Rock History: The Prissteens
The Immaculate Trash Punk of Joey Ramone’s favorite underdog band
The New York-based band The Prissteens is made up of guitarist and vocalist Tina Canellas, bassist and vocalist Lori Yorkman, guitarist and vocalist Leslie Day, and one lone guy, Joe Vincent on drums. Vincent is a former member of the punk group the Devil Dogs, also from New York.
The Prissteens singed with Almo Sound Records in the late '90s and began recorded a debut album. They had the help of producer Richard Gottehrer who has worked with the Go-Go's and Blondie. The debut album, Scandal, Controversy & Romance, hit the store shelves in 1998. It sounds like it could have been made by a snotty '60s girl-band. The album's seemingly innocent lyrics focus on boys, parties and going out, but the music is tougher with an edge that screams '70s punk. The band has often been compared to both the Ramones and Phil Spector's girl groups.
Scandal, Controversy and Romance is loud, trashy and sugary sweet. Songs like "I Don't Cry," "Run Back to You" and "Beat You Up" have catchy, upbeat choruses and brash guitar solos backed by fueled drumming. "The Hound" and "What's She Got" show off the band's raunchier side with heavy guitars and blunt lyrics. Even in their darker lyrical moments, the Prissteens manage to convey a party atmosphere from the album's first track to the last. Some of the tunes have been compared to those from groups like The Kinks, The Runaways, and the Ramones.
The Prissteens had songs in television series Sex & The City, 90210, Daria, Canada’s Being Erica and the Jawbreaker movie soundtrack.
While working up a few new demos for a sophomore album, the Prissteens fell apart for the usual reasons, though also victimized via an end-of-the trend era that saw major labels drop a ton of bands and throw money towards rap-rock and the "Year of Electronica."
Here’s a look back at the history of The Prissteens with former members Lori Lindsay, “Mighty” Joe Vincent, and the band’s former manager James Marshall.
Lori Lindsay: I first met Leslie when she played in a different band called The Junior High. She was the coolest chick I’d ever met. When we talked after the show, she was like “Can you play an instrument?” and I was like “yeah.” Thus we decided to start a band. I think Leslie knew Tina from around the East Village where she tended bar, and I had been dating Joe, who was in the Devil Dogs. And then we four just started playing together. That was around 1996…
We all wanted to play and aside from Joe didn’t know what we were doing, so started messing around and formed the band.
The Prissteens, by all accounts, was the right band in the right place at the right time. In the mid-1990s, alternative music became mainstream and a variety of female-fronted alternative acts such as Hole, The Breeders, and Garbage, had dominated the charts. Veterans of the original New York punk scene were also enjoying crossover success.
Patti Smith was collaborating with R.E.M., Blondie was reuniting, and The Ramones were reaching younger audiences with new albums, videos on MTV, and tours with the very bands their own music had influenced. Joey Ramone was especially supportive, playing new music from bands like D-Generation and the Independents on his Internet radio show “Joey Ramone’s Radio Coupe.” The Prissteens, with their girl-group harmonies and garage punk rhythms, was a band practically willed into existence by Joey Ramone. It was only a matter of time before he met one of his “favorite New York City bands” and The Prissteens would have their shot at commercial success.
Jim Marshall: I got drunk, woke up manager. What was I thinking?
Joey met them through me. I knew Leslie through her ex-boyfriend Adam Roth (RIP). She was a fan of my radio show and her first band, Junior High, played at the last live broadcast we did at WFMU – the midnight “Hangover Hop.” I started hanging out with Leslie and her friends around ’95 I guess, she started getting tight with Lori and Tina and they formed a band.
After they played a few times, a lot of sort of bottom feeder types started circling like sharks so I offered to manage them until they got a real big-time manager. I eventually figured out what a manager is supposed to do and got them a record deal and a publishing deal, and as many gigs and tours as we could get. I guess I was manager from around the time of the first demo (blizzard of ’96, February maybe?), until their very last gig (Don Hills, command audience for Alan McGhee who we were hoping would pick them up after Almo dropped them). That would have been right after the Almost 24 demo, I guess spring of ’99? I’m bad with years, all very blurry…
Lori Lindsay: I have memories of Joey calling me on the phone first thing in the morning almost every day for a period of time, and I would talk to him while I got ready for work (at the time I worked at a small designer clothing store called Daryl K on E. 6th Street in the East Village). I would tell him that I had to get off the phone so I could get to work, and I would hear the phone ringing as soon as I would walk into the store – and it would be Joey calling me at the store to resume our morning conversation. Honestly, at the time I didn’t really get how cool that was…but anyway, yeah, he was so supportive. He included us in everything he was doing at the time.
Joe Vincent: When I was a kid, the first Ramones album came out and completely blew my mind. There was nothing else like it at the time, it sounded like it came from outer space! I listened to it a billion times until it became imprinted in my DNA.
During the months leading up to recording our album, I rediscovered the Ramones and once again was completely amazed by the sheer stupid genius of it. The poetry, the purity of it–this was a music like no other! Nothing could be more rock ‘n’ roll than this! This is what we had to aim for when writing songs. That and The Jackson 5.
After the album came out, Joey was on MTV and said we were his favorite new band! Unbelievable! Joey booked us on all kinds of shows. Once, while we were doing a radio interview on WHTG 106.3 Asbury Park, Joey remarked how much he liked our songs. I turned to him, my idol, and said “I was just trying to be you!”
Lori Lindsay: We played and sang with him and Ronnie Spector (who was one of my singing idols), and he asked us to play specific songs for his birthday bashes. One of those songs was “Soldier Boy” by The Shirelles. It was really fun to do that in his honor, but I’m not sure we did such a great job. But we had a great time arranging it and performing it for him nonetheless.
…As for rumors that Joey and Dee Dee helped get us signed, I really don’t know anything about that. I knew that we all hung around together with our manager Jim Marshall and our future A&R guy Howard Thompson, so yeah maybe Joey and Dee Dee being supportive validated what we were doing in the eyes of the label.”
In 1997, The Prissteens signed a deal with Herb Alpert’s boutique label Almo Sounds, home to Garbage and The Sugarcubes. In December of that year, the band recorded their debut LP Scandal, Controversy & Romance with producers Richard Gottehrer (The Strangeloves) and Jeffrey Lesser.
Regardless, The Prissteens’ brief time in the spotlight left a striking impression on young music fans in the late 1990s.
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