This time last year, Natalie Prass weaved her way into music lovers' hearts with her performance on Conan singing her hit single “Short Court Style.” The song details the ups and downs of a relationship, but also the ultimate strength that comes from a perfect pairing, while shiny synths and an unforgettable groove evoke the high–paced environment of a street basketball game. Decked out in a shiny pink power suit and backed by two of Philly’s favorites, Dominic Angelella (of DRGN KING) and Eric Slick (of Dr. Dog), the latter her fiancé, she landed herself a place in indie pop that she’s firmly lived up to since.
On her sophomore album, The Future and the Past, Prass brought all that energy and more to tackle her frustration with recent politics. Instead of bringing the mood down, she uses rhythm and style to face those demons. But that was the second iteration of her album—the singer–songwriter had an entire other album planned for recording, but after the 2016 election, scrapped the whole thing and began rewriting, much to the chagrin of her label.
“Yeah they were pissed,” Prass tells me over the phone, “Basically, I thought I was going to be recording in June of 2016, then it got pushed to September and then it got pushed to December. But then after Trump won the election, I was just like, ‘Oh, hell no. There’s no way I’m recording this. This record makes me feel nothing right now.’”
It all worked out, however. The Future and the Past is a brilliant record combining dance rhythms and powerful messages, charming the listener while talking out the larger problems that face our society. On the opener, “Oh My,” Prass sings, “Seems like every day we're losing/when we choose to read the news,” with a thick bass line underneath and slick guitar licks inspiring a more upbeat attitude than the words would suggest. The words come from Prass’ own concern over the constant barrage of bad news, but ultimately resolving to take action. “I need to stay engaged,” Prass states, “I need my energy. I’m sorry but Trump and all of that, they can’t take my energy away from me. That’s all I have. Yes, it’s extremely disconcerting and confusing, but I have a limit, and I have shit to do. And we all do.”
Prass makes that subtext clear in the music video for her equally challenging song, “The Fire,” where she dons a pink prizefighter robe and confronts giant busts of former presidents' heads in a field. In the video, Prass is minuscule compared to the sight of these powerful men, but as she confidently strides in their shadows, she eventually becomes a statue herself and faces her own figure before an even larger Prass carries it away.
“Everybody knows about those, has kind of heard about those presidential busts on somebody’s private property,” Prass says of the filming process, “but there’s kind of a lot of urban legends around the guy that owns them. That he’s very eccentric, that there’s a lady that guards them with a gun.” Her friend Alex, however, took a chance and gave the owner a call and managed to get him to allow them to film there. Prass says, “He let us bring the whole crew out there, and he’s like, ‘As long as there’s no negative political messages in the video, then yes, I’ll allow it.’ And I’m like, ‘Okay, wink.’”
This talent for picking out striking visuals comes from experience. Prass studied visual arts in college and utilizes her skill in everything from her music videos to her live performances, but it’s reflected most strongly in the fashion of her work. “Putting on a very strong kind of silhouette is always very important to me,” she says, “Even the outfits that I made for my live shows, it’s like my uniform, where I have this work attire on, but it’s in these really fun colors. I just like to have these very classic and utilitarian kind of looks to my image.”
Her live shows tend to have her band clad in all blue, reflecting the blue on the cover of The Future and the Past, also reinforcing this idea of a uniform. Teamwork is a huge part of the music she makes—her band tends to rotate through different skilled musicians, each bringing their own style to every performance. “Anytime I have a new band member playing with me, I like to accentuate what they have to offer,” Prass says, “It’s a challenge but it’s also super exciting because it gives us an opportunity to rethink.”
That approach also follows her into her relationship with drummer Eric Slick of Dr. Dog. Between their busy schedules as full–time musicians, the two still try to play together whenever possible. “It’s true, absence makes the heart grow fonder, for sure,” Prass says. “But we also both have the kinds of personalities where we’re just very go with the flow, and we’re very supportive of one another, and we both want each other to succeed, so there’s no jealousy, there’s no competition … It’s based in trust, like we really trust each other, and if we didn’t have that I don’t think we’d survive.”
Speaking with Prass, one can hear her steely resolve, a bit of trepidation in her voice but also strength and hope. This is no better exemplified in her music, where she approaches difficult topics with flair and style. Despite all the outrage of the past few years, she has faced it with resilience and continued to make music that brings joy to her fans.
“I guess I just want people to feel inspired, to feel engaged, and to feel like the best versions of themselves,” says Prass. Considering that Prass has reworked an entire album, perfected her vision through film and fashion, and found her other half, she certainly inspires others to become the best version of themselves.
Natalie Prass will be performing Thursday, Apr. 18 at World Cafe Live. Tickets and more info can be found at World Cafe Live’s website.