We talked with Jason Sebastian Russo and Alexandra Marvar of Common Prayer before they kicked-off their first official UK tour and asked them a few questions about their EP, their performances at the Truck Festivals, and their favorite venues in NYC.
EV2BK – Your debut album, There is A Mountain, just came out digitally here in early June. How long did the album take to put together?
Common Prayer – (Russo) It took a lifetime to write, but 6 days to record. We did 95 % of the tracking in a barn in a small English village then brought it back to Brooklyn to mix. Which we did in 2 days, max.
(Marvar) And then I sang into a mic set up in Jason’s bedroom in Greenpoint. That took… a couple hours. Though yes, there were years of unwitting subconscious preparation for both parties I’m sure.
EV2BK – We love the off-kilter Americana sound of “Us vs. Them.” What inspired the song?
Common Prayer – (Russo) This song was inspired by the most time-honored tradition in pop music, failed love.
(Marvar) It inspires me.
EV2BK – You guys have a big tour that kicks off very soon in the UK, is this your first tour across the pond?
Common Prayer – (Russo) Yes! Well, we played the 12th annual Truck Festival last year, but it was before we were called Common Prayer… This is our inaugural UK tour.
(Marvar) That said, the storage-container recording studio inside that cow barn on Hill Farm is already pretty familiar with us, and we’ll be visiting it again early in the tour for rehearsals with our English constituency and other shenanigans.
(Russo) We are very excited.
EV2BK – What songs do you most look forward to playing when you perform?
Common Prayer – (Russo) My fave is “Marriage Song” because it has these bad-ass breaks that we do a three-part harmony over. Either that or Alex’s whistling solo at the end of “Us vs. Them.”
(Marvar) At times it is a whistling duo or trio, which I prefer. But my favorite is definitely also “Marriage Song,” because I get to bang on garbage and blow a marching band whistle.
EV2BK – You’re playing the Truck Festival in the UK again this year, and I know you played in the first US version of the festival, Truck America, earlier this year up in the Catskills—Can you tell us a little about that festival?
Common Prayer – (Russo) The folks that founded Truck fest (particularly two very musical brothers Joe and Robin Bennett) were instrumental in the making and recording of our album. We used the aforementioned barn studio on Hill Farm, also the site of the Truck Fest. The Truck Fest is a great example of a family-run “indie festival” — it’s held on a farm in a small, ancient village every year, all about community, with little to no corporate sponsorship… Rather grassroots.
(Marvar) This spring’s Truck America was it’s first venture on “patriot shores.” I have [an] apartment in Kingston, NY (near the Catskills), and Jason has significant ties to the music scene there as well, so we were likely suspects to help our friends at Truck bring their operation stateside. For year one, I’d have to call it a smashing success. Everyone from the Sadies to Mercury Rev to Here We Go Magic to… well… us.
EV2BK – Is there any band you are looking forward to meeting there or seeing again?
Common Prayer – (Russo) I like Fucked Up. I managed to be in a small room with the singer one late night and he is an smart entertaining guy. Also, I am looking forward to seeing my brothers band – The Silent League – because it’s always fun to see family in weird situations.
(Marvar) Since SxSW, I have become sort of obsessed with an electronic act called Active Child. Glad he will be present. Brooklyn’s own Holly Miranda will be around and even though we’ve never met I feel a kinship with her because we will be Brooklynites at Truck. Jason and I are also both excited to see Neil Halstead. He was our musical hero in the 90s and he is our UK record label hero in the now. We’re also playing a show with him in London right before Truck.
EV2BK – Jason, Common Prayer has a very different sound than your other band, Hopewell, what inspired the shift?
Common Prayer – (Russo) Hopewell has a lot of history – which is a positive thing – we’ve lasted longer than most bands ever dream of lasting, but I wanted to explore the songs that were coming out of me that wouldn’t fit in the trajectory of Hopewell. Common Prayer was the way I could manage to write whatever song came into my head, without worrying where I would put it or what I would do with it.
EV2BK – When is your next show in NYC and what has been your favorite venue to play at here so far?
Common Prayer – (Russo) Next up is a Johnny Leather showcase at either Union Hall or the Bellhouse, and then we are opening up for our pal Nicole Atkins in September at one of our favorite venues that we won’t mention yet because the bill is not yet all set.
(Marvar) Glasslands is one of our favorite venues. (Hint, hint!)
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We’re looking forward to seeing Common Prayer this fall when they are back in NYC. In the meantime, we’ll see what we can do to put in a good word over at Glasslands.