven guys. We did pretty good. I was making songs, electro songs and so I got the guys to learn the songs — we’re jamming, had horns, keys, the whole schbang.
Then we moved up to Connecticut to New Haven, because my best friend John Panos, he played trumpet, and he’s like my musical brother, but he’s from Hartford, and he was like we should move. He’s a compulsive liar. (laughs) He said we should move to New Haven, it’s got really good scene, its a half an hour from New York, and it’s pretty cheap. Aight yeah, so we got all moved up to New Haven, all six of us.
And we just started playing playing our backyard, for a Yale MBA program. We had a couple guys that were like starting first year live above us in our apartment and so they hired us to play in the backyard party like right when we moved up there, a barbecue. There was a woman that saw us play. It was kind of a music journalist and tastemaker in New Haven, she was walking her dog in the alley — and was like who is that? You know? We were going — we had the organ out there, the big organ put out in the backyard. And, so we kind of got a name, immediately, did really well in New Haven and made a record called The Bubble Gum EP.
I was always putting stuff out, like electrode stuff, but then we finally made with the band. And it was cool — ‘Too Much Booty For Your Pants’… uh, actually cut that. (laughs)
When I started Mikrowaves I wanted to just play all the songs I ever did with Pencil Grass, but with a trio — tuba, drums and guitar. And so a lot of those songs are Pencil Grass songs.
Anyway, so we were in New York, playing a lot of good shows. Then we just turned in such fucking messes up there in New Haven, it’s like a northern drunk fest, and a couple of guys quit the band — I was a mess. And kind of started trying to start over again.
So we got my boy Danny up in there, who wasn’t a musician, but he has an ear and he’s just crazy. Him and John Panos were friends but he was a divisive member, because everybody else was a musician, you know, music school. So he never felt he fit in with some of those guys and those guys really, uhh you know, we love Danny but… I love Danny.
Anyways, that’s when we started doing good, and we almost fucking hit it man, because we had residency in Knitting Factory and the hot shit party people in Brooklyn saw us one time, like at Bubble Party or something, they were throwing big parties that summer in Brooklyn. Anyway, they saw us and they came back with a bunch of people the next week to see us again like to show us off and book us for parties. And I think I was… I don’t know what the fuck happened but they stopped returning my phone calls, and I was probably too fucked up, the band was too fucked up, stuff like that but whatever.
But it’s kind of a bummer I always has a feeling like if we had gotten that gig, we would of catapulted up. So, then, should I keep talking?
RAH: Yeah, keep talking.
EP: Then, the drummer quit because he couldn’t take it anymore. And I was like, thats the drummer, the band is over. Then I got even more of a mess for next couple months.
And then Bob Miller, the trumpet player for Bio Ritmo, my good friend, I used to play in Bio Ritmo before I moved to Miami, called me in November that year. It’s freezing cold in Connecticut and I was hanging out with bad people, really, people that are, you know, just a bad scene. You get involved with people sometimes and think — how do we get out of this? Because it’s just there all the time… and so anyway, he called me up November, and he’s like, yo, you want to play bass with Bio Ritmo again? I said, fuck yeah. So I moved out and back down to Richmond the next month January 2007, making beats and writing some new songs. And I lived with these, uh… I don’t want to talk about that. (trails off)
Anyway, I started writing songs and put together Amazing Ghost, which back then was Matt White, Bob, Toby, I played bass and sometimes Ray or Justino from Bio Ritmo played timbales. I had my old Oberheim DX to make beats then I would play them using the foot pedal. They’re all like program songs. And that was fun.
RAH: How are you feeling around this time? You’ve been in New York and saw the big show.
EP: Yeah, I felt good, I mean we were actually going up to the play shows in New York, doing a little tours and stuff like that. Hustling, trying to get it, it wasn’t like Pencil Grass, but it was good. We had a great time and we like blow it up, and it’s awesome, big parties and then some good shows or parties in New York. I mean, it was like a party band to me, but it was fun.
RAH: After Amazing Ghost, what happens?
EP: Once again, personal things get in the way. I kind of broke up, faded away.
And then I got a job in Miami, writing songs for licensing house down there. There were some guys that went to University of Miami, younger than me. They had a big studio in their little bedroom. So I would drive down — I had a conversion van and drive down all my shit, like all the drums, all my synchs and stay in a little bedroom for a couple months — write songs and that was called the Big East. They put something out, but I can’t find it. It was very produced and ultimately it didn’t get anywhere. I mean, they paid me $500 a month but you can’t really live on $500 a month.
RAH: And were you bartending down there?
EP: No, I wasn’t just writing songs and producing tracks, because they wanted to sell to the commercials. And yeah, if you did sell something, then you got more money, but they’re also trying to put out the record.
Now the fucked up thing, they say to me before I signed the contract for $1000 a month, they say, we are going to pay you $500 a month and use the extra money that we save to put out the record and use the rest for publicity. I was like sweet, I guess I can deal with that.
So did the record and then they come back and say — we’re just gonna put it out. I was like what are you talking about? We talked about the extra money and they came back with its not in the contract. Yeah, so they can just do whatever they want and they found that promotion doesn’t help anyway.
I don’t know what the fuck, so fuck you.
I never got anywhere with them, came back to Richmond and I met Claire, my wife. We fell in love, got married. Claire was pregnant, and I wanted to start playing guitar. I felt I could sing to the baby better with the guitar then. The bass. And so then I started learning my old songs.
I met Kelli Strawbridge, a couple of times, I really liked the way he played drums and asked him to join Mikrowaves. I want to start a band. Mikrowaves is gonna be these songs and we have some new songs too. Toby will play tuba. I’ll play guitar, acoustic guitar, and that was, alright cool, that was awesome. Bob wants to be part of it. We need percussions, we got Coca. Might as well get saxophone, John Lily.
And so that’s nice and I’m playing guitar. And we had a gig, Toby could’t make it, Toby hated playing tuba and so I was playing bass, and it was better, you know, I’m a natural bass player. So we got Toby to play trombone and Russel to play guitar. My neighbor Ken joined to play mandola.
RAH: You have a lot of people at this point. (laughs)
EP: Keneka started singing with us. Angelica and Keneka would sing with us. I think we had one gig with all those people on stage. (laughs) There’s was always somebody that couldn’t make it.
RAH: Those shows were really fun.
EP: They were a lot of fun, and we have one year where we played a lot of gigs. And then after that, we kind of stop booking gigs, because everybody’s got kids and everybody got their own gigs and everybody has to make money. You can’t do these fucking gigs where everybody makes 10 bucks, you know what I mean, after putting in the time to learn songs, practice… something’s gotta give.
And I wanted to do all these recordings I did with Mikrowaves I wanted to be as live as possible. You know just guitar, drums, play everything live, which was different from I used to do stuff electro, looping — I wanted that to be Mikrowaves just straight up, you know.
And then after like four years, I kind of started missing the other stuff like producing tracks, making tracks. So basically, 20 UP 20 DOWN is a return to my original song making technique which is the way most people do it now, use these drum machine in pieces and build the song like that, as opposed to having the energy of the band play.
RAH: So 20 UP 20 DOWN is the new record?
EP: Yeah, so that’s what this new record is.
RAH: Is that still Mikrowaves?
EP: Yeah its still Mikrowaves because a lot of the band are all over it, everybody from the bands plays on his record. So to me it was Mikrowaves, like last year Mikrowaves is still around. Now, to me, I now call it Mikrowaves last record because it’s just going somewhere else.
RAH: After such a long journey through music, how do you feel about it now? Like you’re about to put this album out and we did a music video together…
EP: Yeah, I mean it’s to me it’s always the same, like I am glad to get it out. So I have to put it out in my mind. So I could go what’s the next thing?
RAH: You have been doing some folk stuff? Is that what it is, folk music?
EP: Irish and Scottish songs, I am still writing some things.
RAH: You’re talking about traditional folk songs. Are you gonna put an electro to that?
EP: I don’t know. I was thinking just simple and beautiful lullabies. That’s why I started doing it — was to do with the sing lullabies but I have been messing around a little bit, I don’t know, I don’t really have the right combination there yet. I just hear them as just a voice, or maybe voice and guitar because that’s how they are played. I think I have a different enough ways where I can make it work.
RAH: For people with no idea, how do you create a song?
EP: Yeah, usually you are at work and something fucked up happens and immediately in your head, you know like, goddamn that was fucked up. (laughs) You know, it’s kind of just puts itself in your head, and then you build a song a little bit at a time and then you figure, I got to make the song, I made the song, and then you make the drums and the bass and everything, and then you get like a month into it and you’re like, I hate this song! Or you are like wow that’s awesome, either way and then take it to the bands and you’re like, hey let’s learn the song.
RAH: Are you going to put out an album of songs you hate? The Songs I Hated, the album. (laughs) How you feeling about the year coming up?
EP: I am all in. Now Mr. Dad, straight up. I got the kids and run after the kids all day, and I try to stay up late and do my thing, and wake up early the next day. Thank god for nap time. I’m not rushing myself in anything. I just kind of doing it right now, just for me, without the audience stuff. A big part of that feeling was playing those internet shows last year, that there’s no audience, and it becomes more about yourself. That has kind of stuck with me, because before it was always about the audience.
RAH: Would you be excited to play in front of audience now?
EP: Playing with Bio Ritmo last week was great, just seeing people and closing your eyes. It’s always like how far am I going? Am I going too far or not far enough? Am I real right now when I’m singing? Or am I doing something else, am I not being me? I always try to go all the way past that and go inside, deep inside — and then come through where there’s no thoughts. That’s what I’m into about performing.
RAH: If you like this interview, say hi to Eddie at Bamboo Cafe and tell him how much you like the music. Thank you Eddie.
EP: Thank you.
Photos by Kimberly Frost @kimberlyfrost