Prayers – “SD Killwave”

Holly and I are all about the VICELAND channel right now. Whether it’s “Noisey” or “States of Undress” or “F*ck, That’s Delicious” or “King of the Road” we can’t get enough. It’s the only channel that has shows that we’ll actually adjust our schedules for to ensure we can catch new episodes. One of the best shows they have going right now is “Huang’s World,” a food/travel show featuring Eddie Huang. Yeah yeah, another food/travel show, whooptie-do. Eddie brings something new and youthful to the tired genre, though (as does Action Bronson on “F*ck, That’s Delicious”), getting down to the true roots and cultural levels in a way that is refreshing.

The other day we caught the “Borderlands” episode, which takes place on both sides of the border between the US and Mexico, and Eddie got invited to an outdoor family cookout in a Hispanic part of San Diego. Playing a set in that backyard was a two-man band called Prayers, and they blew our minds apart with their self-described “cholo goth” style. So much so that at the next commercial I walked down the hall, got online, and shot an email over to my man Mark who owns/operates FeeLit Records in San Diego and asked him to send me whatever he had on these guys, which turned out to be the vinyl re-issue (on purple wax) of their debut LP, 2013s SD Killwave, along with their 2014 five-song CD Gothic Summer. (♠) The package arrived while I was on a business trip, so Holly opened up the CD and texted me the next morning that I was going to absolutely love Prayers. And she was right. I’ve been playing Gothic Summer, along with the download we purchased of 2015s Young Gods, in a nearly continuous loop for about a week now. And today I finally had the time to sit down and give the vinyl of SD Killwave a spin.

Mind. Blown.

I could give you some background on these guys, but others have already done a much better job than I possibly could so I recommend you just go check out the eight minute video about them put out by VICE/Noisey located HERE. It’s OK, go watch it then come back. I’ll wait.

While frontman Rafael Reyes gets most of the attention for his haunting, beseeching, plaintive vocal style, don’t overlook the beats and synths of Dave Parley. Parley keeps it relatively simple, but with a heavy dark undercurrent and a some occasional flourishes that keep the music from sounding too “canned”. Reyes’ voice and words are what truly separate Prayers from the pack, though, giving the music it’s cholo element with treatises about about loneliness and violence and gang life. Will something like cholo goth capture and take mainstream the inner city Hispanic experience the way hip hop did for African American communities? I don’t know, but it would be amazing if it did.

Oddly the second thing that crossed my mind after experiencing Prayers for the first time on “Huang’s World” (after “I need to go buy some of this immediately”) was that it made me think of a story Chuck Klosterman originally wrote for SPIN that I read in his book Chuck Klosterman IV about the large and incredibly passionate fan-base the Smiths and Morrissey have in the Hispanic community, something that surprised him when he attended a Smiths convention in Los Angeles. Klosterman wrote about these super hard looking guys who just poured out love for Morrissey and freely admitted how deeply his music touched them, a seemingly incongruous collision of culture and style. In some ways that reminded me of Prayers, even more so after watching the Noisey profile video and hearing Reyes talk about the challenges he faced trying to be the person he wants to be.

I could break down SD Killwave song-by-song, but honestly I don’t want to. I want to experience it as a whole, like one continuous trip into the mind of another person. The one song that is more of an outlier, though an excellent one, is Prayers’ cover of “West End Girls” that appears on Young Gods, but while that’s probably a familiar song to most of you and it would feel like an obvious place to start, resist the urge. Listen to some of their original material, because that’s where the power is. If I have to point you to something specific from SD Killwave, I’d say do the bookend technique and listen to both the first (“Ready to Bleed”) and last (“Lazers on My Neck”) tracks and give those a try.

 

(♠) Record store owners, when you’re cool to your customers, you may find that out-of-towners like me who meet you will later order stuff from you! And customers, if you’re cool to the people who own indie record stores, sometimes they’ll become great sources for awesome local music that you can’t find elsewhere!

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