NYC Rocker Michele Stork Unleashes the Noisy Punk Princess with (A)llerdings!

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

I met Michele Stork sometime in 2007, right after I began teaching guitar at New York City Guitar School. I don’t remember our first conversation, exactly, as we sat sprawled across the living room floor of our friend Gail’s Manhattan studio. But I remembered the sparkle in her eyes when she spoke about her band, Loki the Grump, and her musical influences — Rollins Band, Murphy’s Law, and other hardcore-music mainstays in DC and NYC. 

As a bonafide DC girl with a love of Henry Rollins and Murphy’s Law, I felt a special connection with Michele, which continued onto our tours. Every hardcore, punk and/or gravelly-vocalled band led us to rush the stage together. She’s still the only friend of mine who knows the words to my super-fast punk song “Strawberry Shortcake” (and has written alternate versions).

Michele, who works in the music business by day, brings the same love of hardcore and punk — and righteous, unforgettable lyrics — into all of her musical projects, from her former band Loki the Grump to her latest project (A)llerdings!, with her friend Joe De Sapio and husband Dietmar.

We caught up with her earlier this week to discuss her plans for getting creative in the near future. 

ROCKMOMMY: How would you describe your music style?

MICHELE STORK: I’m all over the place when I write songs, but I definitely love to play punk of some sort. My very first band was avant-Garde punk, my second was goth punk, then ones all over the spectrum. The band I‘m most known for in the GRGR world was a bit on the pop punk side.  The current trio for this show – (A)llerdings! – is really raw.  Our friend Joe is an awesome guitarist, but my husband and I have not picked up our instruments in quite a few years so we are not so awesome… but we do have a load of fun so the fact that we are less than spectacular doesn’t really concern me!

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Michele Stork (drums) with Joe & Dietmar of (A)llerdings!

ROCKMOMMY: What kinds of songs will you be playing at your next show? What instruments will you be playing, and who will be with you onstage?

MICHELE STORK: We’re playing a short fast set — some originals, some covers. I’m attempting drums and vox, Dietmar, my husband, is attempting bass, iPad and vox, Joe is killing it on guitar and vox.

ROCKMOMMY: Who is the most inspirational live performer you’ve seen lately?

MICHELE STORK: If I have to pick only one of my recent concerts, I’d have to go with Bob Mould! He’s as phenomenal solo as he is with a full band. Brilliant songwriter and guitarist!

ROCKMOMMY: The GRGR reunion show celebrates women in music — has a lot changed in the past 15 years, since Girls Rock & Girls Rule was founded, and female rockers became more visible?

MICHELE: Women are definitely more prominent as leaders in rock, and in many other genres, now more than ever. It’s pretty awesome to see the transition. However, we still have a LONG way to go. I’m hopeful it will truly get to the place where it’s just a PERSON who rocks as opposed to having to distinguish between genders.

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Michele and Dietmar — lovers, spouses and players.

ROCKMOMMY: Being an independent artist isn’t always easy. You’ve gotta balance lots of stuff. What’s your best advice for making time to rock?

MICHELE: “Making time” is exactly what you have to do. You can’t wait until you have time, it’ll never happen. You have to make that appointment with yourself and/or with others — put it on your calendar as a priority meeting — and stick to it as best you can. Even if it’s just one hour per week.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy. 

Gail Silverman Puts the ‘G’ Back in ‘Girls Rock’ with New Music and New Outlook

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

It’s no longer revolutionary to see a woman slaying a guitar solo on stage, or a female-fronted band headlining a major tour or music festival. But when Gail Silverman founded Girls Rock & Girls Rule more than 15 years ago, women in hard rock genres tended to stay in the fringes, finding their home on alternative radio or within Lilith-type fairs. 

But Gail, a rock singer and guitarist, wanted to flourish within the mecca of musicians and inspiration in her Manhattan home. But even there, so few women in bands could get the mainstream attention their male counterparts enjoyed: Even artists like Courtney Love and Alanis Morrisette — who so loudly and angrily dominated the 1990s — got sidelined for pop princesses.  

So in a moment of glorious inspiration in 2001, Gail put together a rock show featuring only bands with one or more women in them. In the days that followed, Girls Rock & Girls Rule — better known as GRGR — was born. But after several good years — hundreds of shows featuring female rockers, two sponsored tours, and partnerships with leading vendors like Daisy Rock and organizations focused on women — the relentless challenge of city life took its toll, and GRGR went into hibernation. 

Finding it harder and harder to put together lucrative shows with women and music as the core focal points, Gail turned inward and decided to take a break — and moved Florida in 2012 to channel the bulk of her energy on her career as a freelance marketer. 

But the urge to give back to the women and her musical desires never ceased.

As rock enjoys a steady revival in nightclubs and airwaves, Gail started feeling the urge to rock again — and dusted off her trusty electric. 

On February 15, Gail returns to the stage with her band G-Spot for the Girls Rock & Girls Rule Reunion show (2/15, at LP n Harmony, 683 Grand Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211), with new tunes and a fresh outlook. 

Here, she tells us about what makes her motivated, and why nurturing the next generation of women in music is so critical.

ROCKMOMMY: How would you describe your music style?  

GAIL SILVERMAN: My musical style has evolved a bit over the years, and with my band G-spot, it was rock, punk, pop. For the past several years, it’s shifted to I would call ‘alternative folk rock’ and the themes of my songs have shifted from ‘angry girl’ tunes and relationship-driven songs to more conscious musical scores, with introspective lyrics and messages. Though every now and then I still fall back to my roots. And I do like to include some humor whenever I can.

ROCKMOMMY: What kinds of songs will you be playing at your next show? 

GAIL SILVERMAN: We will be playing a mix of classic G-spot songs with a very special guest on guitar who I am very excited about. That will be mixed with some of my solo material that I have written and released over the past several years. I will be on lead vocals and rhythm guitar and sharing the stage with my one of my best friends, band partner and bass player Donald Dixon, as well as Andrea Auerbach on drums and special guest Marisa Torrieri on lead guitar for a song or two. And of course I look forward to my other GRGR girls joining me on stage for some back-up vocals!

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Gail Silverman, founder of Girls Rock & Girls Rule

ROCKMOMMY: Who is the most inspirational live performer you’ve seen lately?

GAIL SILVERMAN: I have not had the opportunity to see a ton of live music lately, but I was impressed with the all the representation of women at the Grammys this year, even though some of the music was not my go to listening style, including Alicia Keyes and Bonnie Raitt who never cease to blow by mind with their talents.

ROCKMOMMY: The GRGR reunion show celebrates women in music. Has a lot changed in the past 15 years, since GRGR took off, and female rockers became more visible?  

GAIL SILVERMAN: I think women are starting to be more in the spotlight not only in music, but in the world in general, which I think is critical to changing the precarious state of the planet. However, I do still see a gap for women in the harder-rock genres and not a lot of representation there, and I know this is true in the country genre as well. It still seems the bulk of exposure for women in music is still in the pop genre. Of course, with Internet streaming changing the way we listen and discover music as well as social media, this continues to bring more opportunities to women and indie artists if you can find a way to break through the noise.


ROCKMOMMY: Being an independent artist isn’t always easy. What’s your best advice for making time to rock?

GAIL SILVERMAN: I can definitely relate to this statement, work-life balance and nurturing your creativity especially if you have other responsibilities. Since leaving NYC several years ago one of my biggest challenges is lack of inspiration from a creative community and I am looking to make a move this year. I tend to go in and out of concentrating on making music. I think the trick is to do your best make time and push yourself to pursue your creative endeavors even when you don’t really feel motivated. I always feel better when I sit down with my guitar whether I write something new or just rock out a bit. Another thing that has helped me is being part of a virtual community of songwriters called Songtown (modern technology has some upsides) and participating in workshops and co-writes as a way to keep me going. I don’t play out much these days (so am really excited about the upcoming GRGR show!) but I have learned some great techniques for songwriting even when you don’t feel inspired. I also participate in other creative activities, including sculpting, cooking and gardening, which help me keep in a creative flow.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy. 

NYC Rockmommy Rew Starr Proves it’s Never Too Late to Take on a Brave New Role

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Some say that your best life doesn’t begin until you’ve lived a little — partaken in at least one great, wild adventure, gotten burned, or conquered one of your deepest fears. For many rockmommies, living your best life is inextricably intertwined with the creation something new — starting a family, starting a band, taking on new creative roles and experiencing life with fresh eyes and a full heart.

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Rew Starr on stage, playing “punktry”

This is the story of Rew Starr — a staple of New York City’s East Village music and arts scene and a living example that a woman’s best life can begin whenever she wants it to begin.

[NYC Rockmommy Rew Starr and Filmmaker Daughter Harlee Ludwig on Making the Perfect ‘Imperfect Girl’ Video]

Not long ago, Rew enjoyed a coveted status as one of the most celebrated local musicians and performance artists in New York City. So when, in 2016, she bid adieu to her beloved Internet radio show — Rew & Who? — to make room for a new acting career, the idea sounded a little crazy.

Four years later, she is busier than ever, splitting her time between paid acting gigs and musical performances. Which goes to show that you’re never too old (or too young) to live your best life or be a creative rockstar. 

Here, Rew chats with us about her latest projects and what we can expect at the upcoming Girls Rock & Girls Rule Reunion show (2/15, at LP n Harmony, 683 Grand Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211). 

ROCKMOMMY: How would you describe your music style? 

REW: I always call myself PuNkTRY because I have a punk rock heart and often tell too much information in my songs!

ROCKMOMMY: What kinds of songs will you be playing at your next show? What instruments will you be playing, and who will be with you onstage?

REW: I will be playing my original songs. Maybe my Bowie cover of ‘Rebel Rebel’ and some other surprises that the band might not know!! I like to keep it suspenseful! I’ll be playing with the one and only bassist Donald Dixon and Dr. Andi on drums. There is usually a surprise guitar player as well but if I say who said yes it might change!

ROCKMOMMY: Who is the most inspirational live performer you’ve seen lately? 

REW: Definitely the most inspirational performer I’ve seen is my daughter Eva Lin. She blows my mind in every way!

ROCKMOMMY: Being an independent artist isn’t always easy. You’ve gotta balance lots of stuff — work, parenthood, health and taking care of loved ones. What’s your best advice for making time to rock?

REW: Just always have a gig booked! It keeps me from forgetting my songs and playing is the best medicine in the world!

ROCKMOMMY: You let go of some obligations — notably Rew & Who — so you could make time for other endeavors (acting). What’s that been like?

REW: Well this acting thing has been beyond my wildest dreams! I have never been so busy with projects that challenge my brain with memorizing lines, and surrounded by so many trained people! I have been working more than I ever did as an artist and getting paid! What a concept! As my tax stuff pours in I’m in shock over how much work I did last year! Now I’m submerged in rehearsals for a brand new play called ‘upstate’ with a giant part that’s opening March 2 at the Hudson Guild Theatre and there is another run this weekend for ‘a two hundred dollar rhinoceros’ — the play that keeps going since last March! I even was nominated for best actress (my 2nd nomination!). I cannot even count how many indie films, music videos, TV and commercial projects (I even get to work with ZsaZsa Gabone, my precious angel yorkie) I’ve been in since ending “ReW & WhO?’ But I am forever grateful to every guest that came through the show and everyone who helped its seven-year run! It’s always there on YouTube for your viewing pleasure. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy. 

New Year’s Goal #1: Making Time for More Joy and Spontaneous Jam Sessions

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

It’s been quite a year — from my oldest son’s learning to do flips (and learning to read) to my baby boy entering kindergarten, we’ve hit so many parenting milestones. And personal milestones too. My husband sold his company and stepped up his baseball coaching game, while I stepped up my musical endeavors: I played the longest springtime “mommy and me” show at my kid’s preschool, started a rock band with two other parents (and one cool cat mama), and made good on my commitment to play guitar ten minutes a day (except when I was traveling — haven’t figured out how to do that yet!).

[SEE RELATED: “New Year’s Guitar Goals: 10 Minutes Per Day”]

I learned to say “no” to having too many goals, and say “yes” to joy.

This is the most important thing I learned.

The world is a crazy place, and in many ways more terrifying than it was in my own childhood. Between the acceleration of global warming to the tensions in the Middle East exacerbated by our current Administration (sorry to get political, but it’s true), we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I find myself fraught with worry on many mornings like these, wondering if gun violence or terrorism will have a direct impact on those I love.

But while I can’t control tomorrow, I can try to make the most of today. Enjoying my sons and niece while they are young. Spending meaningful time with my husband. Enjoying my parents and in-laws. Appreciating my friendships.

On New Year’s Eve, we had kids ages 1 to 14 hanging out all over my house. Our basement is full of musical instruments, as I always hoped it would be — my husband’s drum kit, a keyboard, lots of shakers and percussion and several of my guitars. Sometime around 9 or 10 (I wasn’t looking), a band of highly sugared-up little ones hit the basement and started jamming out on all the gear. The cacophony of their playing was so perfect — and so right. It made my heart melt a bit.

 

So while we can’t always predict the outcomes of any year, or any action we take, we can change our attitude. We can accept wonderful things when they enter our lives. We can be present for the spontaneous moments that offer so much joy.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Thrilldriver, NYC’s Best New Metal Band, on Making Music, Going Wild and Staying Sane

by Marisa Torrieri

Do you remember the last rock-and-roll show where you were completely gripped by the intensity — the noise, the energy, and the catharsis — of the moment? The best bands deliver that experience consistently — but few deliver it with the same intimacy as NYC’s Thrilldriver.

Escape the Holiday Doldrums: Thrilldriver delivers your  metal fix this Sunday (12/15/19) at NYC’s Rockwood Music Hall, 8 p.m.

I’ll never forget my first Thrilldriver show at a packed dive bar in the Lower East Side, shortly after the band formed in 2015. The moment the five-piece launched into “Vicious” — a roaring arena-rock-style anthem loaded with Motley-Crue guitar riffs, thunderous rhythms, and Zoe “Pypes” Friedman’s soaring vocals — I was transported.

It was all grit and goodness, hair metal and reckless fury anchored down by a powerful rhythm section. And as I watched Zoe wield her goddess power like a pro, one thing became absolutely clear: I wanted more. 

This weekend, Thrilldriver (whose members also include guitarists Tony Calabro and Michelangelo “Moxxxie” Quirinale, plus bassist Jamie “Fingerz” Garamella) returns to the spotlight for an intimate show in NYC at the second stage of the red-velvet-draped Rockwood Music Hall (Sunday, 8 p.m.). We caught up with Zoe and Michelangelo earlier this week to find out what’s in store. 

Rockmommy: You’re based in New York. A city where musicians are disciplined but prone to distraction. How did you guys come together? 

 Michelangelo Moxxxie: Our guitarist/songwriter/producer Tony approached me about starting a hair metal band. We had known each other from teaching at New York City Guitar School. We both love all things rock and metal, so it seemed like a fun idea! While the initial concept was more tongue in cheek, once we got Zoe on board, it turned into a full-fledged band! 

While each of us has our own influences, I think we all see Thrilldriver as a band that represents what we all love about great rock acts: Searing guitar playing, powerhouse vocals, and most importantly, great songs! 

Zoe Pypes: I’d only ever performed in cover bands and (mostly) rock musicals, and while I fantasized about being a part of an original project, I had never written a song in my life and didn’t think it was something I could do. My initial audition was just for [guitarist] Tony, who had already written “Madeline.” I sang it for him in a tiny room at the Queens Guitar School. For the second stage I was asked to write lyrics and a vocal line over a demo and come sing it w/the full band. I was absolutely petrified, but my first stab at songwriting/co-writing, “Vicious,” has been a staple ever since! This band completely hijacked and rerouted my life away from theatre, but I always bring that world’s high stakes, drama and urgency to our songwriting and performance.

 Rockmommy: Who are your favorite live performers and why?

MM: Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Ozzy (with any of his great guitar players), Van Halen, Guns N’ Roses. All these classic bands bring a certain “swagger” and larger than life persona to the stage. I also love super expressive guitar players such as Hendrix, Dave Gilmour, and Steve Lukather (Toto). Any type of sweet solo or riff will always pull me in haha. 

ZP: This may mortify my bandmates, but I have three photographs of Steven Tyler on the wall at my piano where I warm up every day. He’s got this wild, frenetic energy I adore, and he doesn’t give a fuck. Not only is he still running around like a maniac, but he DELIVERS vocally to this day. If I could be Ursula the Sea Witch and steal anyone’s voice it would be Steven Tyler, Jack Black, or Dio’s.

There are also a few local artists that consistently inspire me with their live performances. Haley Bowery of The Manimals fills out her shows with drama, ritual, and community, which I really appreciate — each of her shows feels like a completely unique, cathartic experience. And the ladies of Mother Feather. They commit 100 percent to every second of every show, with so much attention to detail — using every inch of their bodies to communicate with their audiences, and using their platform to elevate and inspire their audiences. 

Rockmommy: Can you describe the experience of playing music together — and/or the experience you hope to impart onto those who go to your live shows? 

MM: I feel like we have such a great chemistry in this band, that our live performances sometimes feel nearly effortless (despite having to play some hard riffs and solos). Everyone goes out there and gives it 110% every show, so it’s easy to get pumped up every single time. 

I hope that any of our audience members walk away feeling like they saw a true, raw, and powerful Rock n Roll show, played and sung by dedicated musicians who love to rock! 

ZP: Currently a lot of my experience is wielding and harnessing energy. These songs and riffs amp me up so much and I love using my body in performance, but a lot of the vocal lines are challenging — sometimes I have to surrender to stillness and technique and focus in. 

Something I think what separates us from a lot of bands and that I love is how much fun we’re having up there. When I’m busting my ass and one of the guys bangs out some insane solo it feels like a party i can’t believe I’ve been invited to.

My goal for the future is to focus more on the audience experience and what I want them to feel. I’ve been incredibly selfish so far and have just been hoping something sticks. Something for the next decade!

Rockmommy: The Sacha EP is brilliant — and features several of my favorite live Thrilldriver songs. What is the songwriting process like with you guys? 

MM: Tony (Calabro) seems to the one the brings full-fleshed songs to the group (this was especially the case with the EP). I like to bring riffs and ideas that we can work on arranging into a full song. Zoe and Tony will work on the lyrics, and a few songs on our upcoming album are Zoe originals! 

ZP: To this day, every time I introduce something to the group I’m nervous. Especially those on this upcoming record that I wrote from scratch. Tony came over to my apartment and I literally had to take a shot of whiskey at, like, noon to show even just him what I was working on. But Tony has this incredible ability to sift through all of our ideas and bring them together into a banger. A bridge for me here, a verse for Moxxxie there. But it is really a mix. Lyrically, most of the songs about love and rock n roll come from Tony. The songs about sex, drugs, fantasy, and people that suck come from me. Tony’s lyrics are always sincere and poetic and I tend to be more sarcastic and challenging. 

Rockmommy: What kind of gear do you like and why? 

MM: I like to use hot-rodded Fender Strats and Marshalls amps. No matter how polished and smooth the tone, the Fender Strat has a certain gritty sound that I love for all styles of playing, but especially rock n roll! I’ll usually throw in some kind of hot humbucker(s). In the case of my main Thrilldriver Strat, it’s a Suhr Aldrich. Also some of my favorite players (Hendrix, Gilmour, Clapton) used Strats. 

The same goes for Marshalls. As a kid, I always lusted after the giant Marshalls stacks I saw in guitar magazines! So many of my favorite players used Marshalls, that I just always associated them with the sound of rock guitar! While I’m constantly trying other amps, there’s just this certain “Marshall roar” that I can’t seem to get away from. Plug into a cranked 100-watt head, strum a big fat open chord, and you’ll see what I mean haha. 

For effects I use a Line 6 HX Effects. For years I was anti-digital and multifx, but they’ve come so far that I’d A/B’d the Line 6 unit with my favorite pedals, and couldn’t tell the difference! I also like the ability to save different settings and change around effects whenever I want. 

Picks are Dunlop Ultex Sharps 1.14mm, and strings are D’Addario EXL110.

ZP: I couldn’t live without my JH Audio custom iems. They let the rest of the guys crank it up to 11 and I can still hear myself and do what I gotta do. 

Rockmommy: You’ve been together for a few years. Has your music evolved or changed a bit with the second record? 

MM: I feel like the EP is very “hair metal” in the best of ways haha. Now we’re more confident in our sound and identity, so I think that leads to branching out in terms of songwriting and guitar parts. Our second album exhibited a wider range of sounds, and I think our upcoming album is our biggest, most creative one yet! 

ZP: I second that. God, I can’t wait to get this album out there. One, I feel like I’ve finally found my lyric “voice,” and the vocals in general have more style and point-of-view. And two, we’re starting to incorporate synth and more layers of production. To me, this album has more of an opinion and feels more specific and authentic to who we are as contemporary artists. 

Rockmommy: Some of you are balancing a lot — bands, parenting, etc. — in addition to this band. What is your best advice on making it work? Please be specific, especially about the parenting stuff, which many of us are juggling! 

MM: Coffee. Lots of coffee. 

But seriously, I think that any discipline or passion in life it takes commitment and certain sacrifices. I watch my kids in the mornings and teach all afternoon into the evening. Sometimes this can be followed by a gig or rehearsal! That doesn’t leave a ton of time for practicing or writing, so I’ll try and pick up the guitar on any small breaks I have in between lessons. Or I just sacrifice a couple hours of sleep and practice with headphones after everyone in my apartment is in bed. Even though it can feel much harder these days, I think it’s really important that my kids see me doing something that I love and enjoy!

ZP: I don’t know how Jaime and Moxxxie do it. One second I think I’m busy as hell, thinking that there’s no way I’ll get it all done, and then I remember my two bandmates that have not one, but two children AND successful marriages. And then they show up to practice completely focused and seemingly serene. “Relationship goals” right there.

 It is admittedly hard to get all 5 of us in a room at the same time with everyone’s schedules, which can be frustrating, but we tried something new last night which I loved — we came to practice with a super specific game plan and were able to really milk a lot out of just 2 hours. And surprisingly, having a super structured practice led to some creative developments and changes. I think that’s part of what makes it work for everyone who’s so busy. We don’t amble in late and dick around for 4 hours. We’re all respectful of each other’s precious time, do our homework, and work efficiently. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Mary Prankster on Creating ‘Thickly Settled’ & What Lured Her Back into the Studio

by Marisa Torrieri

In 1999, when I was an intern at a Maryland boating magazine, I’d crank WHFS as I cruised East on I-50, from College Park to Annapolis, singing along to whatever was playing. It was on one of those treks that I heard Mary Prankster for the first time, singing the chorus of “Mercyf*ck.” I was immediately gripped by the compulsion to pull over, so I could hear each and every lyric.

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Mary Prankster

Later that day, I snatched up her CD, Blue Skies Over Dundalk, listened 50 times, and realized that Mary Prankster was my girl. My True North. My kind of songwriter. To this day, Blue Skies Over Dundalk, in its 20-minute brilliance, goes down as one of the best rock n’ roll albums ever created. (Roulette Girl and Tell Your Friends are also in my top 10, in no particular order.)

In 2005, when Mary announced she would retire after years of playing sold-out shows across the mid-Atlantic, Charm City fans were shocked, sad and baffled. But the timing was right. Mary Prankster (whose real name is different) believed the MP moniker would ride into the sunset, but the woman behind the persona would move onto other, more grown-up ventures — most notably, voiceover work.

“I’m retiring the character,” she told me over coffee in the Village Voice offices in New York, where I worked after relocating to Brooklyn that fall. “I’m not retiring from creative life.” 

Later that day, Mary Prankster emailed me a photo of herself dressed like the Virgin Mary cradling a melting guitar. It was sad, but fitting. 

Fast forward to 2019. Fourteen years is a lot of time — to contemplate life, make mistakes, settle down and look back and wonder if you left a crucial part of yourself behind when you turned 30. Around three or four years ago, Mary started hearing songs in her head that needed to get out into the open, as she told The Washington Post. 

The result: Thickly Settled, Mary Prankster’s first album in more than a decade, is as beautiful, rich and complex as a bottle of good Cabernet. 

The 10-track record blends multiple genres — often in the same song — like vintage rockabilly or bluegrass, frequently filled out by horns. “Local Honey” is bathed in smooth, trippy guitars and my favorite, “Sugar in the Raw,” is chock full of sex-bombshell-worthy, distortion-guitar riffs. While there are no pithy punk tracks in the vein of “Mac & Cheese” or “Tits and Whiskey,” there are cheeky moments throughout — little reminders that while you can take the girl out of rock n’ roll, you can’t take the rock n’ roll out of the girl.

Rockmommy recently caught up with Mary Prankster, who is playing her annual Pranksgiving Shows at The Ottobar on Friday, Nov. 29, and The Birchmere on Saturday, November 30. 

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Mary Prankster

Rockmommy: Thickly Settled is brilliant — and surprising. When you originally “retired” MP in 2005, did you think you had another record in you?

Mary Prankster: Thank you! And no, I didn’t. By the time I “retired” I hadn’t heard any new songs in my head for a few years. I was exhausted, and I figured, “Well, this is it — I’ve had a good run.” I’m delighted and grateful the songs came back and overjoyed with how the new album came out.

Rockmommy: Was there a moment when you decided you needed to get the songs onto an album?

Mary Prankster: I was living in Central Pennsylvania for a bit — one of my favorite regions of the country — and had an unexpected amount of unscheduled time crop up. I took the opportunity to make some audio sketches in GarageBand of what I was hearing in my head. Just doing that helped equalize the pressure a little bit — being able to hear the songs from the outside in — and then it became a matter of figuring out if it’d be possible to record them properly.

Rockmommy: I know you wanted a diverse group of musicians who were flexible with this record. How did you find your current roster?

Mary Prankster: Enter Steve Wright, genius producer/engineer and my bestie from way back. For the past 20 years he’s been honing his skills at Wright Way Studios in Baltimore, recording every genre of music with some seriously talented folks.We did an EXTENSIVE amount of preproduction together — demos, reference tracks, written descriptions of how I heard the tunes — strategizing what we’d need to pull it off.

From that, he had an idea of the depth of skill and versatility the musicians needed to have. Steve also has a really good sense of the psychology that goes into a session — how different personalities/approaches will interact.

Making an album is a terrifyingly intimate thing. You’ve got these songs that come out of intense feelings and you’re focused on making them the fullest expression of themselves so you’re just submerged in emotion for hours on end.

Added to that was how incredibly vulnerable I felt recording my first studio album in over a decade and a half. Whoever was going to make this record with me also had to be — just as a person — kind.

So Steve went through his roster of twenty years worth of crackerjack musicians and personally selected the most skilled, most versatile, and most kind.  And here we are.

Rockmommy: What’s it like making music now, as opposed to your 20s, when you were recording and touring nonstop?

Mary Prankster: The technology available now is miraculous. Being able to do multi-track demos with a laptop and a midi-controller and emailing them with song notes — that right there is amazing. So is pulling reference tracks for different sound approaches from the infinite music library that’s available online. After the initial sessions I had another guitar idea and Bryan and I were able to work out a solo over FaceTime. Remote mixing in real time with an ethernet cable and SourceConnect. We took advantage of all these different digital tools and it was invaluable in terms of time and cost.

Interestingly enough, the SPIRIT of the album — just the sheer joy in making it — reminded me of making Blue Skies Over Dundalk. When Steve and I made that one together, there were no preconceptions or expectations, we were just totally focused on the songs and getting them right and it was so much FUN. I felt very strongly then that if it was the only album I ever made — and there was no reason at the time to believe it wouldn’t be – that I wanted to make the absolute best album I could – hold nothing back and just go for it.  

With Thickly Settled — again, there was no REASON to make it, aside from the overpowering desire to hear these songs out in the world, so we had the same kind of giddy joy of discovery and creation. There was a lightness and playfulness to the sessions — 16 hours would pass and the only way we knew it was time to call it a day was that we’d be physically trembling from exhaustion. It was glorious.  

Rockmommy: OK, Thickly Settled. How’d you come up with that album title (which, from the perspective of a 40-ish rocker mom, feels so relevant). 

Mary Prankster: In New England you’ll see road signs that read “THICKLY SETTLED” in residential neighborhoods — translated, it means “High Population Density — Drive With Caution.” Metaphorically, as a 44-year-old woman smack dab in the middle of midlife, I’m also “Thickly Settled.” By this age, you’re living your life (as opposed to preparing for it) and starting to see how some of your earlier plot lines have turned out.  

 

Rockmommy: Any plans to tour again, besides the Baltimore-DC-NOVA shows every Thanksgiving?

Mary Prankster: None at the moment, though certainly open to it if there’s demand/it makes sense.

Rockmommy: Would you consider playing my 5-year-old’s birthday party? 😉 

Mary Prankster: We can park the horn section by the bouncy house.

Experience Mary Prankster on Spotify, Twitter and Facebook. 

Marisa Torrieri is the editor and founder of Rockmommy. 

Why Live Shows Are Essential for my Mental Health

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Last month three-quarters of my band decided, on a whim, that we needed a good dose of live music. High-energy music. Rebel girl music. Enter The Interrupters, an in-your-face ska/punk band out of Los Angeles, and a favorite of our punk rock bassist Doug. We found out they were playing in our hood, snapped up tickets, and bam! Off to the show.

Now, I’ve been to no less than a thousand live shows — and likely more. But there is something about seeing a live show after you’ve been starving for live music for months. It was insane. And inspiring. Exactly what I needed to get motivated to play more guitar and write more music.

So in 2020, I’m hoping to bring more live rock n’ roll back into my life. I deserve it — and it makes me a better parent, too.